Syria greenlights ‘impartial’ Idlib fact-finding mission ‘away from Turkish influence’

A victim of the suspected chemical attack is carried on a stretcher.

Syria has asked for assurances that any fact-finding mission in Idlib, where a suspected chemical attack killed at least 70 people on Tuesday, would be impartial and not politicised.

The country’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem at a press conference in Damascus on Thursday said any investigative mission would need to take off from Damascus and be far from the sphere of Turkish influence, reported AP.

Adding that Syria’s past experiences with missions was “not encouraging,” Muallem, responding to a question on whether Syrian would accept an international investigation said, “when we are sure we have convincing answers to these questions, we will give you an answer.”

The foreign minister categorically denied the use of chemical agents saying the “army has not and will not use chemical weapons against our people or against terrorists.”

Muallem claimed that Damascus was providing the UN with intelligence about the transport of chemical weapons by “terrorists” between Syria and Iraq.

Syria and Russia have claimed that a chemical weapons workshop in Idlib’s Khan Sheikhoun town was hit, resulting in chemical substances spreading in the area. The workshop was producing chemical weapons then transported to Iraq to be used there, the Russian Defence Ministry said.

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed the Syrian government for the attack and called Assad a “murderer” during a rally in western city Bursa on Wednesday.

Calling the victims “martyrs,” Erdogan also criticised the UN for its “silence.”

“Hey, the world that remains silent, the United Nations that remains silent. How will you be brought to account for this?”

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said the autopsies of three victims had confirmed that chemical weapons had been used in Idlib.

Ankara has been supporting groups opposed to Damascus since the beginning of the war in 2011. The parties agreed on a deal through Russia to move rebel groups from Aleppo to Idlib in November 2016. According to reports Turkey has been charged with unifying opposition groups in Idlib to fight the government.

Britain, France and the United States urged a swift investigation into the attack at a UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday.

The UN has called on the US, Turkey, Iran and Russia for a 72 hour ceasefire in Syria.