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THE HAGUE, November 30, (ITAR-TASS). The United States will help destroy Syria’s chemical weapons at sea, Ahmet Uzumcu, the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OOPCW), said.
He said the United States had offered to contribute a destruction technology, full operational support and financing to neutralise Syria’s priority chemicals, which are to be removed from the country by December 31.
The director-general said that the neutralisation operations would be conducted on a U.S. vessel at sea using hydrolysis. Currently a suitable naval vessel is undergoing modifications to support the operations and to accommodate verification activities by the OPCW.
As for the destruction of Syria’s other chemicals, including common industrial ones - which constitute a significant part of Syria’s declaration - the director-general said “the OPCW has to date received 35 expressions of interest from commercial companies, which will now undergo evaluation.” This number may change during the tender process, he noted, stressing that the OPCW “is at the preliminary stage of ascertaining the availability of suitable candidate companies.”
The companies bidding for participation in the disposal process will be required to comply with all applicable international and national regulations pertaining to safety and the environment.
Last week, the OPCW invited commercial companies to join in the process to dispose of 18 chemicals, mostly bulk commodity chemicals including some that are used and traded worldwide. A significant amount of Syria’s declaration of its chemical weapons programme includes chemicals that fall in the category of common industrial chemicals or otherwise chemicals that can safely be rendered harmless or destroyed.
The companies will be selected through a tendering process in accordance with established procedures.
The chemicals to be disposed off commercially are estimated at 800 metric tons, accounting for a major part of the Syrian stockpile. Internationally accepted safety and environmental regulations will be strictly observed.
The commercial companies will also destroy the effluent resulting from the higher priority chemicals that will separately undergo “effective destruction”, as per the Executive Council Decision.
The estimated costs relating to the destruction activites to be undertaken by commercial companies is estimated at 35 to 40 million Euros.
“Before we can launch any tender process we must be certain that we have sufficient funds available to meet the costs of destruction,” Ahmet Uzumcu said and invited member states to consider providing contributions, including in-kind ones by contracting companies to conduct destruction activities.
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.
With respect to activities outside Syria, the Executive Council decided that the destruction of the priority chemical weapons will be completed by March 31, 2014 and all other declared chemical materials by June 30, 2014.
The OPCW Director-General will present a specific plan for the destruction of Syrian chemicals outside the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic which 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. The Director-General is also requested to establish a special Trust Fund for this purpose and to keep the Executive Council informed on progress and if target dates will be modified.
Reporting on the progress on the ground, the Director-General informed the Executive Council that the OPCW-UN Joint Mission was able to verify the destruction of over 60 percent of Syria’s declared unfilled munitions to date. 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.