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OPCW abandons Turkey chemical attack investigation

CHEMICAL weapons inspectors have abandoned investigations into the alleged use of white phosphorus by Turkey on Kurds in northern Syria, saying on Saturday it falls outside of their remit.

International investigators from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said they would not examine tissue samples from victims of last month’s attack because white phosphorus injuries are produced by thermal, rather than chemical, properties.

In a statement to the Times newspaper the organisation said: “The OPCW has not initiated an investigation regarding recent developments in northern Syria.

“White phosphorus is commonly used in military operations to produce smoke or provide illumination. When white phosphorus is used as smoke, illumination or as an incendiary weapon, its use does not fall under the purview of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

“In such instances, the intended effects are due to white phosphorus’ thermal properties, rather than its chemical (toxic) properties.”

The move is a controversial one, coming soon after Turkey made a €30,000 (£26,000) donation to the Future OPCW Centre for Chemistry and Technology. 

At the time critics branded the October 17 announcement “a bribe” to cover-up the Nato member’s deadly chemical weapon attack.

Twenty one states and the European Union have contributed or pledged to contribute financially to the project, according to the OPCW, which said a considerable sum had been raised.

But news of Turkey’s contribution raised eyebrows coming just a day after Kurdish forces alleged white phosphorus and napalm had been used in an air strike on Serekaniye.

The OPCW had not responded to a list of questions by the time the Morning Star went to print. 

The OPCW has been accused of lacking impartiality with the organisation — established in 1997 to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) — becoming increasingly politicised.

Last year the body was granted powers to attribute blame for alleged attacks, rather than simply establish whether or not chemical weapons had been used.

Russia, Iran and Syria said the body was no longer fit for purpose, accusing it of being under the control of Western states, including the US.

It became mired in controversy earlier this year after a dissenting engineering report was inexplicably excluded from the OPCW report into an alleged chemical attack on Douma, which cast doubt on the official narrative that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces were responsible.

Last month an OPCW whistleblower said key evidence was withheld and the case was deliberately manipulated to frame the Syrian government for the attack.

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