Syria has strongly condemned a recent report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OPCW, which blamed Damascus for the 2018 attack in Idlib province.
Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said the report contains false conclusions that represent another scandal for the global chemical weapons watchdog.
He said the US and its allies, which backed terrorist groups in Syria, are using the watchdog and Syria's chemical weapons file as a political tool and that the chemical attacks had been staged in order to incriminate Damascus.
On Monday the OPCW said the Syrian army had dropped the chlorine bomb on a residential area in Idlib back in 2018, Syria has denied any involvement in the chemical attacks as the country had destroyed its chemical weapons stockpile under a 2013 agreement.
We're now joined by Press TV correspondent, Mohammad Ali, from the Syrian capital Damascus to discuss the Syrian response to this report.
The Syrian Foreign Minister, Faisal Mekdad, criticized the recently issued report by the OPCW, which accused the Syrian army of using chemical weapons or chlorine in an attack on Idlib in 2018.
The comments were made during a meeting with several ambassadors to Syria at the Foreign Ministry in Damascus.
Mekdad said that the reports contained false and fabricated conclusions that represent a scandal for the OPCW and he also spoke about other accusations about other alleged chemical attacks by the Syrian army.
For example, the one that the OPCW accused the Syrian army for in Douma, near Damascus, in 2018 (in fact) I was there when the Army liberated that area and I spoke with the doctors who were at that scene where terrorists staged that alleged chemical attack.
They told me that on that day in 2018 there was not even an attack by the Syrian army in the area.
Foreign Minister Mekdad also explained how Western countries worked and coordinated with the terrorists and the so called the White Helmets in Syria in order to fabricate such alleged chemical attacks, film them, and then accuse the Syrian Government.
The foreign minister wondered why the Syrian army would use chemical weapons, (especially) at a time when the Syrian army was actually advancing on the ground and taking, everyday, more and more ground from those terrorists. Why do that and then invite foreign intervention?
Also, the foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad wondered why this report is issued today, after three years of this alleged incident, especially since we are just five days ahead of the 25th session, the OPCW's 25th session of the convention of the OPCW.
And finally, let me conclude with what the Foreign Minister said, a very important comment, which has been said for the first time by Syria, the government, was that due to the insistence of the leadership of the OPCW on keeping the organization politicized in favour of and in service of Western interests, Syria will rethink if it will in the future, continue cooperating with the OPCW or not.
And finally, of course, the Syrian government, according to Foreign Minister Mekdad, gave up all of its chemical weapons in 2014.
All right, thanks a lot Mohammad that was our correspondent Muhammad Ali, joining us from the Syrian capital Damascus.
Joining us in this debate, we have Member of the European Parliament, Mr Mik Wallace, joining us from Brussels.
Pierce Robison Robinson from the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (SPM) is also joining us from the British capital London.
Let's start off with Mr. Wallace in Brussels, let's go straight to Syria's response on this and also, if you may, please share with us your thoughts about the findings of this report.
It's been pretty clear that the initial report that was presented by the scientists and the researchers on the ground wasn't the report that appears (to have been published). The, the alleged attack, chemicals attack, in Douma, I think it was in April 2018.
And the guys who worked on the ground came up with a report around June 18th. The OPCW eventually put out a report on March 19, but it bore no resemblance to the original report.
So, in actual fact, it was doctored and the initial report concludes that there was no evidence of a chemical attack by the Syrian government. The doctored report that came out in March, 19 said, and the big part of that here is that, while leaks inside the OPCW will be due to discontent from the people who worked on this, on the ground, initially, in 2018.
It (the OPCW) was completely undermined when they came out as whistleblowers and went to the doctored report of March 19.
I don't actually hold the OPCW, including the Director General Fernando Arias, responsible for this.
If Fernando Arias was innocent, and everything was fine, the least he would do is, address the people who are objecting to the report, listen to the whistle blowers, get clarity, get the truth.
But that's not happening, in actual fact, they're trying to bury us, and people should remember that this attack in 2018, that was where Syria was accused of a chemical attack.
It was used by the US, France and UK to illegally bomb Syria at the time.
