The United Nations will launch an investigation into allegations that chemical weapons were used in Syria.
The investigation which was requested by the Syrian government centers around an alleged chemical weapons attack by “terrorist groups” near the city of Aleppo on Tuesday, Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari said.
“I have decided to conduct a United Nations investigation into the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters. He said the investigation will focus on “the specific incident brought to my attention by the Syrian government.”
However, the Syrian opposition also called for an investigation yesterday.
“All evidence now indicates that the Assad regime is using these weapons against its own people,” the main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, said.
“The Coalition demands a full international investigation, and asks for a delegation to be sent to inquire and visit the site,” the group said in a statement.
Ban made clear that the focus of the investigation would be the Aleppo attack.
“I am of course aware that there are other allegations of similar cases involving the reported use of chemical weapons,” he said, adding that the United Nations would be cooperating with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“Full cooperation from all parties will be essential. I stress that this includes unfettered access,” he said. “I reiterated this point in my communications with the Syrian authorities.”
There has been an outcry from the international community over the alleged attack, with US President Obama stating that President Assad is to be held accountable if chemical weapons were used against civilians. However, US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, who left Damascus almost a year ago, said that there isn’t enough evidence to support claims of a chemical attack but that the issue was under investigation.
Britain along with France and the EU said that claims of a chemical attack supported their appeal to lessen arms restriction in order to help the rebels. British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke for Britain and on behalf of France stating they are both concerned about this restriction given that the future of Syria is indefinite and chemical weapons are now part the picture.
The US and Israel worry that Syria’s chemical arsenal may fall into the hands of Islamic extremist fighting against Assad or Lebanese Hezbollah allies. However, David Friedman, a former expert on weapons of mass destruction in Israel’s Ministry of Defense said he is highly skeptical that chemical weapons were used in the attack and referred to witness testaments and media footage.
Iran, Assad’s closest ally, called on the Swiss ambassador who represents US interests in Iran, to express claims that if the rebels obtain chemical weapons, the United States will be primarily responsible. Iranian Foreign Ministry official Mohsen Naziri added that it is the responsibility of the Unite States to prevent the rebels from obtaining chemical weapons.