Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

France Sanctions Dozens of Individuals, Firms for Syria Chemical Weapons Links

France Sanctions Dozens of Individuals, Firms for Syria Chemical Weapons Links

Tuesday, 23 January, 2018 - 10:30
France sanctioned 25 people and companies for their links to Syria's chemical weapons program. (Reuters)

France revealed on Tuesday that it was imposing sanctions on 25 individuals and firms for their connection to Syria’s chemical weapons program.

The announcement was made as diplomats were set to meet in Paris to push for action against perpetrators of the deadly attacks.

The list published in the government's official gazette gave the names and addresses of traders and businesses based mostly in Beirut, Damascus and Paris, as well as a Chinese businessman from the export hub of Guangdong.

The other individuals, who will face asset freezes under the French action, were either Syrian, Lebanese or Canadian with companies working in electronics, metal work, logistics or shipping.

No member of the Syrian regime was targeted, with an aide in the French foreign ministry explaining: "We don't have enough information to enable us to take this up to the political level in Syria."

The latest reported chemical weapons attack in Syria was reported on Monday when rescue workers said that victims of regime bombardment showed signs of suffocation.

Some 21 people, including children, suffered breathing difficulties after an alleged chemical attack on the besieged rebel enclave of East Ghouta outside Damascus.

The attack prompted a sharp warning from the US to Russia to rein in its ally, Syrian regime head Bashar al-Assad.

Diplomats from 29 countries including US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were set to meet in Paris later on Tuesday pushing for further sanctions and criminal charges against the perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria.

Tillerson and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian will also co-host a meeting of ministers ahead of a new round of peace talks in Vienna later this week and again in Sochi in Russia the week after.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in June that the use of chemical weapons was a "red line" and warned that France, which is part of the US-led coalition fighting extremists with air strikes in Syria, would respond.

Macron's words echoed a warning by Barack Obama, who as president had said that any chemical weapons use would trigger a shift in his country's position on Syria.

After hundreds were killed in attacks near Damascus in August 2013, a landmark deal with Russia was struck to rid Syria of its chemical weapons stash, staving off US air strikes.

Despite the disarmament drive, chemical attacks have continued.

United Nations investigators have gathered evidence that Assad’s regime has repeatedly used chemical weapons against rebels and civilians during the war since it erupted in March 2011.

France estimates that there have been 130 chemical attacks between 2012 and 2017, but the ISIS extremist group is thought to have used chemical weapons too.

Russia and China have blocked Western-backed efforts at the UN to impose sanctions on Damascus over their use.

"Today the situation is blocked at the highest international level," an aide to Le Drian said.

"The perpetrators of chemical attacks must know that they can be prosecuted and that we won't let this lie."

Editor Picks