Syrian Crisis: United Nations Response – Update No.12

An advance team of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations arrives in Damascus, Syria, four days after the OPCW Executive Council and the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed a plan to begin the process of overseeing the destruction of the country’s chemical weapons programme. The team, which includes 19 OPCW inspectors and 14 UN staff members, went into Syria over land from the Lebanese capital, Beirut. 01 October 2013 Damascus, Syria6 October, the joint team of inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations began the process of eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons. Under the supervision of experts from the OPCW, supported by the UN, Syrian personnel started to destroy or disable a range of items, including missile warheads, aerial bombs and mixing and filling equipment.

Also on 6 October, the OPCW said that a group of technical experts who were part of the advanced team that had been in Damascus since 1 October had returned to The Hague. The group held discussions with the Syrian authorities on the disclosure that Syria earlier provided to the OPCW on its chemical weapons programme. The Organization also announced that it will deploy a second team of inspectors to Syria to expand verification and destruction activities.

Meanwhile, OPCW Director General Ahmet Uzumcu briefed his organization’s Executive Council on 8 October on the progress of the OPCW mission on the ground.

Describing “a constructive beginning for what will nonetheless be a long and difficult process”, he said that the OPCW had received information from Syria that updated the initial disclosure on its chemical weapons programme. He also noted that Syrian officials had commenced destroying certain Category 3 (lethal) chemical weapons, as well as destroying or disabling a series of items with the goal of rendering unusable all production facilities and mixing and filling equipment by 1 November 2013.

In response to resolution 2118 (2013), by which the Security Council requested to receive within ten days recommendations on the UN’s role in eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons, the Secretary-General sent a letter to the Council on 7 October.

To achieve the timely elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons in the safest and most secure way possible, the Secretary-General proposed the establishment of a Joint OPCW/United Nations Mission comprising about 100 personnel, headed by a Special Coordinator. Within the Mission, the UN and the OPCW will operate in areas of particular competencies. The UN’s proposed role would entail providing overall coordination and liaison with the Syrian Government and opposition groups, security arrangements, logistics, information assessments, communications and administration. The Secretary-General noted that as the OPCW’s Executive Council decision requires the complete elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons by the first half of 2014, the planned deployment of personnel would have to be for less than a year.

Select UN stories

Too early to judge Syria’s response to call for immediate humanitarian access, says UN refugee agency
4 October 2013 – United Nations agencies are hoping to quickly gain more humanitarian access to the millions of people in Syria affected by the civil war raging there following the Security Council’s call to the Government to immediately allow aid deliveries across the frontlines.

UNHCR begins moving thousands of Syrian refugees to new camp in Iraq
Darashakran, Iraq, October 4 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency has this week opened the world’s newest refugee camp to help accommodate some of the tens of thousands of people who have fled the fighting inside Syria and sought refuge in northern Iraq during recent months. UNHCR plans to move about 50 families a day (300 people) to the new camp, which has been built by the refugee agency with the support of the Kurdistan Regional Government, other key UN organizations and NGO partners.

Palestinian refugee children return to school in Lebanon, aided by UN
4 October 2013 – With their numbers swelled by the flow of refugees from Syria, tens of thousands of Palestinian children in Lebanon returned to school for the 2013/14 school year today with new learning and other materials provided by the United Nations and the European Union.