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Syria's War

Breaking news coverage of developments in Syria's War and the broader regional conflict, including allegations of the deadly use of chemical weapons and the international community's response

  • Syria's official news agency says two bombs have exploded near the state television building in central Damascus, Sunday.

    The SANA news agency says state TV's headquarters in Umayyad Square was damaged in the blast, but there was no immediate word on casualties.

  • Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said the the chemical weapons watchdog will send additional inspectors to visit 20 sites in Syria as part of the international effort to destroy President Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons arsenal.

    In a statement Tuesday evening, Uzumcu said that Syria had made "a constructive beginning for what will nonetheless be a long and difficult process".

    The OPCW sent in its first team of inspectors to verify a declaration of chemical weapons Syria submitted to the chemical weapons watchdog last month. Western intelligence agencies have said they believe Syria possess 1,000 metric tonnes of sarin, mustard and VX nerve gas, and Syria has been given until November to destroy production facilities and weapons-filling equipment.

  • Iran rejects any conditions for taking part in a long-delayed peace conference on Syria, Iranian media reported, in effect dismissing a US suggestion that Tehran back a call for a transitional government in Damascus.

    The US State Department said on Monday Washington would be open to Iran taking part in a "Geneva 2" conference seeking an end to the war if Iran publicly supported a 2012 statement calling for a transitional authority to rule Syria.

    But Iran rejected any conditions being placed on it to participate in diplomatic efforts on Syria, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said on Tuesday evening.

    "If our participation is in the interest of achieving a solution, it will be unacceptable to set conditions for inviting the Islamic Republic of Iran, and we accept no conditions," Afkham said, according to the state-run Press TV.

  • Syrian activists say government airstrikes have targeted rebel positions near a strategic northern city.

    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory says Syrian fighter jets twice hit opposition-held areas Tuesday near the strategic city of Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province.

    The Observatory says the airstrikes were followed by heavy clashes. The group says there were casualties in the fighting but gave no specifics.

    The rebels captured Maaret al-Numan a year ago.

  • Ahmet Uzumcu, director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), briefed member states Tuesday on the chemical watchdog's efforts to rid Syria of chemical weapons arsenal.

    Uzumcu addressed the group's 41-nation Executive Council at the start of a four-day meeting in The Hague as inspectors continued their mission in Syria to destroy the country's estimated 1,000-ton chemical arsenal.

    A group of experts arrived in Syria last week has already returned to the OPCW headquarters to report on their talks with officials from President Bashar Assad's regime in Damascus.

  • Russia and the United States agree on how to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday after meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry.

    "We have a common understanding of what needs to be done and how. I am very glad that President (Barack) Obama is occupying this position (on chemical arms)," Putin told reporters at the end of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) trade summit on the Indonesian island of Bali.

    Putin added that Moscow would welcome Indonesia joining Syria peace talks scheduled to take place in Geneva later this year.

    "We believe it is possible to expand the number of (conference) participants by including such big Muslim states like Indonesia," Putin said. "In my opinion, it would be quite natural and we'd welcome it," he was quoted as saying by state news agency."

    [Reuters, AFP]

  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommended Monday that 100 people from the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the world's chemical weapons watchdog, be part of a joint mission to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons.

    In a letter to the UN Security Council, Ban proposed that that a joint mission be established with the UN providing logistics, communications and coordination with the Syrian government and rebel groups, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons conducting technical consultations, verification and inspections.

    Given the "dangerous and volatile" environment in Syria, "the joint mission will establish a 'light footprint' in Syria," said Ban. 

    Ban's letter comes as a response to the UN Security Council resolution adopted on September 27 ordering Syria's chemical weapons stockpile to be secured and destroyed and requiring Ban to submit recommendations UN's role in eliminating Syria's chemical weapons program.

    A joint advance team of 19 personnel from the OPCW and 16 UN personnel arrived in Damascus to initiate their activities.

    "I welcome this historic step, and urge all parties to do their part to ensure that this encouraging progress is maintained and indeed accelerated," Ban said, adding that the advance team's rapid deployment was possible because of "the cooperation of the Syrian government."

    Ban stressed the dangerous environment in which the advance team will operate, especially in Damascus, Homs, Aleppo and other urban areas. "Heavy artillery, air strikes, mortar barrages, and the indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas, are commonplace, and battle lines shift quickly," he said. "Two mortars impacted in close proximity of the hotel in Damascus where the advance team will initially base its operations just hours before it arrived, while vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices have detonated in close proximity."

