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Syrian regime still has chemical weapons, confirms Turkey

Cavusoglu attends a session on Syria within the G7 meeting [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 11 April, 2017

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime retains the ability to use chemical weapons, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday that Ankara's findings showed the Syrian government still possessed chemical weapons capacity and urged for measures to prevent its potential usage.

Speaking to state-run broadcaster TRT Haber in Italy, Cavusoglu also said a transition government was urgently needed in Syria and that risks of chemical weapons would continue as long as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remained in power.

Cavusoglu's statement came as foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) industrialised nations failed to agree on whether fresh sanctions should be imposed on Assad following a recent chemical attack on a rebel-held town in northern Syria that killed at least 87 people, including women and children, and triggered a retaliatory US bombing raid on a Syrian air base.

"At the moment there is no consensus on new sanctions as an effective instrument," Italy's Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said at the close of the two-day meeting in Italy, after his British counterpart Boris Johnson raised the issue with the G7.

"There are clearly different opinions," Alfano said, adding that the G7 had reaffirmed its support for those sanctions already in place.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault confirmed that the G7 ministers insisted there can be no peace solution for war-torn Syria with Assad in power.

He said the message for Russia was: "That's enough now. There must be an end to hypocrisy and a very clear return to the political process".

"This is not an aggressive stance towards Russia, rather a hand out-held, with clear intentions," he said.

The group also held a special meeting on Syria on Tuesday with counterparts from Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UAE.

The inclusion of those countries is important because the US strategy for Syria involves enlisting help from Middle East nations to ensure security and stability in Syria after the Islamic State group is vanquished.

Meanwhile, Turkey said on Tuesday that tests proved the deadly nerve agent sarin was used in the suspected chemical attack last week.

"It has been identified that sarin gas was used," Turkish Health Minister Recep Akdag said, quoted by state-run news agency Anadolu, after analysis of blood and urine samples of the casualties from the attack in Idlib province who were brought to Turkey.

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Agencies contributed to this report.

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