UNSC concerned by use of chemical weapons in Syria

Jan Eliasson
Jan Eliasson

The United Nation Security Council (UNSC) has echoed sentiments by the UN Secretary General of strong concern for the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Opposition groups have accused the Syrian government of firing rockets with poisonous gas on residential areas early Wednesday morning, with reports claiming hundreds if not over one thousand victims. The allegations are uncorroborated but vehemently denied by the Syrian army.

The Council was briefed by the deputy Secretary General on the situation in Syria in an emergency session late Wednesday.

“There is a strong concern among council members about the allegations. There is also a general sense that there must be clarity on what happened and that the situation has to be followed carefully. All council members agreed that any use of chemical weapons by any side under any circumstances is a violation of international law,” says Council President Argentina’s Ambassador Maria Perceval at an emergency session in New York.

A UN team is on the ground to investigate earlier claims of chemical weapons usage and is now pushing to examine the site of Wednesday’s attack.

Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson called the latest attack an escalation. “We see the need to investigate this as soon as possible. This represents, no matter what the conclusions are, a serious escalation with grave humanitarian consequences and human consequences. We hope that we will be able to conduct the investigation. Dr Sellström and his team are in place in Damascus,” says Eliasson.

Syria would have to agree to any change in the team’s mandate to include additional sites. Modalities for the inspection of three earlier sites took months to iron out with the team only arriving in Damascus just this weekend.

“It is a very dramatic situation and the security situation right now does not allow such access and that is why this should also be seen in the broader perspective. We need cessation of hostilities in this particular area and in general,” he added.

The mandate of the investigators is a limited one they are merely to establish whether chemical weapons were used in Syria and not who used them.

That, the Secretary General said earlier this week, would be for member states to decide, perhaps the Security Council which has two options, to break the stalemate on Syria and agree on a course of action or engage in more of the same. But first an investigation must still take place to clarify what are to date merely accusations and denials. – SABC