U.N. sends team to Turkey to probe claims of chemical weapons use in Syria
Syrian girls walk with their mother as she turns to look at smoke billowing from three shells dropped on the town of Al-Bara in the northwestern province of Idlib. (Source AFP/DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS)
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The U.N. has dispatched a team of chemical experts to Turkey to investigate claims of chemical weapons usage in the Syrian civil war, Reuters reported today.
The team, assembled by secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, had been waiting in Cyprus without a way to travel to Syria, as government and opposition forces accused one another of using chemicals, such as sarin gas, reported Reuters. Western governments backed the opposition.
Reuters reported that the team has now arrived in bordering Turkey, where members hope to gather information through interviews and blood samples of witnesses and victims.
The team’s leader, Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and travelled to the border with Syria to gather data, a Turkish official told Reuters.
Big players in the U.N. have expressed chagrin at the apparent failure of the U.N.’s efforts to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use, a diplomat told Reuters.
Over 100,000 Syrians have been killed since violence commenced in March 2011, making the Syrian conflict the longest and bloodiest uprising of the Arab Spring, said the British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Though Syria abstained from the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, many believe the country has stockpiles of chemical agents, including sarin, VX nerve agents, and mustard gas.
Assad’s government called claims that it had used chemical weapons lies. It said the West was using these lies as an attempt to justify foreign intervention.
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