Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) meets with the Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapon (OPCW) Ahmet Üzümcü in The Hague. Photo: OPCW/
28 August 2013 – With Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other United Nations officials urging continued cooperation, the UN team investigating alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria was today able to visit several locations in the suburbs of Damascus, including impact sites, where it collected additional information and samples. According to a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the team led by Swedish scientist Dr. Åke Sellström, was able to carry out its work without incident following a pause in the investigation yesterday, when its convoy was attacked by snipers while heading to the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, where chemical weapons were allegedly used on 21 August.
“The Secretary-General appeals to all sides to allow the Mission to continue its important work,” the spokesperson said, adding that the evidence collected on-site by the team “is crucial for its unique ability to establish the facts of the matter in an impartial and fact-based manner.”
Earlier, the Secretary-General and the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapon (OPCW) called on all parties in Syria to extend their full cooperation to the team of United Nations inspectors probing the possible use of chemical weapons.
The inspection team includes staff from the OPCW, which works in cooperation with the UN, along with colleagues from the UN World Health Organization (WHO).
Meeting at its headquarters in The Hague, Mr. Ban and OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü took serious note of the attack on the UN convoy en route to an inspection site, and stressed that such incidents must not be allowed to happen again.
The UN is registering a strong complaint with the Government and opposition authorities about the incident.
“The work of the UN investigation team represents an impartial and objective means to establish the facts on the allegations of use in Syria,” Mr. Ban and Mr. Üzümcü noted according to a UN spokesperson.
They urged that the inspectors’ work be treated as “inviolable and all cooperation must be extended to the Mission that includes avoidance of hostilities by all parties.”
The team is spending up to 14 days, with a possible extension, probing the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Government at Khan al-Asal, as well as other allegations reported by Member States.
Mr. Ban has said that any use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances is a serious violation of international law.
The OPCW, with 189 Member States, is the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which entered into force in 1997. Among its goals, the Convention aims to destroy all existing chemical weapons under international verification, and to assist and protect Member States from chemical weapons threats.