  • Letter from Ban Ki-moon to UNSC on Syria

    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sent a letter on October 7 to the president of the Security Council regarding the ongoing situation in Syria.
  • The United States says it will be more open to Iranian involvement in a long-delayed peace conference on Syria if Iran backs a 2012 statement calling for a transitional government in Syria.

    The June 30, 2012, "Geneva Communique" sought to chart a path to a diplomatic resolution of the conflict. It was agreed by major powers such as the United States and Russia, Gulf states and Syria's neighbors Iraq and Turkey - but not Iran, which was not invited to those talks.

    The US accuses Iran of supporting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a civil war that has run for more than two years, killed more than 100,000 people and eluded all efforts at a peaceful settlement.

  • The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Monday that Syria's government was being "cooperative" in the operation to destroy the country's arsenal of the banned weapons.

    In a statement posted on its website, the OPCW said an advance team that accompanied inspectors to Damascus last Tuesday was returning to the Hague after meetings with Syrian authorities.

    "Discussions were held with the Syrian authorities on the disclosure which Syria earlier provided to the OPCW on its chemical weapons programme," the statement said.

    "The discussions were constructive and the Syrian authorities were cooperative."

    A joint UN-OPCW team arrived in Damascus last week to begin verifying the information and destroying arms and production facilities.

    Damascus must submit by October 27 its plans for the destruction of all its chemical weapons and facilities, which will then be used to draw up "destruction milestones".

  • Russia and the US have agreed to push for holding Syria peace talks in mid-November, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday after talks with his US counterpart John Kerry.

    "We advocate holding the international conference (on Syria) in mid-November," Lavrov told journalists after holding talks with Kerry in Bali, Indonesia.

    "Today we agreed on the steps needed for both the government and the opposition to come to the conference," Lavrov was quoted as saying by the RIA-Novosti news agency.

    UN chief Ban Ki-moon also proposed mid-November for the conference late last month during his first meeting with Syria's opposition National Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba, who said he was ready to send a delegation to the meeting.

    UN-Arab League peace envoy Brahimi told France's TV5 Monde Sunday that he hoped the two sides would agree to attend a peace conference in Geneva in mid-November "without preconditions".

  • US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday welcomed Syria's "compliance" in quickly starting the process of destroying its chemical weapons arsenal and thanked Russia for its help.

    "The process has begun in record time and we are appreciative for the Russian cooperation and obviously for the Syrian compliance," he told reporters alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after talks in Indonesia.

    Kerry added that Assad "deserves credit" for his part in "swiftly moving" to eliminate his regime's chemical arms.

    "I think it's extremely significant that yesterday, Sunday, within a week of the resolution being passed, some chemical weapons were being destroyed," said Kerry.

    "I think it's a credit to the Assad regime, frankly. It's a good beginning and we welcome a good beginning," he added.

  • Syria has given international experts additional details about its chemical weapons program that go beyond a Sept. 21 declaration of its poison gas arsenal, the United Nations said on Friday.

    The team consists of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague, Netherlands, with help from UN personnel. Last week, the UN Security Council demanded the elimination of Syria's chemical arsenal.

    UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said the director-general of the organization, Ahmet Uzumcu, informed the agency's executive council that Syria has presented it with new details.

    "The additional submission is being reviewed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons," Nesirky said. He said Uzumcu was expected to give OPCW member countries an update on Tuesday.

    He gave no details about the new information. Western diplomats in New York have said their countries' intelligence agencies are analyzing the declaration on Syria's chemical weapons program that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government submitted to the OPCW on Sept. 21. The contents of Damascus' declaration have not been made public.

  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has told Turkey it will pay a heavy price for backing rebels fighting to oust him, accusing it of harboring "terrorists" along its border who, he said, would soon turn on their hosts. In an interview with Turkey's Halk TV due to be broadcast later on Friday, Assad called Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan "bigoted" and said Ankara was allowing terrorists to cross into Syria to attack the army and Syrian civilians.

    "It is not possible to put terrorism in your pocket and use it as a card because it is like a scorpion which won't hesitate to sting you at the first opportunity," Assad said, according to a transcript from Halk TV, which is close to Turkey's opposition.

    "In the near future, these terrorists will have an impact on Turkey and Turkey will pay a heavy price for it."

  • Tens of thousands of people who peacefully demonstrated against President Bashar al-Assad languish in Syrian jails and are subject to torture, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.

    Citing testimony from former prisoners, HRW said in a report that detainees have been raped and abused, including with electric shocks to the genitals, and beaten with batons, cables, metal rods, and wires. The report said rebel forces now fighting to overthrow Assad have also committed abuses by detaining journalists, humanitarian workers and civilian activists, and that they had executed some prisoners.

    "Behind the awful brutality of the fighting in Syria is the unseen abuse of political detainees - arrested, tortured, and even killed for peacefully criticising the government or helping people in need," said Joe Stork, acting Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

    The report said the use of torture appeared to be systematic and there was "strong evidence" that it constitutes state policy and a crime against humanity. Most detainees have been men but women and children "have not been spared", it said.

  • Joint work with the Syrian authorities has begun on securing the sites where the team will operate.

    In addition, planning continues for one of the team's immediate tasks, disabling Syria's chemical weapons production facilities, which should begin soon."

    The above is a statement released by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the UN as experts begin overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons cache.
  • Saudi Arabia's frustration at international inaction over Syria and the Palestinians led it to cancel its speech at the United Nations General Assembly for the first time ever this week, a diplomatic source said.

    Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal had been scheduled to deliver an address to the general assembly on Tuesday afternoon.

    By the standards of the world's top oil exporter and birthplace of Islam, which usually expresses diplomatic concerns only in private, the decision represented an unprecedented statement of discontent.

    "The Saudi decision... reflects the kingdom's dissatisfaction with the position of the UN on Arab and Islamic issues, particularly the issue of Palestine that the UN has not been able to solve in more than 60 years, as well as the Syrian crisis," said the source.

    The conservative Islamic kingdom is one of the main backers of rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people in two and a half years.

    It has repeatedly called for the international community to intervene on behalf of the rebels, whom it provides with weapons, and has said Assad must be toppled because Syrian government forces have bombarded civilian areas.

  • The UN Security Council issued an urgent appeal on Wednesday to Syria, asking for immediate access to all areas of the country and to deliver desperately needed humanitarian aid to millions of civilians that have endured the 2 1/2-year-old conflict.

    The council adopted a presidential statement addressing what it described as "the significant and rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria" five days after unanimously approving its first legally binding action since violence erupted in Syria — a resolution ordering the elimination of its chemical weapons.

    The statement, aimed at helping the nearly 7 million Syrians affected by the fighting, urges the Syrian government to facilitate "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."

    Without urgent increased humanitarian action, the council warned that millions of Syrians "will be at risk."

    A presidential statement is a step below a resolution. Some diplomats consider presidential statements legally binding but others do not.

    UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos praised the council for addressing "the horrifying humanitarian situation in Syria."

    Although the adoption of the presidential statement is a good first step, she still hopes the council will pass a resolution.

    "If the commitments and practical steps in this statement are implemented, humanitarian workers will be able to reach over two million people who have been unreachable for many months," Amos said. "Our operations will be faster and more effective, delivering more supplies — like lifesaving medicines, food for children, and chlorination tablets to provide clean water — to more people in need."

  • The UN Security Council on Wednesday agreed on a statement calling on the Syrian government to improve humanitarian aid access, diplomats said.

    The statement, which also includes a call for cross-border aid operations, is to be officially released later Wednesday, the diplomats told AFP news agency.

  • In Beirut, Syrian refugees adapt to makeshift lives

    All names have been changed at the request of the interviewees.

    BEIRUT — Um Ali is one of more than a million Syrians who have fled the country since 2011, when the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began.

    She left Aleppo with her husband and son four months ago to join her sister, mother and other family in Lebanon. Her son had just turned 18 — the age when Syrian males are required to do their military service.

    "He's an only child," the 45-year-old housewife says. "I was afraid he would get hurt in Syria, and I was afraid of the war, so we fled."

    The Lebanese government estimates that 1.2 million Syrians have come to Lebanon since the uprising began in March 2011. The refugees span the entire social and economic strata of Syrian society. Some are rich, some are poor; many are from the towns and villages that have been pummeled by government airstrikes and artillery fire. Others have escaped the urban combat in Idlib, Aleppo or the Damascus suburbs.

    Read more.
  • Global powers are "on the right track" with a plan to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, Russian President Vladimir Putin told an investment conference on Wednesday.

  • UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has called on the emir of Kuwait to host a second donors' conference to raise aid for Syrian refugees, the official KUNA agency said on Wednesday.

    Kuwait hosted the first donors' conference in January, when participating nations pledged $1.5 billion for Syrian refugees.

    Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who is on a private visit to the United States, received a phone call late on Tuesday from Ban who "expressed hopes... for Kuwait to host the second donors' conference to support the humanitarian situation in Syria," KUNA said.

    The United Nations launched a record $5.2 billion aid appeal in June to fund operations in Syria and neighboring countries, warning the number of Syrians needing help because of the conflict could rise to over 10 million by the end of 2013.

    The aid is for food, which accounts for one-fifth of the sum, clean water, medical care and schooling, as well as to build refugee camps.

    The UN appeal aims to raise $3.8 billion for refugees and $1.4 billion for operations in Syria.

  • A chemical weapons disarmament team arrived in Damascus on Tuesday to begin evaluating the country's arsenal of the banned weapons.

    The 19-member team traveled to Syria to begin an inspection mission before the arms are turned over for destruction under UN Security Council resolution 2118 adopted last week.
  • The UN chemical weapons inspectors have crossed into Syria from neighboring Lebanon.

    Twenty inspectors from a Netherlands-based chemical weapons watchdog are traveling to Damascus to begin a complex mission of finding and dismantling an estimated 1,000-ton chemical arsenal as the civil war rages in Syria.

    The inspectors have about nine months to complete their task to have the Syrian regime destroy its chemical stockpile by mid-2014.

    The first group of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons entered Syria Tuesday through the Masnaa border crossing with Lebanon.

    They are expected to meet with Syrian Foreign Ministry officials on arrival in the capital, Damascus. [AP]
  • Syria's President Bashar al-Assad will remain in office, and has the right to decide to run for reelection next year, Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi has said.

    "Syria is staying put: the state, the nation, the people and the president. This is the Syrians' choice," Zohbi told journalists on Tuesday.

    "All the people call for President Bashar al-Assad to be president of this state, whatever the opposition, the Americans and the traitors say," he added.

    Zohbi said it is "the president's right to take a decision" on whether he will run for a new term in mid-2014, when his mandate is set to expire.

    In Tuesday's speech, Zohbi said the opposition "does not have the courage to go to the polls", and that "had it had the courage, we would not have reached this point".

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that it is unclear whether western nations will be able to bring representatives of the Syrian opposition to a planned international peace conference by a target date of mid-November.

    Syria's pledge to abandon its chemical arsenal has rekindled hopes that an international conference proposed by Russia and the United States in May could materialize, and UN Security Council powers hope it can be held in mid-November.

  • China has said a mortar shell that landed in its embassy compound in Syria's capital Damascus has injured a Syrian employee and caused a small amount of damage to the property.

    Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei also said on Tuesday that "China is shocked at the attack and strongly condemns" it.

    The attack came days after shells hit the Iraqi and Russian missions in central Damascus. The governments of China, Russia and Iraq are strong backers of Assad's government.

    Hong says that
  • A disarmament team is to reach Damascus on a mission to destroy Syria's chemical arsenal, a day after UN experts wrapped up their investigation of alleged gas attacks.

    The team of 20 inspectors from The Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is implementing a UN resolution that ordered the elimination of Syria's chemical arms starting from Tuesday.

    The operation to rid Syria of chemical weapons by a target date of mid-2014 will be one of the largest and most dangerous of its kind.

    The arsenal is believed to include more than 1,000 tonnes of sarin, mustard gas and other banned chemicals stored at an estimated 45 sites across the war-torn country. [AFP]
  • The president of the U.N. Security Council says many members are pressing to follow up on last week's resolution to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons with a demand that President Bashar al-Assad's government allow immediate access to the country for desperately needed humanitarian aid.

    Australian Ambassador and council president Gary Quinlan said Monday the draft statement calls for delivering access in "the most effective ways, including across conflict lines and, where appropriate, across borders from neighboring countries..." if necessary to bypass meddling from Assad's regime in Damascus.

    Council members are striving to adopt the statement by Wednesday or Thursday.
    Quinlan says he sees "strong unanimity" to quickly adopt a non-binding statement rather than spend weeks trying to pass an enforceable resolution.


  • Turkey's parliament will discuss a government motion authorizing military strikes against Syria on Thursday, the deputy prime minister said.

    Bulent Arinc declined to comment on its scope while speaking to reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting on Monday.

    Turkey authorized military action against Syria shortly after a mortar attack fired from the neighboring territory killed five of its civilians in October.

    Since then, the Turkish military has retaliated in kind for every Syrian shell that has landed on its soil.

  • aris prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation into the assets of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's uncle, whom anti-corruption groups accuse of illegally obtaining a vast fortune and property empire.

