03:20 GMT09 July 2020
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    According to Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Russia will further cooperate with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on the investigations of the alleged chemical attack in Syria's Douma.

    The spokeswoman further noted that the OPCW experts have taken probes at the site of the alleged chemical attack.

    Later in the day, OPCW spokesman Johan de Wittlaan said in a statement that the samples collected by the organization have been handed over to the OPCW laboratory.

    "The initial deployment of the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) to gather facts in Douma, Syrian Arab Republic is complete… Samples were brought to the OPCW Laboratory where they will be split and then dispatched to the OPCW designated laboratories. The analysis of the samples may take at least three to four weeks," the OPCW spokesman's statement said.

    The first fact-finding mission of the OPCW visited a site in the Damascus suburb of Douma to collect samples in connection with the alleged April 7 chemical attack in late-April.

    READ MORE: Mine Clearance in Syria's Douma to Last for Months, Russian Military Says

    The situation around Syria escalated in the wake of the reports on chemical weapons attack in Douma on April 7, published by a number of Syrian opposition media platforms. The claimed attack prompted France, the United Kingdom and the United States, all of which blamed Damascus for using hazardous substances against civilians, to fire over 100 missiles on what they called the Syrian government’s chemical weapons sites.

    The Syrian government and Russia have refuted the allegations, saying that the attack was staged by militants and the White Helmets to influence public opinion and justify possible intervention. In order to investigate the details of the incident, the OPCW sent a fact-finding mission to the Syrian town last week.

    On Skripal Poisoning Case

    According to Zakharova, Russia doubts in the data provided by Ahmet Uzumcu, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), saying that a large dose of toxin was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England.

    Commenting on the statement, Leonid Rink, one of the developers of a chemical weapons program, dubbed Novichok in the West, told Sputnik earlier in the day that such doses would have killed all citizens of the city of Salisbury.

    READ MORE: Skripal Case to Affect Russia-UK Anti-Terrorism Cooperation — Russian Deputy FM

    Speaking further on the case, Zakharova noted that Moscow was waiting for an official response from other countries which were capable of producing Novichok-class agents.

    "We expect a response from other countries which also had and have the capability to produce Novichok," Zakharova said.

    Regarding the Skripal case, London was deliberately trying to damage the bilateral relations with Moscow, Zakharova added.

    "In the latest [answers to Moscow on the Skripal case] the British continue to completely distort facts and use tough confrontational rhetoric, which only indicates official London's desire to deliberately inflict further damage upon bilateral relations," Zakharova told a briefing.

    On March 4, former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found unconscious on a bench near a shopping mall in the UK town of Salisbury. UK authorities have blamed Russia for attempting to assassinate the Skripals with the A234 nerve agent.

    Russia has denied having any role in the poisoning, pointing to the lack of evidence provided by London to substantiate its accusations. Moscow has also released a list of questions addressed to the UK authorities on the case.

    On Situation Around Iran's Nuclear Deal

    As far the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is concerned, the UNSC won't renew anti-Iranuan sanctions, if the US decided to leave the deal, Zakharova noted.

    On April 30, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Tel Aviv had 100,000 files proving that Iran had continued to maintain a secret nuclear program despite signing the deal.

    Commenting on the allegations, the White House said it backed Netanyahu’s assertions while Trump said that in the coming weeks he would make a decision on whether to withdraw from the Iran deal.

    READ MORE: Iran's Nuclear Chief Hopes Trump 'Comes to Senses,' Stays in Nuclear Deal — TV

    The JCPOA that was signed in 2015 by Iran and the P5+1 group (Russia, the United States, China, France and the United Kingdom — plus Germany and the European Union) stipulated the gradual lifting of anti-Iranian sanctions in exchange for Tehran curbing its nuclear program and allowing inspections to ensure that the nature of the program is peaceful. 

    Trump has repeatedly criticized the Iran nuclear agreement that was negotiated by former President Barack Obama and has called to amend it. The United States is expected to announce its decision on the nuclear agreement before the May 12 deadline.

    On Situation in Armenia

    According to Zakharova, Russia calls for resolution of Armenia’s internal issue through dialogue and on the basis of the constitution.

    "The situation in Yerevan and the country overall has somewhat stabilized at present. We have repeatedly noted that we are calling for the resolution of internal issues which exist in brotherly Armenia on the basis of the country’s constitution, legally, through constructive dialogue between the republic’s political forces," Zakharova said.

    A political crisis in Armenia broke out in April after Serzh Sargsyan was nominated for the post of prime minister. This was largely regarded as a way for Sargsyan, who previously served as president for two terms, to stay in power.

    READ MORE: Armenian Protest Leader Pashinyan Re-Nominated for Prime Minister's Post

    Sargsyan resigned amid large-scale anti-government protests, with Armenian First Deputy Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan becoming an acting prime minister. However, rallies in the country continued as the opposition demanded an interim prime minister be an individual not from among the ruling RPA.

    Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Maria Zakharova, Douma, Syria
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