News / Middle East

    Chemical Experts Begin Mission on Syria Disarmament

    • A U.N. convoy carries experts charged with starting the process of verifying and eliminating chemical weapons to a hotel in Damascus, Oct. 1, 2013.
    • A convoy of inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons prepares cross into Syria at the Lebanese border crossing point of Masnaa, Oct. 1, 2013.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter reacts as his fellow fighter aims his weapon during what activists said were clashes with forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Deir al-Zor, Oct. 1, 2013.
    • A Free Syrian Army commander reacts while taking cover inside a house during what activists said were clashes with forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Deir al-Zor, Oct. 1, 2013.
    • Free Syrian Army fighters rest in Sheikh Maksoud, Aleppo Oct. 1, 2013.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter carries his weapon as he runs to avoid snipers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo, Oct. 1, 2013.
    • Damaged graves are pictured at a cemetery in Duma neighborhood in Damascus, Oct. 1, 2013.
    • Children walk through damaged streets as they go to school in the Duma neighbourhood in Damascus, Sept. 29, 2013.
    • A destroyed building is seen in Telata village in Idlib province, Sept. 29, 2013.
    Developments in Syria
    VOA News
    International experts in Damascus have begun an unprecedented United Nations-backed mission to oversee the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons.

    Experts from the Netherlands-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] boarded several U.N. vehicles at their Damascus hotel and drove off Wednesday for their first working assignment since arriving in the country a day earlier.  

    The international team includes 19 OPCW experts and 14 U.N. personnel. In a statement, the team said it started work with Syrian authorities on securing sites where it will operate, especially in outlying areas.

    The team also said it will "soon" begin efforts to disable Syria's chemical weapons production facilities and called for the Syrian government to cooperate. It said the international experts have been "considering the health and environmental hazards" which they may have to confront.

    Syria has promised to cooperate with the mission, which the U.N. Security Council approved last month. It is the first time the OPCW is faced with the challenge of eliminating a large chemical weapons stockpile under a tight deadline in the midst of a civil war.

    In another move, the Security Council issued a statement Wednesday, urging the Syrian government to give aid agencies "safe and unhindered humanitarian access" to Syrians affected by the country's two-year civil war.

    The non-binding statement said Syria should facilitate that access "across conflict lines, and where appropriate, across borders from neighboring countries."

    U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos welcomed the Council's appeal, saying it could help aid workers to provide supplies to about 2 million Syrians who have been unreachable for months. She said the international community now has the task of turning the Council's "strong words into meaningful action."

    The Syrian government has long opposed the direct delivery of aid from across its borders with neighboring states, fearing that such deliveries could end up in rebel hands. Instead, the government requires aid to be sent first to Damascus, from where it has greater control over how the supplies are distributed.

    The U.N. Security Council's humanitarian statement marks its second agreement in a week about how to deal with the Syrian conflict. Its earlier legally-binding resolution calling for the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons broke more than two years of deadlock.

    The Council set an initial deadline of November for the OPCW-U.N. experts to verify Syria's declaration of chemical weapons sites and destroy its ability to manufacture chemical agents. Syria must then allow all of its chemical warfare stockpiles to be eliminated by the middle of next year.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday he believes the plan is on the right track. Speaking at an investment forum in Moscow, he said if world powers continue working together to support the international mission, they can avoid the need for military action to enforce it.

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to give up his chemical weapons under international pressure after an August 21 chemical attack near Damascus that killed hundreds of civilians. The United States and its allies blamed the attack on pro-Assad forces, while the Syrian president and his key ally, Russia, blamed Syria's rebels.

    The United States responded to the August 21 incident by threatening military action against the Syrian government.

    Russia reacted to the U.S. threat by persuading Assad to eliminate his previously-undeclared chemical arsenal and reaching a deal with Washington to avert military action.

    You May Like

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    Carry-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society, so here's the deal with pizza, Chinese food and what racism has to do with taking food to go

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora