Syria says that French intelligence agencies orchestrated the deadly chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta to divert UN weapons inspectors from another incident carried out by militants in Aleppo.
On August 21, 2013, hundreds of people were killed in a Sarin gas attack in Ghouta, a massacre that UN inspectors call “the most significant confirmed use of chemical weapons against civilians since Saddam Hussein used them” in Halabja in 1988.
Syrian opposition groups and their western allies claim the nerve gas attacks were launched by the Syrian government. Damascus rejects the allegation, saying the attack was carried out by militants operating inside the country to draw in foreign intervention. Subsequent investigations by the UN and Russia backed Syria’s assertions.
During a Monday UN Security Council meeting over the Syrian conflict, Damascus’s envoy to the United Nations Bashar al-Jaafari said, “The use of chemical weapons in the Damascus area was meant to prevent Dr. Åke Sellström [the head of the weapons inspectors] from going to Aleppo because [France] knew who had used chemical weapons in Aleppo.”
A Syrian couple mourning in front of bodies wrapped in shrouds ahead of funerals following a toxic gas attack in eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21, 2013 (AFP)
“They wanted to prevent Dr. Sellström from reaching Aleppo by any means and therefore they used chemical weapons in Damascus with the involvement of French intelligence,” he added.
French representative to the council, François Delattre, said that allegations were “absurd.”
A file photo of UN inspectors collecting samples during their investigations at Zamalka, east of Damascus.
Damascus surrendered its stockpiles of chemical weapons to the joint mission led by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons following the attack outside the Syrian capital two years ago.