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UN delegation on chemical weapons to visit Damascus next week

July 17, 2013, 20:39 UTC+3
He welcomed Damascus’ invitation to visit Syria to investigate reports about alleged use of chemical weapons in the country
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Photo EPA/ITAR-TASS

Photo EPA/ITAR-TASS

UNITED NATIONS, July 17 (Itar-Tass) - A U.N. delegation on chemical weapons will visit Syria next week.

The delegation will consist of Ake Sellstrom, the head of the U.N. fact-finding mission set up in March to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict, and Angela Kane, the U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, the spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary-General Martin Nesirky said opn Wednesday, July 17.

On Thursday, July 11, the U.N. disarmament chief and the head of the team probing the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria accepted the Syrian government’s invitation to visit Damascus for talks on carrying out the investigation.

Sellstrom and Kane agreed to accept the Syrian government’s invitation to visit Damascus with a view to completing the consultations on the modalities of cooperation required for the proper, safe and efficient conduct of the investigation.

The focus of the mission, set up following a formal request from the Syrian government, will be an incident involving the alleged use of chemical weapons in Kfar Dael region in Khan Al-Asal area in Aleppo governorate, the U.N. said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had repeatedly urged Damascus to grant the team access to the country so that it can carry out an on-the-ground investigation into the allegations.

He welcomed Damascus’ invitation to visit Syria to investigate reports about alleged use of chemical weapons in the country.

Martin Nesirky, spokesperson for the Secretary-General, said this was a step in the right direction.

The invitation to come to Syria was made by Syrian Permanent Representative to the U.N. Bashar Ja’afari and addressed to the U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane and Swedish Professor Ake Sellstrom, who is investigating alleged use of chemical weapons in the country.

“This invitation confirms the openness of the Syrian government and its commitment to cooperation with the United Nations Organisation in search for the truth hidden behind allegations about the use of chemical weapons,” he said.

“The Secretary-General welcomes the offer of the Government of Syria to continue discussions on the United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic. He remains seriously concerned about all allegations on the use of chemical weapons in Syria,” Nesirky said.

“Cooperation from Syria in this regard will be essential for the Mission to establish facts in a credible manner regarding any use of chemical weapons in Syria,” Nesirky said.

In late June, UK Permanent Representative to the U.N. Mark Lyall Grant told ITAR-TASS that London, Washington and Paris had provided the U.N. with information about ten instances of alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian authorities against rebels.

The U.N. probe into an alleged chemical attack in Aleppo, started at Damascus’ initiative, came to a halt after Western countries had pushed the U.N. Secretariat towards looking into other such instances as well. The Syrian authorities had insisted that U.N. experts should first visit Aleppo and only then, if they prove their impartiality, could they investigate other instances.

An independent U.N. panel said earlier that it had “no conclusive findings” regarding the use of chemical weapons by any of the parties to the conflict in Syria.

Since fighting began in March 2011 between the Syrian government and opposition groups seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad as many as 100,000 people have been killed, almost 2 million have fled to neighbouring countries and a further 4 million have been internally displaced.

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