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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs