Earlier, the Syrian government has firmly denied the allegations of being in possession of chemical weapons.
The United States imposed sanctions on five entities and eight individuals recently blacklisted by France for allegedly helping to acquire electronics for the agency in Syria that develops chemical weapons, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said in a press release on Wednesday.
“Today, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated 13 persons pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13382 of June 28, 2005, ‘Blocking Property of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators and Their Supporters.’ These five entities and eight individuals are key components of a vast network procuring electronics on behalf of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), the agency responsible for the development of Syria’s chemical weapons,” the release said, adding that the action was taken in coordination with France.
OFAC said the Lebanon-based Electronic Katrangi Trading (EKT) and its network, which includes Golden Star Company and Polo Trading, either provided or tried to provide support to the SSRC.
The release said Antoine Ajaka and Anni Beurklian, who used to live in the US state of Massachusett, also provided or tried to help with the procurement of US-origin electronic components for the owner of an EKT network company. The two left the United States in early 2018.
Earlier this week, the French government renewed an asset freeze on 24 entities and individuals from this same network, the release added.
Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker is quoted in the release as saying the action reinforces international efforts to work with US allies to stop the development of chemical weapons.
While the US and its allies have been accusing Damascus of using chemical weapons, the Syrian government has emphasized that it doesn’t possess such arms, as its stockpiles had been taken out of the country and destroyed under international control.
Reports that a chemical weapons attack occurred in the Syrian city of Douma near Damascus on April 7 prompted the United Kingdom, France, and the United States to fire over 100 missiles on what they said were the Syrian government’s chemical weapons sites.
Both Russian and Syrian officials have said that the alleged chemical attack on April 7 was likely staged by terrorist groups in order to provoke Western military action.
In June, Syrian President Bashar Assad charged the US, UK and France of using the White Helmets’ claims about a chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta as a pretext to attack Syria in mid-April and called the group a “PR stunt by the UK.”