A visit by chemical weapons inspectors to the site of a suspected gas attack in Syria was delayed on Monday, British and Russian officials said, as Western powers and Russia traded accusations in the aftermath of retaliatory U.S.-led missile strikes.
Moscow, the main ally of the Syrian regime, on Sunday condemned the U.S., Britain and France for refusing to wait for the findings of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inspection team on the alleged attack on Douma before they launched the strikes. OPCW inspectors arrived in Damascus on Saturday and had planned to head to Douma, on the outskirts of the capital, on Monday. But the British delegation to the OPCW said Russia and Syria had not yet allowed inspectors access to Douma.
Britain’s Ambassador Peter Wilson said at a news conference in The Hague that the UN had cleared the inspectors to go but they had been unable to reach Douma because Syria and Russia had been unable to guarantee their safety. “Unfettered access (is) essential,” a British statement said. “Russia and Syria must cooperate.”
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister said the delay was due to the Western strikes.
The U.S. envoy to the global watchdog said Russia may have tampered with the site of the April 7 attack, which aid organisations say killed dozens of men, women and children.
The inspectors met Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad in the presence of Russian officers and a senior Syrian security official in Damascus for about three hours on Sunday.
Washington, meanwhile, prepared to increase pressure on Russia with new economic sanctions.