Syrian Use of Chemical Weapons Concerns UN Secretary General
NEW YORK – The United Nations Secretary General is reporting on the initial information regarding the use of chemical weapons on civilians in Syria.
Secretary Ban Ki-Moon reports, “Survivors reported that following an attack with shelling, they quickly experienced a range of symptoms, including shortness of breath, disorientation, eye irritation, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting and general weakness. Many eventually lost consciousness. First responders described seeing a large number of individuals lying on the ground, many of them dead or unconscious”.
In a statement issued today, the Secretary General adds, “The Mission also interviewed nine nurses and seven treating physicians, several of whom responded immediately to the incident. They reported seeing a large number of people lying in the streets without external signs of injury, some with laboured breathing, most of them unconscious.
“The weather conditions that morning were conducive to maximizing the potential impact of an attack involving heavy gases, which can stay close to the ground. Weather information showed a falling temperature between 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. The downward movement of air would have allowed the gas to easily penetrate the basements and lower levels of buildings and other structures where many people were seeking shelter”.
Humanitarian Situation Desperate
Ban Ki-Moon says, “The humanitarian situation is desperate. Food supplies are dangerously low in some places. We lack access to many people in need. People are living under siege. Families face intolerable choices between the risk of remaining in place and the risk of taking flight. Communities that once lived in relative harmony are now torn with sectarian tension. One third of the country’s people have fled their homes — the largest flows of refugees and internally displaced persons in many years, causing instability across the region”.
“We need to do everything we can to bring the parties to the negotiating table,” added the Secretary General. “This is the only path to a durable solution. I stand ready to convene the International Conference on Syria in Geneva as soon as possible. I look forward to meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry on 28 September. I hope we will be able to set a date for the conference at that time. I also hope that this Council will provide full support to the efforts of Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi to prepare the ground for its launch”.
“This is the most significant confirmed use of chemical weapons against civilians since Saddam Hussein used them in Halabja in 1988. The international community has pledged to prevent any such horror from recurring, yet it has happened again,” concluded the Secretary General.