The Syrian government has said it is ready for the United Nations to investigate whether chemical weapons had been used in the country’s two-year-long civil war.
The deputy foreign minister, Faisal Muqdad, indicated that UN weapons inspectors would be allowed into Syria to perform tests.
“We were ready and we are always ready, right now, to receive the delegation that was set up by [UN secretary general] Ban Ki-moon to investigate what happened in Khan al-Assal,” Mr Muqdad told AFP.
The development comes a day after David Cameron said there was a “growing body of limited but persuasive information showing that the regime has used and continues to use chemical weapons.”
The Syrian government has said it is rebel forces that have used chemical weapons, and last month requested that the UN send a team to investigate areas where it claims the incidents took place. Ban Ki-moon agreed, but said the mission would only succeed if the team were allowed to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use by both sides in the conflict.
A team of UN-led experts has been on standby in Cyprus for more than a month waiting for permission to entry the country.
The move by the government comes as President Assad has said that Syria must become a “resistance nation like Hezbollah”. The embattled leader used an interview with a Syrian newspaper earlier this week to heap praise on the militant group in neighbouring Lebanon.
Speaking to Al-Akhbar, Mr Assad, who for two years has been fighting a bitter civil war, said: “We have decided we must advance toward them and turn into a resistance nation like Hezbollah, for the sake of Syria and future generations.”
There is some doubt about the meaning of Assad’s words. One interpretation is that he is issuing a battle cry to his loyalist fighters, many of whom support Hezbollah. Another is that he is urging action against Israel, which launched at least three air strikes on Syria last weekend. Israel has been adamant it does not want to involve itself in the civil war, but Hezbollah’s growing influence in Syria has made it nervous. It is has stated it will act to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring advanced weapons systems.
Hezbollah’s growing influence in the Syrian civil war has made the Jewish state nervous.