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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's Press Encounter on Syrian Government Request

New York, 21 March 2013

Good morning.  Thank you for coming at this early hour and with such short notice. Thank you very much again.

As you know, there have been disturbing reports about the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The two-year long conflict has plunged the country into extreme chaos with terrible consequences for the Syrian people. 

As the situation worsens, the international community’s concern about the safety and security of chemical weapons stockpiles as well as possible use of by all parties has increased.

I have repeatedly stated that use of chemical weapons by any side under any circumstances would constitute an outrageous crime.  Anyone responsible must be held accountable.

I have emphasized the primary responsibility of the Syrian Government to ensure the safety and security of any such weapons or materials.

I have spoken out on this many times and sent letters to President Assad twice to remind him of this solemn duty.

Against this backdrop, yesterday I received a formal request from the Syrian authorities requesting a specialized, impartial and independent mission to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons.

If requested by a Member State, I have a mandate to consider conducting an investigation on alleged uses of chemical, biological and toxin weapons pursuant to General Assembly resolution 42/37 C of 1987 and reaffirm by Security Council resolution 620 of 1988.

With this in mind, I would like to announce that I have decided to conduct a United Nations investigation on the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria.

My senior advisers are working on the modalities in close consultation with the relevant bodies, including the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

These include detailed issues such as: overall mandate, mission composition, and operational conditions including safety and security.

I have also been in close contact with OPCW Director-General Mr. Ahmet Uzumcu and WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan.  They have both assured me of their full support and cooperation.

It is my hope that the mission would contribute to ensuring the safety and security of chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria.

The investigation mission is to look into the specific incident brought to my attention by the Syrian Government.  I am, of course, aware that there are other allegations of similar cases involving the reported use of chemical weapons.

In discharging its mandate of an investigation mission, full cooperation from all parties will be essential. 
I stress that this includes unfettered access.

I will reiterate this point in my communication with the Syrian authorities.

I will also communicate my decision to the Security Council.

There is much work to do and this will not happen overnight. It is obviously a difficult mission.  I intend for this investigation to start as soon as practically possible.

Again my announcement should serve as an unequivocal reminder that the use of chemical weapons is a crime against humanity. 

The international community needs full assurance that chemical weapons stockpiles are verifiably safeguarded.  

Finally, let me repeat that the horrors of the last months and years prove beyond doubt: the military solution in Syria is leading to the dissolution of Syria.

I call on the regional and international community to find unity and support the efforts of Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi to help the Syrian people reach a political solution. 

Thank you very much.