— U.N. chemical weapons investigators are ready to visit Syria to investigate the use of chemical weapons, but a deal has yet to be reached with the Syrian government after two weeks of talks on safety assurances for the team, the United Nations said on Tuesday
“Once the government of Syria confirms its acceptance of the modalities, the mission will depart without delay,” the United Nations said in a statement.
It has been nearly two weeks since the United Nations said the Syrian government had agreed to let a team of experts travel to three sites where chemical weapons are reported to have been used. One, Khan al-Assal in Aleppo, is where the Syrian government says rebels used chemical weapons in March.
The other two locations to be visited have not yet been identified. The United Nations said it has received 13 reports of possible chemical weapons use - one report from Syria's government and the rest mainly from Britain, France and the United States.
The Syrian government and the opposition have accused each other of using chemical weapons, and both have denied it.
The U.N. inquiry, led by Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, will only try to establish whether chemical weapons were used, not who used them. His team is made up of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the World Health Organization.
“Over the weekend, the investigation team led by Dr Ake Sellstrom completed all necessary logistical arrangements for its visit to Syria,” the United Nations said.
“In the meantime, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Angela Kane, has continued her consultations with the government of Syria with a view to reaching agreement as soon as possible on the modalities essential for cooperation to ensure the proper, safe and efficient conduct of the mission,” it said.
Rebels seized Khan al-Assal from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces last month. The Syrian National Coalition, the rebels' leadership group, has written to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon saying they were ready to cooperate with the chemical weapons inquiry and “welcome U.N. investigators into all territories under our control.”