News / Middle East

No Agreement on Syria Access for UN Chemical Arms Inspectors

Animal carcasses lie on the ground, killed by what residents said was a chemical weapon attack days earlier,Khan al-Assal Syria, March 23, 2013.
Animal carcasses lie on the ground, killed by what residents said was a chemical weapon attack days earlier,Khan al-Assal Syria, March 23, 2013.
Reuters
The United Nations and Syria have not yet agreed on how much access a team of chemical weapons inspectors will have to investigate allegations that such arms were used recently in the Syrian conflict, according to a letter to Syria's U.N. envoy.

The United Nations said last month it would investigate the Syrian government's allegations that rebels used chemical arms in an attack near the northern city of Aleppo.

Western countries also want a probe of two additional rebel claims about the use of such arms. The opposition says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government carried out all three alleged chemical attacks.

"There's no agreement on access yet," a U.N. Security Council diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "The inspectors won't be deploying until there's agreement on access and other modalities."

There has been an exchange of letters about access for the investigators between Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari and the head of the U.N. Office of Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane, according to a letter from Kane obtained by Reuters on Thursday.

That letter said Ja'afari wrote to Kane on Tuesday suggesting amendments to her proposed "legal and logistical parameters" for the investigation.

Ja'afari has said repeatedly that the inspectors need only limited access to the areas related to the Aleppo incident, in which the government and rebels accuse each other of firing a missile laden with chemicals that killed 26 people.

Diplomats said Assad's government has also suggested it wants a say in who will be on the inspection team.

Kane responded to Ja'afari by saying that it was "solely for the Secretary-General [Ban Ki-moon] to determine the composition of the investigation mission, which should have the necessary freedom of movement and access to conduct a thorough and objective investigation."

Angry Russia

Kane made clear to Ja'afari that although the primary focus of the investigation would be the Aleppo incident, there were other alleged chemical weapons attacks to consider as well.

"We must remain mindful of the other allegations that chemical weapons were used elsewhere in the country," she wrote.

France and Britain wrote to Ban last month requesting that any investigation look into rebel allegations of an attack near Damascus, as well as one in Homs in late December. The rebels blame Syria's government for those incidents as well as the Aleppo attack.

The French and British request enraged Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who accused them of trying to "delay and possibly derail" the U.N. probe.

Russia has criticized Western and Arab calls for Assad to give up power and, together with China, has blocked three U.N. Security Council resolutions meant to pressure him to end the violence. Moscow has also differed with the West over which side was to blame for massacres and other atrocities in Syria.

Western diplomats and U.N. officials say Ban is determined to have all chemical weapons allegations investigated.

Ban has said he wants the inspection team, to be headed by Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, to deploy to Syria as soon as possible. There was no mention of a deployment date for the inspection team in Kane's letter.

"The United Nations is continuing to discuss the content of the exchange of letters with the government of Syria and is hopeful that a mutual understanding ... will be reached soon," said U.N. spokesman Eduardo del Buey.

Ja'afari did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The investigation will try to determine only if chemical weapons were used, not who used them. If it is confirmed that the weapons were used, it would be the first time in the two-year-old Syrian conflict. The United Nations estimates the conflict has resulted in the loss of more than 70,000 lives.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs