Tag Archives: chemical weapons

Italy’s Reaction to the Use of Chemical Weapons at Khan Shaykhun and to the US Attack on a Syrian Airfield

On 4 April 2017, it was reported that the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun – controlled at the time by the Tahrir Al-Sham Alliance – had been the object of an airstrike by the air force of the Government of President Bashar Al Assad.[1] As a result of the airstrike, chemical agents poisoned large numbers of civilians. 

In a report released on 30 June 2017, the Fact-Finding Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) estimated the number of deaths “as approximately 100 people” and determined that “Sarin or a Sarin-like substance” had been used as a weapon in Khan Shaykhun.[2] It took until 27 October 2017 for the OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism to take position on the responsibility for the attack and affirm that the Leading Panel of the mechanism itself was “confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of Sarin at Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017”.[3]

In the aftermath of the attack, however, several countries condemned the action and the United States (US), the United Kingdom and France openly called into question the responsibility of the Syrian Government.[4] The US President, Mr. Donald Trump, condemned the attack as “intolerable” and openly blamed the inaction of his predecessor Barack Obama, who, after establishing “a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons did nothing”.[5] On its part, the Syrian government denied any involvement in the use of chemical weapons.[6] The Government of the Russian Federation offered alternative explanations of the events, mentioning the fact that the Syrian Air Force could have “bombed an underground factory producing chemical warfare agents” or alluding to a possible “provocation by the terrorists”.[7] Within the United Nations (UN) Security Council, a draft resolution condemning the attack – tabled by France, the United Kingdom and the US – was vetoed by the Russian Federation, with the abstention of China, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan.[8] 

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Statement by the Permanent Representative of Italy to the Conference on Disarmament at the Debate of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly

NEW YORK, 69th SESSION OF THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY, FIRST COMMITTEE, GENERAL DEBATE, 13 OCTOBER 2014.

On 13 October 2014, during the general debate in the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, Italy’s Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament, Amb. Vinicio Mati, expressed the position of Italy on disarmament and other related matters. First off, after declaring that Italy aligned itself with the statement made by the European Union, Mr Mati made some introductory remarks on the importance of a multilateral approach to the issue. He said:

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A Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emma Bonino, on the international operation for Syria’s chemical disarmament

CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES AND SENATE OF THE REPUBLIC, 3rd AND 4th JOINT COMMISSIONS, MEETING OF 16 JANUARY 2014

On 16 January 2014, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emma Bonino, accompanied by the Italian Minister of Infrastructures and Transport, Maurizio Lupi, and the Director-General of OPAC, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, reported before the III and IV Commissions of the Chamber of Deputies and the Third and Fourth Commissions of the Senate of the Republic on the steps undertaken by Italy in the context of the international operation for the disarmament of Syria and the destruction of its chemical arsenal. The Minister then expressed Italy’s will to create a weapons of mass destruction-free zone in the Middle East.

After Mr Lupi recalled OPAC decision of 27 September 2013 on destruction of Syrian chemical weapons and UN Security Council Resolution 2118 (2013) and explained the reasons which led the Italian Government to choose the Gioia Tauro harbour for the transshipment of chemical material from Syria, Ms Bonino stated:

Both the Security Council resolutions and the decision of the OPAC Executive Council have already been recalled. I believe that the offer of an Italian harbour for a mere operation of transshipment integrates into the policy followed by the Italian government since the beginning, namely that of a political settlement of the Syrian conflict, and not into other initiatives also envisaged.

I also believe, on the basis of ongoing consultations, that this opens a wider perspective into the common agreement reached by all States parties to the Non-proliferation Treaty to create a weapons of mass destruction-free zone in the Middle East.

As you know, this possibility, which dates back a long way, is now materialising with greater awareness. Syrian accession to the Convention on the prohibition of chemical weapons represents a significant step also in this direction.

Let me add that in this context and for the purpose of this initiative, namely the one of establishing a weapons of mass destruction-free zone in the Middle East, the Finnish facilitator, Mr Laajava, will be in Italy on Monday for consultations, in order for us to get started on the preparation of a conference in this respect.

She concluded:

Italy thus takes part in this international effort and in this endeavour to destroy chemical weapons, that we consider the starting point to get to a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

The Italian version of the statement can be downloaded here or found at: http://documenti.camera.it/leg17/resoconti/commissioni/stenografici/pdf/0304c0304/indag/c0304_disarmo/2014/01/16/leg.17.stencomm.data20140116.U1.com0304c0304.indag.c0304_disarmo.0001.pdf.

A Statement by the President of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Enrico Letta, on the chemical attacks in Syria

SENATE OF THE REPUBLIC, XVII LEGISLATURE, 100th MEETING, 11 SEPTEMBER 2013.

On 11 September 2013, the President of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Enrico Letta, gave account of what had been discussed during the G20 Summit, held in Saint Petersburg on 5-6 September 2013. A session of the Summit, as well as bilateral negotiations, were devoted to the Syrian crisis and, specifically, to the chemical attack launched against civilians in the suburbs of Damascus on 21 August 2013. Concerning the reactions of the international community, Mr. Letta stated:

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