Monday 20 January 2020

British call for Security Council meeting as Syria rebels evacuate Ghouta in deal with Assad

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: Reuters
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: Reuters

The United Kingdom has called for a United Nations Security Council meeting next week to discuss the chemical weapons watchdog report that concluded Novichok was used in the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.

"We expect this to be held next week," the British UN office tweeted about the report from Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Meanwhile NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said those responsible for the poison gas attack in Syria must be held accountable and urged Damascus to allow access to the site.

"We condemn in the strongest terms the use of chemical weapons," Mr Stoltenberg said.

"We call on the Syrian regime and its backers to allow full and unimpeded access to international medical assistance and international monitoring.

"Those responsible must be held accountable," he said.

In response to American threats to attack his regime, Syrian president Bashar Assad said a potential retaliation for the suspected chemical attack would be based on "lies" and would seek to undermine his forces' recent advances near Damascus.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany would not participate in possible military action in Syria, but supported sending a message that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable.

Mr Assad said Western countries were lashing out after they lost their "bet" on opposition forces in the eastern Ghouta suburbs of the Syrian capital.

Meanwhile, Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war through activists on the ground, reported there were still rebel fighters inside Douma yesterday.

But the leaders of Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), the strongest rebel group in the area, have all evacuated under a deal struck with forces loyal to the Assad regime

The Russian defence ministry released a statement followed a chaotic day that saw rebels open fire as fighters were leaving with families under the deal. It appeared designed to ensure the deal remained on track.

The Russian ministry said the situation in Douma was "normalising." The Observatory said Russian military had been deployed to reassure thousands of remaining civilians.

Irish Independent

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