MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Sending the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons' (OPCW) team to the site of a recent chemical incident in Syria would help establish the truth, the Russian Foreign Ministry's head of nonproliferation told Sputnik.
"We have seriously criticized the practice of remote investigations, which has in recent years become familiar to the OPCW mission in establishing facts of the possible use of chemical weapons," Mikhail Ulyanov said.
Ulyanov said Moscow is verifying Friday's reports that OPCW chief Ahmet Uzumcu had expressed willingness to dispatch an expert team to Khan Shaykhun in Idlib province, the target of a reported April 4 attack.
"We insisted that OPCW experts must visit the scene of the incident, select the samples themselves and thoroughly get to the botom of the details," he stressed.
The Russian Foreign Ministry's head of nonproliferation hopes the OPCW will dispatch its "balanced" expert team to the site of a recent chemical incident in Syria as soon possible.
"Now that the leadership of the OPCW secretariat seems to have agreed with our opinion, it is important that the fact-finding mission travels to the scene as soon as possible," Ulyanov said.
Noting the difficulty of detecting sarin more than three weeks after the reported April 4 attack, he said "in any case, the experts' trip to Khan Shaykhun will allow us to come closer to establishing the truth."
"We also expect that the composition of the mission will be balanced in accordance with customary international practice, as stipulated in the Chemical Weapons Convention and the mission's mandate," Ulyanov said.
Early April 7, the United States launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Syrian military airfield in Ash Sha’irat, located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the city of Homs. US President Donald Trump said the attack was a response to the alleged chemical weapon use in Syria's Idlib, which Washington blames on the Syrian government. Russia described the attack as an aggression against a sovereign state.
Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with Sputnik that Western states are blocking attempts to investigate the Idlib chemical incident because in the event of a probe it will be established that the "attack" was a false flag and lie.
The OPCW announced in January 2016 that Syria’s weapons arsenal had been destroyed in accordance with an agreement reached after the 2013 Ghouta attack.