    A judicial source told AFP news agency the investigation had been opened on Monday into Rifaat al-Assad, the brother of Bashar al-Assad's father Hafez, after a criminal complaint filed on September 13.

    The complaint, by anti-corruption groups Sherpa and Transparency International, alleges the 76-year-old illegally acquired "extraordinary wealth" in France through corrupt schemes and embezzlement.

    Once a stalwart of the Syrian authorities, Rifaat al-Assad broke with his brother's government in 1984 and reportedly has no links with the current regime.

  • Russia wants to revive plans for a conference on ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction now that Syria has pledged to abandon its chemical arms, according to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

    "We will seek to have this conference take place," Lavrov said in an interview on Monday with the Russian daily Kommersant. Lavrov said Syria's agreement to destroy its chemical weapons by next June should trigger a broader effort.

    Such a move could put Moscow at odds with Washington which announced the conference would be delayed last year. Analysts said it feared the event would be used to criticize its ally Israel, believed to be the region's only nuclear-armed state.

  • Inspectors vow to first disable Syria's chemical weapons facilities

    Inspectors who will oversee Syria's destruction of its chemical weapons said their first priority is to help the country scrap its ability to manufacture such arms by a Nov. 1 deadline — using every means possible.

    This may include smashing mixing equipment with sledgehammers, blowing up delivery missiles, driving tanks over empty shells or filling them with concrete and running machines without lubricant so they seize up and become inoperable, the weapons inspectors said.

    On Friday, the U.N. Security Council ordered the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to help Syria destroy its estimated 1,000-ton chemical weapons arsenal by mid-2014. It also calls for consequences if Syria fails to comply, though the Security Council would have to pass another resolution to impose any penalties.

    "This isn't just extraordinary for the OPCW," Michael Luhan, a spokesman for the organization, said. "This hasn't been done before: an international mission to go into a country which is involved in a state of conflict and amid that conflict oversee the destruction of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction which it possesses. This is definitely a historical first."

    Read more.
  • In a heated address before the United Nations General Assembly, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem claimed that the Assad regime is fighting a war against al-Qaeda linked militants who 'eat human hearts and dismember people while they are still alive, then send their limbs to family members',

    Al-Moallem also claimed in a speech to world leaders on Monday that the U.S., Britain and France had blocked the naming of the real perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks. He said that  "terrorists" fighting the regime in the civil war are being supplied with chemical weapons, but he did not name specific nations accused of supplying them.

  • The UN chemical weapons inspectors charged with investigating allegations of chemical and biological weapons use during Syria's civil war left Damascus Monday after their second mission in two months, witnesses told Reuters. These investigators are responsible for starting the process of verifying and destroying Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.

    A convoy of four United Nations vehicles carrying the team departed from a central Damascus hotel around 1.30 p.m. (6:30 a.m. ET), and was expected to arrive in Beirut later in the day. Another team of UN experts landed in Beirut on Monday. About 20 of them arrived on a private flight from the Netherlands and are expected to continue on to Damascus this week.


  • The 64th annual meeting of United Nations Refugee Agency's Executive committee is expected “to focus on expanding international support for countries hosting large Syrian refugee populations”.

    Ahead of the meeting, the UNHCR released this stock footage of Syrian refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey.

    [UN via Storyful]
  • Al Jazeera's Whitney Hurst reports that the UN Security Council will meet at expert level in closed consultations at 3pm on Monday to discuss a draft statement on humanitarian access in Syria. There will be no ambassadors present, just Syria experts and deputy ambassadors from participating countries.

    The draft statement requests that the Syrian government remove bureaucratic hurdles to cross-border access and open humanitarian routes for aid workers.

    The feeling is that the Russians are supportive of this statement. Diplomats say that after progress on Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, the Russians may be more open to the humanitarian statement that they have in the past resisted.

    The statement will not be passed today but possibly Tuesday or later this week.
  • UN experts have wrapped up their investigation of seven alleged chemical attacks in Syria as disarmament teams prepared to visit the country to inspect its arsenal of the banned weapons.

    Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has insisted his country will comply with a UN resolution under which his regime must turn over its chemical weapons for destruction.

    But the violence on the ground continued, with at least 16 people - 10 of them students - killed when a regime air raid hit a high school in the northern rebel-held city of Raqa.

    The UN's six-person team of chemical weapons experts, which is on its second mission to Syria to investigate alleged attacks, is scheduled to leave the country on Monday.

