MOSCOW (Sputnik) — UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has called Sunday on Russia to use its influence on Syrian President Bashar Assad to dismantle its alleged chemical weapons arsenal, adding that Moscow shares responsibility for the civilian casualties in the suspected Idlib province chemical attack, as it supports Assad.
"Assad’s principal backer is Russia. By proxy Russia is responsible for every civilian death last week. If Russia wants to be absolved of responsibility for future attacks, Vladimir Putin needs to enforce commitments, to dismantle Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal for good, and to get fully engaged with the UN peacekeeping progress," Fallon told The Sunday Times.
Fallon said it was high time for Russia "to be part of the solution and engage constructively with the UN-mediated peace talks."
"We can end the needless suffering of the Syrian people, but only if Moscow, too, gets the message of Thursday night’s strikes," Fallon said.
On Tuesday, the Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces reported a chemical weapon attack in Idlib province, a region of northern Syria that is mostly held by anti-government Islamic extremists. According to recent data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), 84 people, including 27 children died in the suspected chemical attack.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that the airstrike near Khan Shaykhun by the Syrian air force hit a terrorist warehouse that stored chemical weapons slated for delivery to Iraq, and called on the UN Security Council to launch a proper investigation into the incident.
On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that groundless accusations in the chemical weapons incident in Idlib were unacceptable before the investigation into the matter has been carried out.
Earlier this year, Assad said that the country’s government had never used weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons, against the Syrian people. Additionally, under a Russian-US deal after the east Ghouta sarin gas incident in 2013, Damascus joined the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and agreed to destroy its stockpile under Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) oversight. In January 2016, the OPCW announced that all chemical weapons in Syria had been destroyed.