x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Syria inspectors must seek cease-fires to gain access to chemical weapons

International inspections teams overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons will have to negotiate ceasefires between government and rebel forces to gain access to some sites.

THE HAGUE // International inspection teams overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons will have to negotiate ceasefires between government and rebel forces to gain access to some sites.

The revelation, made by officials closely involved with the mission on Wednesday, is a clear indication of the risks and difficulties of the unprecedented disarmament plan, and it suggests that the effort to rid Damascus of its poison gas stockpile may have a hard time meeting its mid-2014 deadline.

The destruction of the stockpile is being led by a joint team from the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Ahmet Uzumcu, the OPCW director general, said the timeline was tight but “not unrealistic”. He said inspectors have to visit more than 20 sites in coming days and weeks. Since the mission started last week, they have been to one location; they were expected to inspect a second site near Damascus on Wednesday.

This is the first time the organisation that polices the Chemical Weapons Convention has sent its inspectors and analytical chemists into a civil war, and their security is a major concern amid fighting between President Bashar Al Assad’s forces and rebel groups. The war has already killed at least 110,000 people.

* Associated Press