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

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid