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Syrian chemical weapons can’t be destroyed in situ

September 25, 2013, 18:40 UTC+3

They may be taken out of the country, but they can’t be destroyed in Syria

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MOSCOW, September 25 (Itar-Tass) - Syria’s chemical weapons can hardly be destroyed at their storage sites and may have to be taken to other countries for disposal, Yevgeny Satanovsky, President of the Middle East Institute, said.

“It is physically impossible to destroy chemical weapons in situ amid the civil war in which all of the world’s terrorist international and thousands of militants from different countries are fighting. They may be taken out [to other countries] but they can’t be destroyed there,” Satanovsky said during a Moscow-London videoconference on Wednesday, September 25.

His opinion was shared by Heather Williams of the Royal Institute of International Affairs. She noted that there were more than 40 chemical weapons storage sites in Syria and it would be hard to create security zones at each of them. The expert agreed that it would be advisable to take chemical weapons out of Syria to other countries for further destruction there.

Meanwhile, U.N. chemical weapons experts led by Dr. Ake Sellstrom have returned to Syria and arrived from Beirut to Damascus, France Presse has reported.

Last week, Sellstrom said that his group should return to Syria to gather information on possible uses of chemical weapons in the country and noted that the findings released by the experts earlier were not complete.

Sellstrom said there were about 14 incidents involving the use of chemical weapons in Syria and they needed to be investigated separately. The full report on the fact-finding mission in Syria is to be ready by the end of October.

Russia hopes that the U.N. experts will go to those parts of Syria they did not visit before. “We expect the inspectors to go to the places they did not cover before for various reasons. Mr. Sellstrom, the head of the mission, and the U.N. Secretariat have repeatedly said so,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.

Russian presidential chief of staff Sergei Ivanov said it would take two to three months to get the idea of how long it might take to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons and how much that would cost.

“It may become finally clear in two or three months how much time it will take, how this is going to be done technologically and how much this will cost. At this point, no one can give a definitive answer to this question,” Ivanov said.

He believes that the location of all Syrian chemical weapons sites will be determined within a week. “We have to understand that he [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] does not control the whole country. We still do not know where all chemical weapons stocks are located. I think this will become clear within a week,” he said on September 21.

The Ogranisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed September 21 that it had received full information regarding Syria’s chemical weapons stocks.

The first information was submitted on Friday, September 20. “OPCW has confirmed that it has received the expected disclosure from the Syrian government regarding its chemical weapons program. The Technical Secretariat is currently reviewing the information received,” the OPCW said.

The information was provided under the framework agreement for the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons reached by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva in early September.

The Russia and American ministers said they expected Syria to submit, within a week, a comprehensive listing, including names, types, and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, and location and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities.

They stressed that the most effective control of these weapons may be achieved by removal of the largest amounts of weapons feasible, under OPCW supervision, and their destruction outside of Syria, if possible.

Russia and the U.S. urged Syria to provide the OPCW, the U.N., and other supporting personnel with the immediate and unfettered right to inspect any and all sites in the country in order to achieve accountability for their chemical weapons.

The two countries strongly reiterated their position on Syria as reflected in the Final Communique of the G-8 Summit in Northern Ireland in June 2013, especially as regards chemical weapons.

Russia and the U.S. agree to set the following target dates:

  • Completion of initial OPCW on-site inspections by November.
  • Destruction of production and mixing/filling equipment by November.
  • Complete elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment in the first half of 2014.

Moscow and Washington pledged to work together closely, including cooperation with the OPCW, the U.N. and Syrian parties to arrange for the security of monitoring and destruction mission, noting the primary responsibility of the Syrian government in this regard.

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