The UN Security Council released a brief statement on Wednesday evening,
stopping short of calling for an investigation into Wednesday morning's allegations of a
massive chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus that reportedly
killed more than a thousand people.
After two hours of closed consultations with the
Security Council, UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson briefly relayed once
again how "deeply disturbed" and "shocked" Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was
about the alleged attack. Eliasson also emphasized the reports have not been
confirmed, but said the UN will "investigate this as soon as possible."
represents, no matter what the conclusions are, a serious escalation with grave
human consequences," Eliasson said.
The UN investigative team on Syrian chemical weapons arrived in the country on Sunday, but it was unclear
whether they would be granted access to all the areas they are mandated to
investigate, including the latest one. Eliasson did not confirm whether the UN
had yet asked for permission for access, or whether Syria had given
Eliasson did not take any questions, nor did Argentinian
Ambassador Maria Cristina Perceval, who quickly summarized the broad points of
the Security Council's deliberations. "I can say that there is a strong concern
among Council members about the allegations and a general sense that there must
be clarity on what happened and that the situation has to be followed
carefully," she told reporters. "The members of the Security Council also
welcomed the determination of the Secretary General to ensure a thorough,
impartial and prompt investigation."
In an aside statement to reporters after
Perceval spoke, UK Ambassador Philip Parham confirmed to reporters that the UK
penned a letter to the Secretary General and calling on him to demand an
"[The letter asked] him to do what he can to ensure that
the mission, which is already there on the ground, is able to have urgent access
to be able to conduct investigations," Parham said. The letter was signed by 35
countries, and "a broad range of member states," Parham said. Parham did not say
who signed it.
When asked whether the UN investigative team would demand
access to the affected area, Parham referred reporters to Perceval's statement
in which she "called for a prompt thorough and independent investigation, you
can't do that without access," Parham said. "So that was clearly implied."
spokesman for the US mission to the UN also told reporters that part of the
Council's deliberations involved trying to make sure investigators would be able
to access the site of the alleged attack, and confirmed that the US was one of
the signatories on the UK's letter.
Speaking to reporters briefly before
and after the consultations, Pakistani Ambassador Masood Khan said Pakistan
"supports the investigations" by the UN team in Syria, but confirmed that they
were not one of the 35 signatories on the letter sent to Ban.
UN diplomats said Russia and China opposed language containing an explicit call for a UN probe. An earlier Western-drafted statement, seen by Reuters, would have asked the United Nations to "urgently take the steps necessary for today's attack to be investigated by the UN mission."
That proposed statement was diluted to accommodate Russian and Chinese objections, council diplomats told Reuters.
Reuters contributed to this report.