CAIRO - Syria's foreign minister, Walid Moallem, says the government was not responsible for the alleged chemical weapons attack in the northern Idlib town of Khan Sheikhoun.
Walid Moallem refuted allegations his government dropped chemical bombs against Khan Sheikhoun, now under the control of the Jabhat al-Nusra group, earlier this week. During a news conference Thursday in Damascus, he said the accusations were faulty.
Moallem says that the first allegations of a chemical weapons attack took place more than five hours before the Syrian Air Force attacked the Jabhat al-Nusra-held town. He says Syrian warplanes bombed an arms depot under Jabhat al Nusra’s control that may have contained such weapons.
Photo gallery: Aftermath of deadly gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun
Moallem maintained his government “has not and will not use chemical weapons against its own people,” adding it has “no interest” in using poison gas in any case.
He asks if it is “logical” the government would use chemical weapons at a time when it is starting to win on the ground and beginning to convince others of the merits of its cause.
The veteran Syrian foreign minister says he understands the implications of U.S. President Donald Trump’s warning to Syria about taking “unilateral action,” but pointed out that permanent United Nations Security Council members are "bound to uphold" the U.N. Charter and not "take unilateral action.”
Moallem also says U.S.-led coalition forces have struck civilian targets in the town of Mansoura, near Deir ez Zor, and in Raqqa.
"If the United States wants to apply humanitarian criteria [in the Khan Sheikhoun case],” he said sarcastically, “then let them start by applying it to themselves.”
The U.S.-led coalition apologized for what it said was an “accidental” attack on Syrian government positions near Deir ez Zor, late last year.
Moallem went on to allege that a notorious case of chemical weapons usage in 2013 against the eastern suburbs of Damascus was “perpetrated by Qatar and Turkey.” The Syrian government supposedly gave up most of its chemical weapons stockpile following the incident. Western governments accused Damascus of that attack.
The Syrian foreign minister told another journalist that his government was “willing to accept an international investigation” of the Khan Sheikhoun attack, “provided that it is not politicized,” that it includes a “wide array of different parties,” and is “not based outside of Syria, especially in Turkey,” whose “hostility” toward Syria, he alleged, “knows no boundaries.”