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MOSCOW, December 27, /ITAR-TASS/. Russia’s foreign policy focus in 2013 was on collective international efforts aimed at facilitating a peaceful resolution of regional crises and conflicts, with the Syrian developments serving as an example of policy that rejects the use of force in favour of peaceful methods, the Foreign Ministry said.
“The consistent position of our country largely helped prevent an external armed interference in Syria, a dangerous degradation of the situation in the Middle East and the spread of the conflict beyond the region,” it said.
The ministry noted that the development by Russia and the United States of a joint position had helped reach a solution that put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control for further elimination.
“The first stage of this process has been successfully completed. The main parameters of the second stage were approved on December 17 at a meeting of the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW],” the ministry said.
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 last week, 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, 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. Syrian declared chemical weapons facilities, will undergo sequenced destruction from December 15, 2013 to March 15, 2014 according to a risk-based criterion.
As per the Executive Council decision, the Syrian Arab Republic has committed to destroy all unfilled munitions, composed of warheads and bombs, by January 31, 2014.