By Hajer M'tiri
France on Tuesday announced it was sanctioning nearly 25 people and companies involved in the transfer of materials and substances that may have been used to manufacture chemical weapons in Syria.
Published in the government's official gazette, the list includes the names and addresses of traders and businesses mostly based in Beirut, Damascus and Paris. A Chinese businessperson from the export hub of Guangdong is also in the list.
The penalty, which consists of asset freezes, targets Syrian, Lebanese and Canadian individuals with companies operating in a number of sectors, such as electronics, logistics, shipping, and metal.
They have all been targeted for being "active intermediaries" of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center -- the Syrian regime's chemical weapons incubator -- by "facilitating the supply of goods involved in the production of chemical weapons, including toxic synthetics, such as sarin gas," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire explained in a joint statement.
The list, however, does not include any Syrian officials working for the Assad regime.
The ministers pointed out they lacked sufficient evidence to “take this up to the political level".
The move comes as Paris hosts 29 foreign ministers and diplomats who have come together to create an "International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons”.
The series of commitments stated in the declaration of principles aims at strengthening cooperation in the fight against impunity for those who use or develop chemical weapons, according to a French Foreign Ministry statement.
"They [leaders] will agree to make any information they were able to obtain on the perpetrators of chemical attacks available to the international community, international investigative organizations (UN, OPCW), and the public," the statement said, adding that the partnership in no way intended to replace existing international mechanisms, nor did it plan to conduct its own investigations.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the conflict, mainly by regime airstrikes indiscriminately targeting opposition-held areas, while millions more have been displaced.
During the conflict, the Assad regime has been accused many times by international actors of targeting Syrian civilians with chemical weapons.