U.N. Inspection Team Poised for Entry into Syria

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Aug. 15, 2013, 9:02 a.m.

A team of chem­ic­al ex­perts on Wed­nes­day as­sembled by the United Na­tions was about to travel to Syr­ia, hav­ing re­ceived the go-ahead from Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s gov­ern­ment after ex­ten­ded ne­go­ti­ations, CBS News re­por­ted.

One U.N. of­fi­cial, who would not agree to be named, said the team would ar­rive in Dam­as­cus on Fri­day, the net­work re­por­ted. Earli­er in the week, the mis­sion was sus­pen­ded in­def­in­itely due to “tech­nic­al hitches,” in the words of one an­onym­ous source.

“Everything is set. The in­spect­ors will in­ter­view vic­tims, wit­nesses, doc­tors and res­id­ents. They will re­port what they see on the ground but will not make de­cisions,” the of­fi­cial told CBS for the Wed­nes­day re­port.

“As agreed with the gov­ern­ment of Syr­ia, the team will re­main in the coun­try to con­duct its activ­it­ies, in­clud­ing onsite vis­its, for a peri­od of 14 days, ex­tend­able upon mu­tu­al con­sent,” the United Na­tions said in state­ment re­leased on Wed­nes­day.

Speak­ing on Thursday, a Syr­i­an For­eign Min­istry in­sider said “there were no dif­fi­culties in the ne­go­ti­ations and Syr­ia said it is ready to give the team all the fa­cil­it­ies it needs to carry out its mis­sion.”

“Syr­ia has noth­ing to hide,” the source told Agence France-Presse.

Mean­while, Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mar­tin De­mp­sey con­tin­ued his weeklong trip to the Middle East on Wed­nes­day, en­ga­ging in talks with Jordan’s king and top mil­it­ary of­fi­cial about se­cur­ing their na­tion’s bor­der with Syr­ia and hand­ling up­wards of 550,000 Syr­i­an refugees, the New York Times re­por­ted.

Jordan is seek­ing U.S. help in se­cur­ing a bor­der that is in­creas­ingly used by weapons smug­glers, ac­cord­ing to the news­pa­per. Ad­di­tion­ally, King Ab­dul­lah II and Gen. Mashal al-Za­ben dis­cussed with De­mp­sey the need for in­creased hu­man­it­ari­an aid for Syr­i­ans who have fled to Jordan, ac­cord­ing to the Times.

“We did not talk about dir­ect mil­it­ary in­ter­ven­tion,” De­mp­sey said. “That ac­tu­ally nev­er came up. What did come up was dis­cus­sions about what we could do to help them build their cap­ab­il­ity and ca­pa­cit­ies, wheth­er it was bor­der sur­veil­lance and ISR [In­tel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance].”

The United States and Jordan have close dip­lo­mat­ic ties, mak­ing ad­di­tion­al aid likely, ac­cord­ing to the news­pa­per. That could in­clude spe­cial­ized train­ing for Jord­ani­an Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions forces to in­crease their coun­terter­ror­ism cap­ab­il­it­ies and pre­pare a de­fense plan against a chem­ic­al weapons at­tack.

Ad­di­tion­ally,  U.S. sup­port could come in the form of com­bin­ing the gath­er­ing of in­tel­li­gence and in­teg­rat­ing in­tel­li­gence and op­er­a­tions, the Amer­ic­an Forces Press Ser­vice re­por­ted.

De­mp­sey said part of the chal­lenge in Syr­ia un­der dis­cus­sion with Jordan and Is­rael is “identi­fy­ing a mod­er­ate op­pos­i­tion [in Syr­ia], and then en­abling it to be ef­fect­ive,” the press ser­vice re­por­ted.

“Cer­tainly our part­ners in the re­gion are far bet­ter equipped to de­term­ine who’s who and with what mo­tiv­a­tion than we are. They are and will con­tin­ue to be an im­port­ant part of mak­ing those iden­ti­fic­a­tions,” AFPS cited De­mp­sey as say­ing.

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