Over three weeks later, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has finally agreed to send inspectors to Khan Sheikhoun, the site in Syria where a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government is alleged to have occurred on April 4.
The director general of the organization Ahmet Uzumcu announced that the Assad government has “already stated that they would support this mission, actually they have invited us to go via Damascus.” He continued that “the problem is that this area is controlled by different armed opposition groups, so we need to strike some deals with them to ensure a temporary ceasefire, which we understand the Syrian government is willing to do.” However, the OPCW is not yet mandated to visit the Shairat air base in the central Syrian province of Homs, from which the attack was allegedly launched, although the Syrian and Russian governments have both demanded they do, since they argue that it would show that no chemical weapons are or were stored there.
Russia is also still insisting that a “balanced team” of experts go to both locations, rather than relying on remote investigations, Mikhail Ulyanov, the head of the nonproliferation department in the Russian Foreign Ministry, said April 28. “We insisted that OPCW experts must visit the scene of the incident, select the samples themselves and thoroughly get to the bottom of the details,” he stressed.
Contrary to many Western political leaders and media, Uzumcu noted that the OPCW has not come to any conclusion as to who was responsible for the alleged attack, but only that sarin or a sarin-like substance was used. Pressed by journalists as to whether or not Assad still has chemical weapons, Uzumcu had to admit: “There are claims that Syria still possesses chemical weapons, but we are not able to substantiate these claims. We are not in a position to confirm whether they have chemical weapons in their possession.”