    The team has said it hopes to present a final report on the alleged attacks by late October, following an interim report submitted this month which confirmed the use of the nerve agent sarin in an August 21 attack in the suburbs of Damascus.

  • Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has met the President of the National Coalition for
    the Syrian opposition forces, the UN has said.

    The UN said in a written statement issued on Saturday that Ban underlined to Ahmad al-Jarba the the suffering of the Syrian people on all sides, as a result of the conflict, and also the hardship of the neighboring countries hosting Syrian refugees.

    The Secretary-General welcomed al-Jarba's commitment to send a delegation to the Geneva Conference, and urged the National Coalition to reach out to other opposition groups and agree on a representative and united delegation.

    The UN statement said that Ban stressed the paramount importance of embarking on serious dialogue as soon as possible, as well as the need to ensure accountability for war crimes.

    Document: Text of the draft resolution on Syria's chemical weapons adopted by the UN Security Council on Friday, September 27. [via Al Jazeera's Marcelle Hopkins]

  • Document: Full OPCW decision on Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.
  • UN Security Council passes chemical weapons resolution on Syria

    The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution Friday backing a plan to turn Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile over to international monitors. It was the first time the divided council has been able to unite and pass a resolution related to the Syrian conflict, which has torn the country apart for two and a half years.

    U.S. officials are hailing the vote as a victory, in the wake of three joint vetoes by Russia and China in the past two years. But the resolution — which President Barack Obama and other Western diplomats have called “binding” and “enforceable” — lacks the teeth that the Obama administration has repeatedly called for.

    Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in hastily scheduled, closed-door talks Thursday afternoon to resolve several last-minute disputes over the text. Shortly afterward, Lavrov said that Moscow and Washington had reached an “understanding” on the draft.

    Lavrov pledged Moscow's full support for the inspection and removal of Damascus' chemical weapons arsenal during his speech at Friday's vote.

    "Russia stands ready to participate in the upcoming action in Syria in all aspects," he said.

    Read more.
  • Reuters reports that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) world's chemical weapons watchdog will begin inspecting Syria's chemical weapons arsenal by Tuesday.

    The announcement follows an OPCW decision adopted by the watchdog's Executive Council on Friday. The agreement enables the U
    Security Council to vote on a draft resolution on eradicating Syria's chemical arsenal.

    The 41-member executive council of the OPCW passed the agreement in meetings that ran past midnight. "It's done and dusted," spokesman Michael Luhan to Reuters. "It passed by consensus."

    An OPCW official told Reuters an advance team would head for Syria on Monday.

  • The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has adopted a decision on the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons. Here's the OPCW statement

    The OPCW Executive Council today adopted a historic decision on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons.  

    In a special session, the 41-member body agreed on an accelerated programme for achieving the complete elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons by mid-2014.  The decision requires inspections in Syria to commence from 1 October 2013. 

    The decision also calls for ambitious milestones for destruction which will be set by the Council by 15 November.

    The Executive Council decision was informed by the Framework Agreement reached by the Russian Federation and the United States of America in Geneva on 14 September.  It also facilitates the request by Syria that the Convention be applied ahead of its formal entry into force for Syria on 14 October.

    The OPCW Director-General warmly welcomed the decision by the Council. He assured States Parties of the Technical Secretariat’s readiness to commence its work in Syria immediately.  

    “This decision sends an unmistakable message that the international community is coming together to work for peace in Syria, beginning with the elimination of chemical weapons in that country.”

    “I assure the Council that I and my colleagues are ready to take up this historic responsibility. A few days ago, I stated that we approach this mission with a sense of destiny. What this means is that we will not allow the significant challenges to obscure the vision of peace and security that is embedded in this noble undertaking.” 

    “We have known all along that an OPCW mission of this extraordinary character will require the support of the United Nations. I look forward to working closely with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki-moon.

  • Obama: UN deal on Syria weapons could be 'huge victory'

    President Barack Obama said a deal reached on a United Nations resolution to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons is "potentially a huge victory for the international community."

    The draft resolution demands that Syria abandon its chemical stockpile and allow unfettered access to chemical weapons experts. If Syria fails to comply, the U.N. Security Council will need to adopt a second resolution to impose consequences.

    Obama said during an Oval Office meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that he is "very hopeful for the prospects of what can be accomplished."

    He applauded a framework that he said is legally binding, verifiable and enforceable. And he argued his threat of military strikes was crucial to reaching the agreement but that he always preferred a diplomatic solution.

    Read more.
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