Syrian Crisis: United Nations Response – Update No.9

Bashar Ja’afari, Permanent Representative of Syria to the UN, speaks at the opening meeting of the General Assembly’s sixty-eighth session. During the meeting Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon briefed on the findings of a UN team investigating the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria. 17 September 2013 United Nations, New York Photo # 561062The report by the UN chemical weapons inspectors was transmitted to the Secretary-General on 15 September by Professor Ake Sellström, the head of the investigation team. Briefing the Security Council on its findings the following day, the Secretary-General said that the Mission had unequivocally confirmed that chemical weapons have been used in Syria.

Inspectors had “collected clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing sarin were used on a relatively large scale in the Ghouta area of Damascus” on 21 August. He underscored that the use of chemical weapons was a war crime and a grave violation of the 1925 Protocol and other rules of customary international law. In his remarks, the Secretary-General also urged Council members to consider ways to ensure enforcement and compliance with the Framework for the Elimination of Syria’s Chemical Weapons agreed upon between the United States and Russia on 14 September. At the same time, he emphasized the critical importance of a political solution, reiterating his readiness to convene an international conference in Geneva as soon as possible.

At a press conference shortly afterwards, the Secretary-General underscored that given the gravity of the situation, the unity of the Security Council was critical. He expressed the hope that the Council would demonstrate the political will to move forward in a decisive manner and that the Ghouta incident would serve as a wake-up call for more determined efforts to resolve the conflict.

Earlier, in a statement issued on 12 September, the Secretary-General welcomed the accession of Syria to the Convention on the Prohibition, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction, effective 14 October. He added that he had received on the same day the letter from the Government of Syria, informing him that President Bashar al-Assad had signed the legislative decree providing for the accession of Syria to the Convention.

In an interview with Radio Télévision Suisse on 17 September, JSR Brahimi expressed the hope that the Geneva II conference could take place in October. He urged Russia and the United States to build upon their recent rapprochement and work together towards a political solution.

While the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate with over 7 million people in Syria urgently needing assistance, USG for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos reiterated, on 13 September, her call on all parties for a pause in hostilities to allow immediate and unrestricted access to civilians in areas under siege. She voiced strong concern over reports that more than half a million people remain trapped in rural Damascus.

According to UNHCR, there has been a sharp rise in Syrian refugees arriving by boat in southern Italy. The UN refugee agency estimates that over 4,600 Syrians have arrived in Italy by sea since the beginning of 2013, while two-thirds of those arrivals have been in August. Syrians UNHCR staff had spoken to had said that they had come mainly from Damascus.

Select UN stories

UN Central Emergency Relief Fund releases $50 million to assist Syrians
13 September 2013 – The United Nations will allocate $50 million to bolster the efforts of agencies assisting the growing number of Syrians affected inside the country and throughout the region, the largest ever contribution to support coordinated response to a single country, according to the world body’s humanitarian arm.

Amidst conflict, UNICEF boosts efforts to get children in Syria back to learning
Damascus, 15 September 2013 – As the new school year starts in Syria today, many children face extraordinary challenges to continuing their education.

Now in its third year, the conflict has left almost 4,000 schools – or around one in five – damaged, destroyed or sheltering internally displaced families

Syrian Refugees Begin Using WFP Vouchers to Buy Food At Zaatari Camp
AMMAN, 17 September 2013 – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Jordan has completed its first distribution of food vouchers to all Syrian refugees living in Zaatari camp, now home to more than 100,000 people, allowing refugees for the first time to buy the food of their choice from designated shops inside the camp.

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