Syria Tells Russia that Rebels Used Chemicals

By:  Warren Mass
Syria Tells Russia that Rebels Used Chemicals

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Syria’s government has provided Russia with new materials pointing to rebels’ involvement in a chemical attack that occurred outside Damascus on August 21.

“The corresponding materials were handed to the Russian side. We were told that they were evidence that the rebels are implicated in the chemical attack,” Ryabkov was quoted by Russian news agencies and AFP. Ryabkov spoke with the media after talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem.

AFP reported that Ryabkov said Russia “was disappointed with a UN report into the chemical weapons attack, saying it was selective and had ignored other episodes.” 

“Without a full picture ... we cannot describe the character of the conclusions as anything other than politicized, biased and one-sided,” said Ryabkov.

The United States and Russia have taken opposite sides in assigning the blame for the chemical attacks in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.

AFP reported that on September 17 the United States accused Russia of “ignoring the facts” related to the chemical attacks, but that Russia insists the attack was a “provocation” by rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad's government and was designed to incite military strikes by the United States.

The UN team investigating the chemical attack found that the potent nerve agent sarin had been used. (Production and stockpiling of sarin was outlawed by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993.) However, the UN report, compiled by chief investigator Ake Sellstrom, did not assign blame for the attack.

Sellstrom told the BBC that he believed that the task of finding and destroying Syria's chemical stockpile would be “stressful work,” but was “doable.”

Under the Kerry-Lavrov agreement brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Damascus is supposed to provide an inventory of its chemical arsenal by Saturday, September 21.

In an interview with Russian media quoted by the BBC, Ryabkov said the Assad government had provided him with new evidence that rebel forces had used chemical weapons.

“Just now we were given evidence. We need to analyze it," said Ryabkov, without providing further details.

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Photo of Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: AP Images

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