US Secretary of State John Kerry said there is “strong evidence” proving the Syrian government used chemical weapons in its war against the militant opposition, a position at odds with recent UN findings.
“There is no question in my mind that this fight is about the
terrible choices that the Assad regime has made,” Kerry told
reporters on Friday, “to use gas, which we believe there is
strong evidence for the use of.”
Previously, the United States said it lacked evidence that the
government of Syrian President Bashar Assad was responsible for a
gas attack against members of the rebel opposition. Kerry’s claims
were also unsubstantiated.
The US Secretary of State’s allegations contradict a recent
statement by leading UN investigator.
“Our investigators have been in neighboring countries
interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals,” Carla Del
Ponte told Swiss TV last week. “According to their report of
last week, which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions
but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from
the way the victims were treated.”
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, of
which Del Ponte is a leading panelist, was created in August 2011
to investigate alleged human rights violations in the Syrian
crisis. It is due to issue its full report next month.
As both sides in the Syrian conflict accuse the other of resorting
to chemical weapons, Russia has worked with Western partners to lay
opening groundwork for peace talks.
President Vladimir Putin met with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday in the Russian resort town of Sochi, the site of
next year’s Olympic Games, where the two leaders discussed options
for peacefully resolving the Syrian conflict.
Putin emphasized that Moscow and London have a “common interest
in a speedy end to the violence, the launch of a peace process and
the preservation of Syria’s territorial integrity and
Cameron agreed that Russia and the UK have mutual goals, which are
to “end the conflict, to stop Syria fragmenting, to let the
Syrian people choose who governs them and to prevent the growth of
Beyond agreeing that a peaceful settlement must be reached
between the Syrian government and the rebel opposition, however,
Russia and the West remain divided by their actions.
The UK and the United States are pushing for Assad to step down,
and demand that the Syrian arms embargo be lifted in order to
supply weapons to the country’s rebels; the Al-Nusra Front, a
terrorist group aligned with Al-Qaeda, is among their ranks.