MOSCOW, January 27. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO’s secretary general, will on Tuesday discuss ways to assist the joint mission of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to destroy Syrian chemical weapons, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said Monday.
An international deal was mediated in September 2013 to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. The agreement was approved by the OPCW in November. The deal prevented a likely US-led military intervention. Disarmament in Syria was launched after hundreds of civilians died in a chemical attack made on a Damascus suburb in August 2013.
In line with a detailed plan to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons, the most dangerous chemical substances will be destroyed at sea by the end of March, and the rest by June 30, 2014. The plan envisions transportation of the weapons by trucks to the Syrian port of Latakia and loading them onto vessels provided by Norway and Denmark. The ships are then expected to deliver the load to and transship it onto the US merchant vessel Cape Ray, which has been modified to be able to dispose of chemical weapons. Italy provided its port of Gioia Tauro for transshipment of the chemical weapons from the Norwegian and Danish ships onto the American vessel. Other countries, including Finland and Britain, also pledged to contribute to the joint effort.
Russia has decided to allocate $2 million to a UN fund to finance the chemical weapons elimination operation. In December 2013, Russia provided Syria with items required for the operation: 50 Kamaz trucks and 25 Ural armored trucks, as well as equipment.
Meanwhile, Farhan Haq, an associate spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, confirmed to an Itar-Tass correspondent that a second batch of chemicals had been loaded onto the Danish and Norwegian vessels in Latakia, and already left the port.
The substances will be delivered to the port of Gioia Tauro, where the first batch of Syrian chemical weapons was transshipped on January 23-24 onto the US MV Cape Ray for subsequent destruction.
Haq said the operation to remove all Syrian chemical weapons from the Middle East country would take a while.
Fighting between troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced millions since the conflict started in 2011, according to UN statistics.
Maria Zakharova, a deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's information and press department, said Lavrov and Rasmussen are also expected to discuss problem issues and development prospects of the Russia-NATO relations.
“Sergei Lavrov will focus the NATO secretary general’s attention on the necessity to implement joint decisions to form a common space of peace, security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region,” Zakharova said.
She added Lavrov and Rasmussen would also touch upon missile defense issues, confidence building measures, cooperative responses to common risks and security threats, including terrorism, piracy, natural and man-caused disasters, as well as the situation in Afghanistan.