THE HAGUE, March 24. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he was pleased with the pace of chemical disarmament in Syria.
“We have every reason to think that the deadlines will be met,” Lavrov said at a meeting with Ahmet Uzumcu, Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague on Monday, March 24.
“We greatly appreciate the professionalism of your personnel, especially in the Syria operation. This is an area where professionalism is needed so much,” he said.
Lavrov assured Uzumcu that Russia would continue to support the chemical disarmament mission in Syria.
Uzumcu thanked the Russian authorities for participating in the mission and their vital support as well as for the progress achieved by Syria in destroying its chemical stockpiles.
Lavrov believes it is in the interests of both Russia and the United States to complete the removal of chemical weapons from Syria. “We spoke about chemical disarmament in Syria. This work is underway, and it is in our common interests that it be completed,” Lavrov said after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
He said Russia and the U.S. would continue this work.
Almost a half of chemicals have been removed from Syria, the OPCW said on March 20.
The OPCW-U.N. Joint Mission confirmed the removal of three more consignments of chemicals from Syria on March 14, 17 and 20, which brought the overall amount of chemical stockpile on board Norwegian and Danish freight ships to 49.3 percent.
The Mission verified that 34.8 percent of total Priority 1 chemicals and 82.6 percent of Priority 2 chemicals had been removed from Syria.
According to the OPCW, no chemical weapons will be left in Syria by April 27. They will be destroyed by Britain, Germany, the United States, and Finland.
When all of the Syrian chemicals from all storage sites have been loaded aboard the Danish and Norwegian cargo ships, they will be transported to various locations for destruction under the verification of OPCW inspectors.
The majority of Priority 1 chemicals will be neutralised at sea aboard the U.S. vessel MV Cape Ray, while a smaller amount will be neutralised at a land-based facility in Ellesmere Port, UK. The Priority 2 chemicals will be destroyed at commercial facilities in the U.S. and Finland. A facility in Germany will dispose of part of the effluent from the Cape Ray operations, the OPCW said.
As the removal process continues, a team of OPCW experts is currently in Syria to facilitate the formulation of a plan to destroy certain structures that housed Syria’s chemical weapons production facilities. The Executive Council is expected to consider the plan at its next meeting.
The Syrian Government informed the Joint Mission of a revised plan for removing all relevant chemicals from its territory by April 27. The amended plan was considered by the OPCW Executive Council in The Hague in early March 7. Western countries were concerned that the delays would not allow Syria to destroy all of its chemical weapons by June 30, 2014 as was initially planned and it will need a delay of several months.
The removal of the most critical material for destruction began on January 7, 2014, a week after the deadline for its completion set by an agreement brokered by Russia and the United States under which Syria renounced its chemical weapons material and joined 1992 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons.
The plan for destroying the Syrian chemical weapons outside the country, which was submitted to the Executive Council in late December 2013, aimed 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.
On November 15, 2013, 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.
Syrian declared chemical weapons facilities were supposed to 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 30, 2014.
Syria renounced its chemical weapons material and joined 1992 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons under an agreement brokered last year by Russia and the United States.