Dutch official to head Syria chemical arms mission
UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations on Wednesday, October 16, named Dutch official Sigrid Kaag to head the risky international mission to eradicate Syria's chemical weapons.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon also said he was stepping up efforts to convene a Syria peace conference, sending his special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to the region for talks with key governments.
Kaag, a UN assistant secretary general who speaks Arabic and has wide Middle East experience, will head a joint UN-Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons mission to destroy Syria's poison arms. (READ: UN Council approves Syria disarmament plan)
The UN Security Council has set a deadline of mid-2014 for the mission, but experts say the approximately 100-strong team to be assembled faces an uphill struggle in the conflict stricken country.
About 60 experts are already in Syria dismantling its arms production and chemical mixing facilities.
But, with about 1,000 tonnes of chemicals to be destroyed, no disarmament mission of this scope has ever been carried out in the midst of a war.
"We have no illusions on the challenges ahead," Ban said alongside Kaag. "The situation in Syria remains dangerous and unpredictable. The cooperation of all parties in Syria is required."
"I am deeply honored and I am mostly humbled to be trusted with this very complex and challenging assignment," Kaag told reporters.
She said she would go to The Hague on Friday for meetings with OPCW leaders before heading to the new mission's base in Cyprus..
Ban also said he was increasing efforts at "all levels" to hold a Syria peace conference in Geneva in mid-November.
He said UN-Arab League Syria envoy Brahimi would go to the Middle East for talks with "key parties" and that UN political chief Jeffrey Feltman is in Moscow for talks.
Another envoy would go to Turkey to meet representatives of the divided opposition, he added.
Some Syrian opposition groups have said they will refuse to take part in a Syrian National Coalition delegation as long as President Bashar al-Assad stays in power.
The Syrian government has said that Assad's future cannot be discussed at any conference. – Rappler.com