DAMASCUS (Sputnik) — The command of the Syrian Armed Forces decisively rejected accusations of using chemical weapons in Idlib province and placed responsibility for that on militants and their patrons.
"The army command and the Armed Forces categorically deny the use of any chemical weapons in the town of Khan Shaykhun in the suburb of Idlib today," according to a Syrian Armed Forces command statement copy obtained by Sputnik.
The document also said the responsibility for the chemical attack in Idlib lies with militants and their patrons.
Earlier in the day, the Syrian National Coalition of Revolution and Opposition Forces claimed that nearly 80 people were killed and some 200 injured in an attack by the use of chemical weapons in Idlib, placing the blame for the reported attack on the Syrian army. However, a source in the Syrian army told Sputnik that the army did not have chemical weapons and the allegations could be part of anti-Damascus propaganda.
"The armed terrorist groups regularly blame the Syrian Army of using chemical weapons against members of this group, as well as against civilians, every time they fail to reach their objectives. And they do everything to justify their defeats on the ground to their financial patrons," the statement added.
A UN Security Council meeting has been called by the United States to discuss the issue, while the United Nations said it could not verify if the attack took place. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has set up a Fact Finding Mission (FFM) to gather information about the alleged incident.
So far, there has been a number of reports on use of chemical weapons in Syria, putting responsibility for attacks both on Syrian authorities and Daesh terrorist group.
In October 2016, the UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) on the chemical weapons use in Syria said that the Syrian authorities used chemical weapons at least three times throughout 2014-2015, while an earlier report said the IS was also responsible for several attacks.
Despite lack of conclusive evidence, a number of countries, in particular the United Kingdom, France, and the United States, blamed the Syrian government for the chemical attacks. Syrian President Bashar Assad though denied all accusations, claiming the reports failed to provide conclusive evidence of its culpability and putting blame on the terrorist groups. The Russian authorities have repeatedly called on necessity to double-check such kind of reports, stressing that conclusions cannot be simply made on interviews of several local residents.
Earlier on February, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it expected more effective work from the OPCW, adding that the organization's act-finding mission in Syria had conducted its activity over the past years remotely by interviewing witnesses, which raised questions over information's credibility.
Since 2011, Syria has been engulfed in a civil war, with government forces fighting against numerous opposition and terrorist groups, including al-Nusra Front and Daesh, banned in a range of countries, including Russia.