Syria has received all the necessary resources required for taking chemical weapons to the port of Latakia for further transportation and destruction outsider the country, Ahmet Uzumcu, Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said.
Syria has now received “virtually all of the necessary logistical resources for the ground transportation” of priority chemicals to the port of Latakia for removal from Syria by maritime vessels and underlined the importance of maintaining progress, he said at the OPCW Executive Council.
Uzumcu described this as “an important new phase” in the work of the OPCW-U.N. Joint Mission.
He noted that this movement has occurred after some delays in December caused by security concerns, the procurement and delivery of large quantities of packaging and transportation materials and equipment, and adverse weather conditions.
The Executive Council in its report has noted “that, notwithstanding the technical difficulties resulting in delays, the transportation of priority chemicals began on January 7.
The chemicals were transported from two sites and loaded onto a Danish vessel which left the port of Latakia. The operation was assisted and verified by the OPCW-U.N. Joint Mission in Syria.
“This is an important step commencing the transportation of these materials as part of the plan to complete their disposal outside the territory of Syria,” Uzumcu said. “I encourage the Syrian government to maintain the momentum to remove the remaining priority chemicals, in a safe and timely manner, so that they can be destroyed outside of Syria as quickly as possible.”
The plan for destroying the Syrian chemical weapons outside of the country, which was submitted to the Executive Council by OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu in late December 2013, aims to meet a deadline set by the Council to destroy Syria’s priority chemicals by March 31, 2014 and other mostly commodity chemicals by June 30, 2014.
The plan includes provisions for ensuring clear responsibility at each stage for all chemicals and takes into account all relevant consideration, including target dates, requirements for safety and security, and overall costs.
Uzumcu confirmed that “the major elements of a transportation and destruction plan are in place” and that the mission in Syria “is making progress against heavy odds,” including a “massive procurement effort” that has gone into the collection and delivery to Syria of materials and equipment. He credited OPCW States Parties for offering transport, destruction facilities and other material assistance, and for making important financial contributions to the Special Trust Fund.
The Director-General cautioned that time schedules have been disrupted by a combination of security concerns, clearance procedures in international transit, and even inclement weather conditions. He said the possibility of some delays cannot be discounted but that the OPCW-U.N. Joint Mission is working intensively to commence removal and transportation operations, beginning with the removal of the priority chemicals from the territory of Syria at the turn of the year.
“It would have been difficult a month ago to predict the availability of the assets that are now in place or will soon be,” he concluded in his statement. “The resolve and commitment of our States Parties have created the conditions in which we can feel confident in implementing the far reaching decisions of the Executive Council and the Security Council of the United Nations.”
On November 15, 2012, the OPCW Executive Council (EC) approved a detailed plan of destruction to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. In the plan, Syrian chemical weapons will be transported for destruction outside its territory to ensure their destruction in the “safest and soonest manner”, and no later than June 30, 2014.
The EC’s decision distinguishes between destruction actions “in the Syrian Arab Republic” and destruction activities “outside the territory” of Syria and stipulates intermediate destruction milestones leading to the complete elimination of its chemical weapons programme.
The plan envisions the removal of all declared chemical substances and precursors, except for isopropanol, from Syria no later than February 5, 2014 with the “most critical” chemicals to be transported out of Syria by December 31, 2013. However this was not done because of logistical problems, bad weather and continuing fighting in the parts of Syria where chemical weapons are stored.
Syrian declared chemical weapons facilities will undergo sequenced destruction from December 15, 2013 to March 15, 2014 according to a risk-based criterion.
Under Security Council Resolution 2118 (2013) and decisions of the OPCW Executive Council, Syria’s entire chemical weapons programme is to be destroyed by June 20, 2014.