UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] on Monday expressed his concern that Syria [JURIST news archive] could potentially use chemical weapons in its ongoing conflict. Ban expressed his hopes that the international community would keep a close eye on the situation [UN News Centre report], even though the Syrian government has stated it would not use such weapons of mass destruction against its own citizens. Ban's concerns stem in part from Syria not being a party to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) [official website] which aims to eliminate the development, production, sale and retention of chemical weapons entirely. The UN Security Council [official website] mandate for the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) [official website] was extended [JURIST report] on Friday for an additional 30 days after being deployed as part of the peace plan of UN Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan [official profile]. The UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous [official profile], and the UN Military Adviser, General Babacar Gaye, are scheduled to travel to Syria to assess the current situation on the ground, and Gaye will continue to stay in Syria as part of UNSMIS.
Earlier this month UN Chief Military Observer in Syria Major-General Robert Mood stated that he believed Syrian authorities were committed to implementing the peace agreement [JURIST report] that was reached earlier this month. Mood, who works with the UNSMIS, confirmed that the UN would continue to provide humanitarian support as the violence subsides. In June the UNSMIS concluded in a report that Syrian forces "may have been responsible" for the killing of more than 100 civilians [JURIST reports] in Al-Houla in May. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [BBC backgrounder], however, said earlier that month that the government had nothing to do with the attacks [JURIST report]. In April, the UN Syria mission agreed to send up to 300 unarmed military observers and other humanitarian aid to supervise the implementation of a peace plan after Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report stating that Syrian security forces had killed more than 100 civilians [JURIST reports] and opposition fighters in recent attacks. In March, HRW also reported on and linked to videos of forces rounding up civilians for use as human shields [JURiST report], including women and children, forcing them to walk in front of soldiers and tanks during troops movements and attacks so that opposition fighters would not shoot at them.