A UN Security Council-mandated team of Chemical Weapons [CW] inspectors has been back on the ground in Syria for a second time, investigating several more reported CW attacks [including three that reported occurred after the large August 21 attack in Ghouta].
The BBC has produced a graphic to show the sites of the second investigations. The BBC also reported here, that the UN CW team, “led by Ake Sellstrom, arrived in Syria for its second visit on 25 September and hopes to finish its work by Monday 30 September”.
The UN CW team completed a six-day mission on 1 October, the UN reported here. They are reportedly aiming at producing a “comprehensive” report by the end of October.
[n.b. – This is not a complete or exhaustive indication of reported CW attacks — there were more; see our earlier Chronology, in previous posts below]:
This graphic was Tweeted by Fred Abrahams @fredabrahams – “Map of 7 alleged chemical weapons attacks in #Syria being investigated now by UN team, from BBC. pic.twitter.com/b9Qk78I8tA” — via @DanKaszeta
Three attacks near Aleppo in North:
19 March Khan al-Assal [this is the first CW attack in Syria + the Syrian Government formally requested a UN investigation]
13 April Sheikh Maqsoud
29 April Saraqeb
Three attacks near Damascus in south of this graphic [after the 21 August attack on Ghouta — attacks on all three days were mentioned by Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari in a “stake-out” outside the UN Security Council, filmed by UN TV and posted on Youtube here; he blamed these attacks on “terrorists” = rebels]:
22 August Bahhariya
24 August Jobar
25 August Ashrafieh Sahnaya
Trying to figure how UNSG BAN selected the 6 additional sites [I do not see 7 — unless, as the BBC report seems to say, the UN team will be taking a second look at, or doing a follow-up on, the large August 21 CW attacks in Ghouta]:
1st, Khan al-Assal on 19 March 2013, was requested months ago by Syria. The UNSG promised to investigate before August 21 [in fact, that’s why the UN CW team was in Syria when the 21 August attack took place].
After the August 21 CW attacks on Ghouta, Syria’s Ambassador Bashar al-Assad demanded UN inspection of 3 post-August 21 attacks near Damascus [rebel accidents handling CW/precursors in tunnels etc] on 22, 24 and 25 August This can be see on Youtube here — though Ambassador Jaafari seemed to give a different order of dates and places from those shown in the graphic above, supposedly based on UN information.
Syria’s Amb al-Jaafari also complained [in May] about the April 29th attack in Saraqeb; it was also cited by a defector as well as in French + UK declassified reports released at the end of August.
The April 13th attack in Sheikh Maksood/Maqsoud was cited in French + UK reports published after the Aug 21 attacks, + cited by a US NatSec Adviser [in a high-confidence assessment] and it appears to be the only one on the list that was not requested by the Syrian Government…
One article, posted here, mentions another attack on 19 March, in Otaibah near Damascus [close to the Damascus International Airport] which is NOT, as the article points out, on the UN CW team’s list…
On 27 September, the UN Security Council in New York unanimously adopted resolution 2118 — which endorses a decision taken the same day by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Hague, containing special procedures for the expeditious and verifiable destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons — and the UNSC resolution’s text is contained in the UN Press Release posted here
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that the UNSC resolution also contains “requirements for all countries, especially Syria’s neighbours, which must report on moves by non-State actors to secure chemical weapons”…
The resolution followed a Syrian decision to surrender its CW and accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention — and a subsequent Syrian declaration of its Chemical Weapons stockpiles and precursors and equipment.”
UPDATE: On 3 October, the disarmament inspectors reported from Damascus that they felt they had made initial progress:
“The joint OPCW-UN team mandated to assist Syria with the elimination of its chemical weapons programme has made encouraging initial progress, following the first working day of meetings with the Syrian authorities. Documents handed over yesterday by the Syrian Government look promising, according to team members, but further analysis, particularly of technical diagrams, will be necessary and some more questions remain to be answered. The team hopes to begin onsite inspections and the initial disabling of equipment within the next week, but this depends on the outcome of the technical groups established with the participation of Syrian experts yesterday. These groups are working on three areas which are key to the mission’s success: verification of the information handed over by the Syrian Government; the safety and security of the inspection teams; and practical arrangements for implementing the plan, under which Syria’s chemical weapons material and equipment are to be eliminated by mid-2014″. This OPCW press release is posted on the UN News website here.
A UN press release, posted here, announced the arrival of this other group of OPCW-UN disarmament inspectors in Damascus:
“The team, which includes 19 OPCW inspectors and 14 UN staff members, went into Syria over land from the Lebanese capital, Beirut, without any incidents. The Syrian Government provided visas and facilitated transit to Damascus.
On arrival, the OPCW-UN team established a logistics base for its immediate work. In the coming days, their efforts are expected to focus on verifying information provided by the Syrian authorities and the initial planning phase of helping the country destroy its chemical weapons production facilities. The OPCW Executive Council and the UN Security Council decided that this should be completed by 1 November. According to the OPCW-UN Security Council deadline, the entire chemical weapons stockpile must be eliminated in the first half of next year”.
“The mission is the first in OPCW history to take place in a country embroiled by civil war”, AFP reported here.
The AFP report added that the OPCW inspectors and UN staffers had arrived in Damascus from Beirut, on 1 October, just “as a team of UN experts left after probing seven alleged gas attacks for a report expected to be released in late October. The UN team visited Syria in August, and later confirmed that sarin was used in the August 21 attacks that prompted the United States to threaten military action against Damascus. Instead, the United States and Russia hammered out a deal now enshrined in the UN resolution under which Syria will turn over its chemical arms” …for destruction.
As UN SG BAN Ki-Moon noted during the Security Council meeting that adopted the resolution on Friday night in New York, the text “also called for an international conference on Syria, which both the Government and the opposition had said they would attend”. UN SG BAN said he aimed to convene the conference in mid-November [in Geneva].
UPDATE: On 2 October, the UN Security Council adopted a statement urging combatants in Syria to observe “humanitarian pauses” in the fighting to allow humanitarian aid to pass through. Reuters reported here that UN aid chief Valerie Amos indicated that “about two million people in Syria…have been unreachable for many months”. Amos noted that “some cross-border aid deliveries were already being made from Lebanon”, according to the Reuters report.
Reuters added that “the Security Council statement urges Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s authorities to ‘take immediate steps to facilitate the expansion of humanitarian relief operations, and lift bureaucratic impediments and other obstacles’, including ‘promptly facilitating safe and unhindered humanitarian access to people in need, through the most effective ways, including across conflict lines and, where appropriate, across borders from neighboring countries’…The statement also urges all parties to ‘immediately demilitarize medical facilities, schools and water stations, refrain from targeting civilian objects, and agree on the modalities to implement humanitarian pauses, as well as key routes to enable promptly … the safe and unhindered passage of humanitarian convoys’.”