So as Julian Assange says, and I said, in the parliament yesterday, If lies. If wars can be started with lies, which they were in Iraq and other places, peace could possibly be started with the truth.
Unfortunately, Fernando Arias isn't interested in going to that place.
Let's cross over to Mr. Robinson in London. In a statement the Syrian Foreign Ministry said the “OPCW's misleading report written by an illegitimate and incredible team fabricates facts to incriminate the Damascus government”.
What are the motives behind writing such a report?
Well, I mean, there are several reports being discussed here. There's a report which has just come out by the IIT, which is the OPCW attribution mechanism, which is put out this week and then Mick was just talking about the Douma event back in 2018.
In both of these reports, I mean, the underlying issue, the underlying concern and this question of motivation, relates to the way in which the OPCW has been gathering evidence for their fact finding missions in Syria. They have primarily been relying upon information being supplied by groups who are associated with belligerence in the conflict.
So the OPCW for a long time now, with this FFM mission, has been building evidence, taken from groups, breaking their own chain of custody expectations that they should not rely upon such groups for their evidence.
They have been relying upon them and feeding them into a process where these reports have been created, and they're not objective, they're not independent reports.
And this question of why this is occurring goes to the heart of the controversy of the OPCW, and that controversy is that, to a significant degree, the US, the UK and the French have managed to gain a degree of leverage over the Syrian FFM's, which means that they can influence the output, and most, it's quite easy to see this when you start to understand how the FFM, fact finding missions, have operated.
Unlike normal OPCW investigations, which are under the control of the inspectorate and verification divisions, the scientific divisions, the Syria FFM's have been directly controlled by the Office of the Director General, and so at the time of Douma, the chief of cabinet was a British career diplomat, after the Douma controversy broke you had a French career diplomat, Sebastian Bernhard, who was Chief of Cabinet in the Office of the Director General.
And what that has meant, ultimately, is that these investigations into the events in Syria have been vulnerable, and you can see it quite clearly with the case of the alleged Douma attack had been vulnerable to political influence from Western powers and the motivation now?
Well, one can surmise quite reasonably, the motivation has been from belligerents in the conflict, which France, UK and US are, they've been trying to overthrow the Syrian government for many years, the motivation is to shore up their demonization of the Syrian government.
And that I think is the underlying, unfortunate, issue which has arisen with the OPCW. The OPCW FFM missions on Syria have been effectively co opted by Western powers, not the whole load of the OPCW; most of the OPCW staff go about their jobs and do them extremely well.
That the Syrian FFM's have not operated according to normal OPCW protocols, and have become vulnerable to, essentially, an arm of Western propaganda, in a sense, in relation to the Syrian war.
Sure, let's go back to Mike Wallace in Brussels Mr. Wallace. If, as our guest in London mentioned these investigations have become vulnerable, Where does this leave the OPCW's credibility?
Well, I don't know if you actually watched the full episode at the security independence committee in the European Parliament yesterday? Well you should watch it from start to finish and see what happened.
And you will see that Fernanda Arias, has absolutely zero credibility left.
He refused to answer any of the questions for clarity put to him. He filibustered for over half an hour, it was unprecedented.
And sadly, the chair of the committee, refused to call him to task. He refused to answer any of the questions. And that does nothing for the credibility of the OPCW.
He talked at length about all kinds of investigations, all kinds of reports, but refused to talk about Douma.
Now, I only raised one issue yesterday, and that was about Douma and I asked him several questions, which he refused to answer.
And the point is that, if the OPCW who cannot come clean and speak to the whistleblowers, listen to the people who have concerns about the report.
If that doesn't happen, then, unfortunately, because the OPCW could be a good organization, and it has behaved reasonably well at times in the past, and the world needs international law and OPCW can be part of that.
But if the OPCW has become a tool of Western imperialism, then it's finished. There's nothing left of it and unfortunately right now, if it is to be retrieved and we want it to be retrieved, we want it to be saved, we want its credibility restored.
But for starters, it means the removal of Fernando Arias, who has become a pawn of Western interests, and that, is really unfortunate.
Mr Robinson, our guest in Brussels just mentioned the issue of the OPCW probably becoming a tool in the hands of the West, the organization's first president; Brazilian diplomat José Maurício Bustani, at the time expressed his grave concerns over the tampering of the Douma report, fearing, in his words, the OPCW had become a tool of the US government. Do you think that trend is continuing right now and if so, who's responsible for this?
The trend, and you're correct to point out José Bustani, he's been one of the signatories to open letters which have been issued calling on the OPCW to address the concerns of its own whistleblower scientists about the Douma report. But of course Bustani takes us back to, he was ousted from the OPCW prior to the Iraq invasion in 2003 because he wouldn't play ball with the Americans and he was famously ousted from the organization by John Bolton.
And so this is something which has been going on for a long time, going back as far as the Iraq invasion in 2003, and it is accelerated in a sense during the Syrian conflict with these, these multiple allegations being made from Western governments about alleged chemical weapons use.
So the problem is absolutely, it's intensified and it's still there, and as Mick points out, there has been no willingness on the part of the current Director General, to even meet the most reasonable, most moderate demands, that he should, for example, meet with the scientists, to their most experienced scientists who have blown the whistle on what happened to the Douma investigation, he's refused to meet them, refused to provide any form in which the scientists can all sit down and look at the evidence and re interrogate Douma properly.
What that indicates is that they are, in a sense, closing ranks that the powers which are very much behind supporting the OPCW , the US, France and the UK, they are trying to hold the line on this issue with Douma and they're refusing to budge.
And what that means, ultimately, is that the OPCW, potentially, is, remains and continues to be, a trigger mechanism for war.
It can be used against Iran, it can be used against Russia, a judgment on chemical or biological weapon use etc, which is then used to authorize military action and that's the big picture, this is the big concern that as long as the organization is in a sense corrupted in the way that it is, until that is properly addressed, as Mick says, this requires some real leadership and some courage from the people in OPCW senior management, it becomes not a tool for securing international peace and security, it actually becomes a tool for threatening international peace and security.
And we're still very much in that situation and it doesn't seem to be going away.
Until Douma is properly investigated, until actually there's a thorough-going open transparent and transparent investigation of how the OPCW has come to be used in the way that it seems to have been used, then we have a threat to international peace and security from an organization which is there, supposedly, to help keep peace and security.
An analyst wrote regarding the Douma report that this should be a global scandal; the suppression of evidence from experts from the OPCW in order to push for war in Syria, however this cover up was mostly ignored by mainstream media, what are your thoughts on that, Mick Wallace?
Yeah, well, the story of Syria has probably been one of the most distorted stories from mainstream media in my lifetime.
We've had the silence on the destruction of Yemen, the genocide being carried out by Saudi/UAE, with the help of the Americans and Europeans.
But in Syria we've had the liars and fronting the liars a lot of the time, where the White Helmets, who may have been largely involved in staging the chemical attack in Douma.
The white helmets are paid by the UK and the Americans, and their views were accepted as almost an objective view of events in Syria for a long time. Little did people realize that there were actually promoting the jihadists (Daesh et al), who were being supported by the Gulf States and the West, in order to destroy, and bring about regime change in Syria.
So, the narrative on the mainstream media, I mean, if you even take a TV station, a radio station, in Ireland called the RTE, it is a state TV and in the past, it was actually reasonable enough, but it's just, it's just deteriorated so much now, and it just follows the US line on most of the foreign policy.
And so, really, people need to understand that mainstream media have become part of the problem, and certainly have nothing to do with the solution.
Let’s get back to Mr Robinson. Do you agree with the assessment that mainstream media has become part of the problem and not the solution?
We've always known for a very long time that mainstream media when it comes to foreign policy is closely located to government as the case in Vietnam through to Iraq and it still is today.
What's extraordinary about the Douma OPCW scandal is that you have documents, scientists whistleblowers and still the mainstream media, by and large ,is refusing to cover the issue.
You would have thought that by now, the dam would have burst on the issue and there'll be finally covering the volumes of evidence, documents, testimony, that there is that something has gone badly running the OPCW.