Syria’s government forces have discovered a depot of German and UK-manufactured chemical weapons left by terrorists in the town of Douma, a Syrian official says.
“In the depot with chemical weapons left by terrorists in Douma, we have found chemicals from Germany, the United Kingdom, from the Porton-Down laboratory in Salisbury,” Russia’s Sputnik news agency cited Syria’s Deputy Ambassador to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Ghassan Obaid as saying after a briefing in The Hague on Thursday.
Obaid called on OPCW inspectors to visit the site and expressed hope that the inspection will ultimately prove the allegations against Damascus to be wrong.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova’s had said earlier that containers with chlorine and smoke bombs made in the UK and Germany had been discovered in the territories freed from militants in Eastern Ghouta region in the suburb of the capital city of Damascus.
The Fact-Finding Mission from the OPCW, which has been deployed to Syria since April 14 to probe the Douma incident, visited a second site in the town on Wednesday and collected samples from the location. The new samples, together with other samples, will be taken to the OPCW laboratory in The Netherlands for further examination.
Also at the Thursday press conference in The Hague, the OPCW representatives of Syria and Russia presented witnesses who were used in staged videos of the recent suspected chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma.
Russia’s Permanent Representative to the OPCW Alexander Shulgin described the recent suspected chemical weapons attack in Douma as a “provocation” that Moscow had warned about in advance.
He said the only evidence for the alleged gas attack was a “sloppily staged” video shot by a pseudo-humanitarian organization in a bid to “touch hearts,” adding that the same strategy had been used in previous false flag attacks in Syria.
Western states blamed the Syrian government for the suspected chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburb town of Douma on April 7.
One week after the incident, the US, Britain and France launched a coordinated missile attack against sites and research facilities near Damascus and Homs with the purported goal of paralyzing the Syrian government’s capability to produce chemicals.
Shulgin said the representatives of the three countries that launched the Syria strikes were absent at Thursday’s briefing because they were afraid to look into the eyes of the witnesses of the Douma incident.
Syria has rejected the accusations of possessing chemicals. It surrendered its chemical stockpile in 2013 to a mission led by the OPCW and the UN.
During the conference at The Hague, Syria’s deputy representative to the OPCW said the witnesses revealed “the false of allegations and lies of Western countries about the allegations of chemical use in Douma city.”
Obaid also noted that all the chemical allegations against the Syrian government were leveled by Western countries to “distort” the Syrian army’s image that is conducting a counter-terrorism operation.
He further said that Syria had sent more than 100 letters to the OPCW on terrorist groups’ plan to use chemical weapons in order to blame the Syrian army.
Reinforced Western military presence
Meanwhile, the West has reinforced its forces in a US-led coalition which has been launching attacks on Syria since 2014 without the Syrian government’s approval or a UN mandate.
The coalition, which claims that it seek to root out Daesh, still continues its operations despite the collapse of the terror group late last year.
On Thursday, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington that French special operations forces have been deployed in Syria over the past two weeks to boost the US-led campaign against Daesh.
In response to a question about whether the US was planning to withdraw its forces from Syria, Mattis said, “we are not withdrawing” right now.
“You will see a reenergized effort,” he said.
“You will see increased operations on the Iraqi side of the border, and the French just reinforced us in Syria with special forces here in the last two weeks. This is an ongoing fight right now,” Mattis added.
The US defense secretary said he wanted to see more “regional support” for US-led coalition, noting “that we would probably regret it” if the US does not keep its forces in Syria for a long term.
Last month, US President Donald Trump claimed that his country would withdraw from Syria “very soon.”
However, top US Defense and State Department officials reacted by adopting a totally different stance, arguing that the US should not leave anytime soon as the “mission is not over.” Also, reports emerged later showing that Trump’s advisors had apparently dissuaded him.
The US-led coalition runs a military base in the al-Tanf town in eastern Syria. Washington has described the area, which lies at the ultra-strategic intersection of the Syrian, Iraqi, and Jordanian borders, as its “red line.”
On numerous occasions, the Russian military, which has been assisting the Syrian army in its anti-terrorism operations, has reported suspicious activities in and around the base in support of Takfiri terrorists.
Late last year, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov said satellite and other surveillance data indicated that terrorist squads were stationed in the Tanf base, and “effectively training there.”
US forces also maintain significant presence in northern Syria, where they back Kurdish militants operating against the Syrian government.
Washington has deployed around 2,000 troops to Syria.