The New York Times reports: Pressure mounted on Syrian rebels on Monday to permit access to chemical weapons sites in areas under their control, as the head of the international watchdog on such toxic munitions said the rapidly shifting lines in the civil war made it difficult for inspectors to reach some locations.
Ahmet Uzumcu, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which won the Nobel Peace Prize last Friday, told the BBC that the government of President Bashar al-Assad had been cooperating with inspectors who had reached 5 out of 20 chemical weapons production sites.
But some other sites had “access problems,” he said, reflecting perils and complexities facing inspectors who are trying to dismantle chemical weapons facilities as the war rages around them.
Some roads “change hands from one day to another, which is why we appeal to all sides in Syria to support this mission, to be cooperative and not render this mission more difficult,” Mr. Uzumcu said. “It’s already challenging.”
A Western diplomat in the Arab world, moreover, said that while the Syrian government was legally responsible for dismantling its chemical weapons, its opponents should cooperate in the process, as several chemical weapons sites were close to confrontation lines or within rebel-held territory.
“The international community also expects full cooperation from the opposition,” the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue.
There were clear signs from inspectors in Syria “that the government is delivering on its responsibilities and the opposition needs to hear a clear signal that they must play their part, too, in making sure that the inspectors have free and unhindered access to the chemical weapons sites with complete safety and security,” the diplomat said. “However divided the opposition might be, it would look very bad if the government was seen to be cooperating fully, while inspections were held up because of problems with the opposition.”
The inspection team has not publicly cited any specific instance of opposition fighters impeding access to chemical weapons sites. [Continue reading…]