What we know about the OPCW mission to Syria

Smoke rises after airstrikes targeting different parts of the Syrian capital Damascus

Smoke rises after airstrikes targeting different parts of the Syrian capital Damascus

Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are in the country to investigate the circumstances surrounding reports of a gas attack in the Syrian city of Douma, where at least 70 people are reported to have died from chemical exposure.

Witnesses and Western governments said helicopters dropped sarin and chlorine bombs that killed many children and women who were sheltering from the fighting between rebels and government troops. Russian Federation says the United Nations ordered the visit stopped for security reasons, and Syrian officials say they've been meeting with the OPCW delegation.

The U.S. ambassador to the OPCW, Ken Ward, told the meeting that the Russians may have already visited the site of the alleged poison gas attack.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied that Moscow had interfered with any evidence.

The US launched military strikes on Friday night, alongside United Kingdom and French forces, aimed at reducing the Syrian regime's chemical weapons facilities.

OPCW inspectors arrived in Syria on April 14 but have not yet reached the site of presumable chemical attack.

"We called for an objective investigation".

According to Petter Lycke, Sweden's representative at the OPCW executive council, Syria and Russian Federation told the inspectors that their safety could not be guaranteed... "Therefore, allegations of this towards Russian Federation are groundless", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

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The alleged attack, which Damascus and its Russian ally have denied ever happened, prompted an unprecedented wave of missile strikes by the United States, France and Britain on Saturday. It is the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which entered into force in 1997 and aims to eradicate chemical weapons worldwide.

"Syria reiterated its full readiness to coordinate and to facilitate the delegation's work", he was quoted as saying by the official state agency SANA.

A statement adopted by the 28 European Union foreign ministers at the meeting said, "We strongly condemn the continued and repeated use of chemical weapons by the regime in Syria, including the latest attack in Douma, which is a grave breach of global law and an affront to human decency".

The attack, which killed more than 40 people, has drawn worldwide outrage and prompted the USA and its allies to consider a military strike on Syria, something Moscow has strongly warned against.

"This is the latest conjecture of our British colleagues", said Sergei Ryabkov, Russia's deputy foreign minister.

The targeted sites were largely empty and were all said to be facilities for chemical weapons storage or production.

"I think everyone is going to feel it at this point", she added.

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