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

Arab League Delays Forming Joint Force

Delay grows out of one of original obstacles facing pan-Arab force, analysts say: 'They may agree on the principle, but they continue to argue about how to implement the project' More

Pakistan Demands Afghanistan Protect Its Kabul Mission, Staff

Officials in Islamabad say Afghan agents are harassing Pakistani embassy personnel, particularly those living outside of mission’s compound More

US Survey: Trump Lead Grows in Republican Presidential Contest

update Quinnipiac University poll shows brash billionaire real estate mogul with 28 percent support among Republican voters More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs