France said Wednesday its analysis of an April 4 chemical attack in northern Syria shows the Syrian government was responsible for deploying sarin against civilians.
The attack on the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun killed more than 80 people, and prompted the United States to carry out retaliatory missile strikes on a Syrian airbase.
“We know, from certain sources, that the process of fabrication of samples of sarin taken is typical of the method developed in Syrian laboratories,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said. “This method is the signature of the regime and it is what enables us to establish its responsibility in this attack.”
His comments accompanied the release of a declassified French report that further detailed how experts arrived at that conclusion.
The report says France obtained its own samples from the April 4 attack, which showed the presence of both sarin and a stabilizer known as hexamine. The experts had previously tested an unexploded grenade recovered from the site of a 2013 chemical attack, and found the same manufacturing process attributed to the Syrian government.
The report further said Islamic State and other militant groups were not known to possess sarin, and that theories the attack was staged by rebel fighters are not credible.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has rejected the allegation that his military was responsible for a chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun. He told the French news agency AFP the incident was a "fabrication" to justify a U.S. military strike.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday the French report does not definitively prove who was to blame for the attack, and that “the only way to establish the truth about what happened near Idlib is an impartial international investigation.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said Wednesday that the retaliatory U.S. airstrike hurts prospects for bringing a political resolution to the Syrian conflict, which has been going on since March 2011.