UN inspection team to pursue Syria in search of chemical weapons

Amid recent US statements regarding suspected use of chemical weapons within Syria’s ongoing civil conflict, Green Cross International is calling for a United Nations team to be allowed entry into the country to conduct on-site inspections.

Two senior US senators, Carl Levin and John McCain, Chairman and second ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote to the White House on 24 April inquiring: “Has the Assad regime – or Syrian elements associated with, or supported by, the Assad regime – used chemical weapons in Syria since the current conflict began in March 2011?”

In response on 25 April, White House Legislative Affairs Director Miguel Rodriquez wrote: “Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin…Because of our concern about the deteriorating situation in Syria, the President has made it clear that the use of chemical weapons – or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups – is a redline for the United States of America.”

This US statement on suspected use of chemical agents in Syria follows allegations by Israel, France, and Britain that physiological evidence indicates the use of nerve agents in the two-year civil war. Green Cross International, which has worked for two decades with the onbjective of abolishing all chemical weapons, condemns any use of such arms in Syria, either by the government or opposition forces, and underlines the urgent need for further confirmation of such evidence by an international inspection team.

Dr. Paul F. Walker, director of the Green Cross Environmental Security and Sustainability Programme, added: “United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called any use of chemical weapons ‘reprehensible’ and established a UN inspection team to visit Syria and evaluate all available evidence. This team, developed in cooperation with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), has been waiting in Cyprus for two weeks now, but Syria is blocking any entry into the country.  This on-site inspection process must go forward now.”

At the opening of this month’s Five-Year Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention in The Hague, OPCW Director General Ahmet Uzumcu stated: “Old threats have not disappeared.  A stark reminder is the recent situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, where the Secretary-General has decided to conduct an investigation of the alleged use of chemical weapons.”

“Chemical weapons in the context of Syria is a matter of serious concern.  Any use of chemical weapons is reprehensible and unacceptable,” he added.

The Green Cross Environmental Security and Sustainability Programme has played a leading role globally in the safe and verified elimination of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons, in the United States, Russia, and elsewhere. It has also established the international Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to promote full implementation of the treaty regime.

GCI, founded in 1993 by President Mikhail Gorbachev, is an independent non-profit and nongovernmental organization working to address the inter-connected global challenges of security, poverty eradication and environmental degradation through advocacy and local projects. GCI is headquartered in Geneva and has a network of national organizations in around 30 countries.

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