(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) The Security Council on Wednesday welcomed the progress achieved so far by the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Joint Mission to rid Syria of its chemical weapons by June 30 deadline, but is mulling an investigation into the alleged recent use of chlorine gas in different places in Syria, Council President Joy Ogwu of Nigeria told reporters.
The Council met behind closed-doors to hear a briefing via video link by Special Coordinator Sigrid Kaag on the latest efforts in the removal and destruction of Syria's banned weapons.
"She (Kaag) informed the Council that Syria had removed or destroyed in the country approximately 88 percent of the chemical weapons. She described the renewed pace as positive and necessary to ensure progress towards meeting the June 30 deadline. Should the same momentum be sustained, Syria could complete the removal operations in the coming days," Ogwu told reporters.
She added that Council members "encouraged the Joint Mission to continue to engage the Syrian authorities in order to sustain the momentum for the completion of the removal operations and expressed optimism, that barring any concerns on safety and security, all scheduled removal of material could be completed by April 27." The destruction of the material should end by June 30.
She added, however, that the Council expressed "grave concern about alleged reports of the use of chlorine gas in some towns which left people dead and injured, and called for an investigation of this incident." Asked who will conduct the investigation and when, Ogwu said the "Council is still waiting to confirm the authenticity of the alleged reports. Until we have the full facts, we cannot take any decision on this matter." British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant later told reporters "I made the point that we welcomed the progress that had been made, but that we were deeply disturbed by increasing reports of new use of chemical weapons by the regime, including chlorine gas used as a weapon in a number of different places, most recently outside of Hama between the 11th and 16th of April." "We believe that these new allegations, these new reports need to be investigated. We are discussing with our colleagues what the best mechanisms are for ensuring that those investigations go ahead." He noted in answer to a question that "we have no evidence that the opposition has any access to such chemicals (chlorine gas)," but the regime does.
Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari also told reporters that "not only solid progress has been achieved, but there is a clear crystal cut indication that the Syrian Government is committed towards respecting the deadline (of June 30), hopefully, unless there are terrorist attacks on the UN convoys by the armed groups operating is some parts of Syria." Asked if his government would cooperate with the proposed investigation, Ja'afari said "it is too early for the investigation. It is not as easy as you think." On the announced elections in Syria on June 3rd to cement President Bashar Al-Assad in power and the Geneva -3 talks that are seeking a political transition in the country, Ja'afari said "there is no contradiction. They are completely separate tracks." On the Geneva-3 talks, he said Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi was supposed to set a date. "We are still waiting for him. As a mediator, he went beyond his mandate. He made a lot of mistakes, but we are willing to cooperate with him if he gets back to us." On the "terrorists" operating in Syria, he said 286 Saudi and 13 Kuwaiti terrorists were recently killed in Syria.