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U.N. Chief Hopes to make Headway with Special Coordinator for Syria

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 16 2013 (IPS) - U.N.  Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Sigrid Kaag of the Netherlands as a Special Coordinator of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-United Nations Joint Mission to eliminate the stockpile of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic.

In a statement during Wednesday’s  press briefing, the Secretary General confirmed his confidence in  Kaag’s ability to spearhead the mission: “Ms. Kaag brings to the job a wealth of UN and other experience—including service with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) and other offices around the world with a particular focus on the Middle East and North Africa.”

Serving as Assistant-Secretary General of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy of the UNDP since 2010,  Kaag will be responsible for overseeing all activities on the ground in Damascus.  She will manage both the OPCW and UN personnel, as well as ensure access and security for team members with additional support in the areas of communications, logistics and policy.  Her appointment comes after the Secretary General’s close consultation with OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü in relation to resolution 2118, adopted  by the Security Council on 27 September 2013.

The road ahead for Kaag is not positioned to be an easy one and though she will head to the Hague this Friday to familiarize herself with the many players and topics that will surely cross her path, the UN remains aware that there is still a great deal of work ahead in Syria.

“We have no illusions over the challenges ahead.” Ban said.  “The situation in Syria remains dangerous and unpredictable.  The cooperation between all parties in Syria is required.”

And this cooperation could not be more timely; civilians are still being targeted and the humanitarian needs grow larger by the day.  It is estimated that over 100,000 people have died and many more have fled their homes, living in exile without the guarantee of ever returning back.

As UN agencies continue to pledge their support to deliver medical tools, food, water and other necessities, the ability to reach everyone affected by the crisis is limited.

Ban hopes  Kaag’s efforts to work as a liaison, managing the work of the OPCW and UN to eliminate chemical weapons will hopefully pave a way for humanitarian workers to deliver assistance safely and efficiently.

“While mobilizing to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons, the UN has not lost sight for one moment of the wider tragedy that is still destroying Syria.  We are equally focused on reaching a political solution that will stop the appalling violence and suffering being inflicted on the Syrian people.”

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