The Syrian armed forces are ready to stop hostilities in Khan Sheikhoun if a special expert mission is sent there to investigate the reported April 4 chemical weapons incident, the Russian Defense Ministry said Monday.
It added that the Syrian military pledged to ensure the expert mission’s safety at the Sha’irat airfield, the site of a US Tomahawk missile attack on April 7.
“At the request of the Russian Defense Ministry, the command of the Syrian armed forces expressed its readiness to cease hostilities in the event that a special expert mission to investigate the events of April 4 in Khan Sheikhoun is sent there,” the ministry said in a statement.
On April 4, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces claimed that 80 people were killed and 200 injured in a suspected chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, blaming the Syrian government. Damascus vehemently rejected the accusations and said militants and their allies were responsible.
On Wednesday, the OPCW fact-checking mission investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhun said it had found traces of sarin in the victims’ bodies. The next day, the OPCW rejected the Russian and Iranian proposal to investigate the suspected chemical weapons incident in Syria’s Idlib.
The Russian Defense Ministry questioned how the OPCW, which he said was created as an objective and impartial international organization, was able to come to that conclusion in two weeks while still being unable to identify mustard gas use in Aleppo iMikhail Uliyanov, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s department for Nonproliferation and Arms Control (DNAC) said earlier that the OPCW inaction over chemical weapons incident could damage its credibility as there are no facts that OPCW representatives have visited the Khan Shaykhun area.