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Germany says UN inspectors need to probe all chemical attacks in Syria

August 20, 2013, 22:49 UTC+3
U.N. chemical weapons experts started working in Syria on Monday, August 19
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BERLIN, August 20 (Itar-Tass) - German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle urged warring sides in Syria to allow U.N. inspectors to investigate the use of chemical weapons in the whole of the country, not just specific regions.

He said on Tuesday, August 20, that the inspectors should be given “full and unhindered access” to all parts of the country where chemical weapons were allegedly used.

Westerwelle believes that this would make it possible to thoroughly investigate allegations about the use of chemical weapons.

He said that the start of the inspectors’ work in Syria is the “first step in the right direction” and reaffirmed Germany’s readiness to provide support to the U.N. mission, including material and logistical, if need be.

U.N. chemical weapons experts started working in Syria on Monday, August 19.

The team will work in Syria for up to two weeks. This period can be extended by mutual consent, Ban said.

“The Mission will contemporaneously investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons reported by the Government of Syria at Khan al-Asal as well as two other allegations of the use of chemical weapons reported by Member States,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

“In order to credibly establish the facts, the Mission must have full access to the sites of the alleged incidents. This includes access to the reported sites to undertake the necessary analyses and to collect samples. It also includes interviews and examination of witnesses, victims, attending medical personnel as well as the conduct of post-mortem examinations,” the secretary-general said.

On August 14, Syria agreed to receive U.N. inspectors for a probe into the alleged use of chemical weapons in the country. By agreement with the Syrian government they will investigate three such instances at the same time.

The spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary-General, Martin Nesirky, said in early August that apart from its leader, Swedish Professor Ake Sellstrom, the team of inspectors would include about 10 experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the World Health Organisation.

By agreement with the official Syrian authorities, the U.N. Mission will run its investigation in three places. They have not been named so far. The U.N. Secretariat has cited security reasons for not disclosing the details of the upcoming investigation of the purported use of chemical weapons in Syria for security reasons.

However one of the places to be visited by the U.N. experts is already known. It is Aleppo’s suburb of Khan Al-Asal. The other two have not been revealed.

The U.N. Secretariat has already received 13 reports about the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

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.

Ban 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.

“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.

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. As a result of the explosion of a homemade rocket with sarin in the area controlled by governmental troops near Aleppo on March 19 of this year, 26 people died, including 16 Syrian army troops. The rest were civilians.

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