October 20, 2016

Europe on cusp of self-induced humanitarian crisis – UNHCR


aGENEVA:  Russia said today there was a growing threat from ISIS terrorists waging chemical warfare in the Middle East and called for global negotiations on a new pact to combat what he called “a grave reality of our time”.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the appeal in a speech to the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, a now largely moribund forum which clinched a major pact banning chemical weapons in the 1990s.

“However, we still face significant gaps related, in particular, to the use of chemicals for terrorist purposes,” Lavrov told the 65-member-state forum.

“This threat is getting extremely urgent in the light of newly revealed facts of repeated use of not only industrial toxic chemicals but also of full-fledged chemical warfare agents by ISIL (ISIS) and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq,” he said.

ISIS terrorists are believed to be responsible for sulphur mustard gas attacks in Syria and Iraq last year, the United States said last month.

A confidential report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) concluded that at least two people were exposed to sulphur mustard in Marea, north of Aleppo, in August.

“It does not leave any doubt that chemical terrorism is emerging not as an abstract threat, but a grave reality of our time which could and should be addressed,” Lavrov said.

“There is a growing danger of similar crimes being committed on the territory of Libya and Yemen,” he said.

Lavrov said there were reports of militant groups gaining access to scientific and technical documentation on the production of chemical weapons, seizing chemical plants and “engaging foreign specialists to help synthesise chemical warfare agents”, without giving details.

He said launching negotiations would revive the Conference on Disarmament, whose members include UN Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, but which has not been able to clinch any disarmament agreements since “the last decade of the 20th Century”.

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