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German company accused of sending 'weapons-grade' chemicals to Syria

Chemical weapons have been frequently employed by the Syrian regime [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 June, 2019

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German chemical dealers has been accused of circumventing EU laws against the Syrian regime.

A German firm has been accused of exporting chemicals to Syria that could have been used to manufacture deadly substances such as sarin, according to media reports on Thursday.

Chemical wholesaler Brenntag AG used a Swiss firm to export chemicals isopropanol and diethylamine to Syria in 2014, an investigation by media outlets Bayerischer RundfunkSuddeutsche Zeitung, and Tamedia revealed.

Although they can be used for medical purposes they are also ingredients in the manufacture of deadly chemical weapon sarin, which has been used by the regime on civilian areas in the war.

Brenntag AG sold both chemicals to a pharmaceutical company with links to the Syrian regime.

The UN found that a sarin gas attack on the opposition village of Khan Sheikhoun in 2017 - which killed around 100 civilians - used the chemical isopropanol.

Brenntag AG admitted to sending the chemicals to Syria through the Swiss company but said it was done "in accordance with the laws at the time".

The EU put restrictions on the export of chemicals that could be used to manufacture weapons to Syria after a number of deadly gas attacks on opposition areas.

Authorisation is required to export diethylamine since 2012, while a similar law was put in place for isopropanol in 2013 including through subsidiaries in Switzerland.

Prosecutors in Essen said they are taking legal action against Brenntag AG, while prosecutors in Belgium are considering doing the same.

Some of the chemicals were delivered in 2014, when the Syrian regime formally "destroyed" its chemical weapons. 

This came after the US threatened airstrikes on regime positions when chemical weapons were used on the Damascus' suburb of Ghouta in 2013, which left hundreds of civilians in the opposition area dead.

The regime was accused of using sarin on Khan Sheikhoun in 2017, along with scores of less-deadly but still banned chlorine gas attacks.

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