Syria: France slams Assad again over Idlib chemical massacre

Syria: France slams Assad again over Idlib chemical massacre

French Foreign Minister slammed Bashar al-Assad again over the chemical attack in Syria, that was blamed on the regime and killed more than 87 civilians, saying that Assad’s latest remarks about the attack are “lies and propaganda”.

More than 87 civilians were killed in Syria in a new chemical attack carried out by Assad regime’s air force on the rebel-held Idlib province on April 4.

Medical sources said that more than 300 other civilians were injured in this attack, and many of them were transferred to hospitals near the Turkish borders or inside Turkey, where poison tests were made.

In a sharp escalation of the U.S. military role in Syria, two U.S. warships fired dozens of cruise missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea at the airbase controlled by Assad regime forces from which the attack as carried out.

Trump ordered the strikes just a day after he pointed the finger at Assad for this week’s chemical attack.

“Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched.”

“Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically,” Trump said on Thursday.

Russia condemned the strikes, saying Washington’s action would “inflict major damage on US-Russia ties”, according to Russian news agencies.

But the US allies, especially France, backed this move, calling for more pressure on Assad regime and blaming Russia for backing Assad accusing Putin of taking part in killing the Syrian civilians.

Attack is fabricated

In his first interview since the April 4 incident, Assad insisted his army gave up all of its chemical weapons three years ago and that Syrian military power was not affected by the US strike.

“Definitely, 100 percent for us, it’s fabrication,” Assad said of the poison gas incident.

“Our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists. They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack,” added Assad, who has been in power for 17 years.

Assad said his forces had not been diminished by the 59 US cruise missiles launched at a Syrian airbase in Homs in retaliation for what Trump called a “very barbaric” attack.

“Our firepower, our ability to attack the terrorists, hasn’t been affected by this strike,” Assad said.

In his latest interview, Assad insisted it was “not clear” whether an attack on Khan Sheikhoun had even happened.

“You have a lot of fake videos now,” he said. “We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhoun. Were they dead at all?”

Assad added that Syria would only allow an “impartial” investigation into the poison gas incident. On Wednesday Damascus ally Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution to condemn the attack and push the Syrian government to cooperate with investigators.

This attack is the deadliest chemical attack in Syria since sarin gas killed hundreds of civilians in the rebel-held Ghouta area near the capital in August 2013. Western states said the Assad regime was responsible for the 2013 attack but it denied the charge.

France slams Assad again

France condemned the attack since it happened and was among the countries that renewed the call for Assad’s ousting to achieve peace in Syria.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said directly after the attack that Russia and Iran needed to understand that supporting Assad made no sense and that the escalation of the U.S. military role in Syria was a “warning” to “a criminal regime”.

“Use of chemical weapons is appalling and should be punished because it is a war crime,” Ayrault told Reuters and France Info radio.

French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued statements saying Assad was solely to blame for the air strikes.

In addition, France was among the states in the G7 meeting that called for more sanctions on Russia over backing Assad, saying that Russia is a partner in Assad’s crimes and is covering them up too.

After Assad’s remarks yesterday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on Friday dismissed them as “lies and propaganda”.

Ayrault, speaking at a joint press briefing in Beijing with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, said he had learned of Assad’s remarks with “deep sadness”.

“What I heard is 100 percent lies and propaganda. It’s 100 percent cruelty and cynicism. And so we have to end it. We need a real ceasefire,” Ayrault said.

Ayrault added that widespread destruction in the country during its six-year-long civil war was “not a fantasy”, and thanked China – like France, a permanent member of the U.N. security council – for its “independent and wise position”.

Chemical weapons experts sent for investigations

The fact-finding mission was sent by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague to gather biometric samples and interview survivors, sources said on Thursday.

Samples taken from the poison gas site in Syria’s Idlib governorate tested positive for the nerve agent sarin, the British delegation at the OPCW said on Thursday.

“UK scientists have analyzed samples taken from Khan Sheikhoun. These have tested positive for the nerve agent sarin, or a sarin-like substance,” the delegation said during a special session on Syria at the OPCW in The Hague.

The UK result confirmed earlier testing by Turkish authorities that concluded that sarin had been used for the first time on a large scale in Syria’s civil war since 2013.

The OPCW mission will determine whether chemical weapons were used, but is not mandated to assign blame. Its findings, expected in 3-4 weeks, will be passed to a joint United Nations-OPCW investigation tasked with identifying individuals or institutions responsible for using chemical weapons.

International investigators have concluded that sarin, chlorine and sulfur mustard gas have been used in Syria’s six-year-old conflict, with government forces using chlorine and Islamic State militants using sulfur mustard.

The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.