(News Desk) – The Syrian government has denounced a recent decision made by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the world’s chemical watchdog, to empower itself to assign blame for alleged chemical attacks.
“Syria expresses its deep concern at the methods of blackmail and threat used by Western countries, especially the ones involved in the tripartite aggression against Syria — the US, UK and France — to pass a resolution at the OPCW emergency session,” Syria’s official news agency, SANA, quoted a source at the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates as saying on Friday.
On Wednesday, the Hague-based organization passed by 82 votes to 24 a British-backed proposal, which enable the watchdog to hold responsible those who it thinks are behind alleged chemical attacks. Until then, the OPCW’s mandate was limited only to determining whether or not a chemical attack took place, not who was responsible.
Russia, which had strongly opposed granting extra powers to the OPCW, said it would not rule out leaving what it called a “sinking Titanic.”
The new decision would allow for the watchdog to be used as “vehicle to carry out violations against independent, sovereign states under the pretexts of chemical weapons use”, the source further said, adding, “The decision will only add new complications to the OPCW’s capacity to play its role, which will lead to its paralysis.”
Back in April, militants and activists linked to them, including the so-called civil defense group White Helmets, claimed that government forces on Saturday had dropped a barrel bomb containing poisonous chemicals in Douma, Eastern Ghouta’s largest town, killing and wounding dozens of civilians.
Damascus strongly rejected the allegation and said that the so-called Jaish al-Islam Takfiri terrorist group, which had dominant presence in the town at the time, was repeating the allegations of using chemical munitions “in order to accuse the Syrian Arab army, in a blatant attempt to hinder the Army’s advance.”
However, the US State Department issued a strongly-worded statement, blaming the Syrian government for purportedly conducting the attack.
The Hague-based OPCW is soon expected to publish the highly-anticipated results of its probe into the purported toxic gas attack in Douma.
The Syrian foreign ministry’s source further said that the Wednesday decision “sets a dangerous precedent” by giving an “organization concerned with scientific and technical issues the authority to carry out criminal and legal investigations that are not its specialty.”
The source added that the Arab country reiterated its condemnation of the use of chemical munitions by “anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances.”
Militants belonging to a number of factions had held Eastern Ghouta, an enclave in the vicinity of the capital Damascus, since 2012 and had practically held hostage its inhabitants, some 400,000 people.
Syrian troops and allied fighters from popular defense groups managed to fully liberate the enclave from the clutches of militants in April, after months of intense fighting with terror groups, which had used the area as a launch pad for deadly rocket attacks against residents and civilian infrastructure in the capital.
Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in early 2011, the Western governments have on several occasions accused Syria of using chemical weapons against militants. Damascus has denied the allegation, saying it is meant to pile more pressure on the government forces and delay their success in the fight against terrorists.
In April last year, the US and allies in Europe said Syria and Russia, an ally of Damascus in the fight against terror, used chemical weapons against militants in Khan Shaykhun in the province of Idlib. Moscow and Damascus strongly rejected the allegation. However, US warships in the eastern Mediterranean launched a barrage of 59 Tomahawk missiles against Shayrat Airfield in Syria’s Homs province, which Washington alleged was the origin of the suspected chemical attack.
The Syrian government surrendered its stockpiles of chemical weapons in 2014 to a joint mission led by the UN and the OPCW.