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Removal of chemical weapons from Syria drags out for an indefinite time

February 05, 2014, 3:10 UTC+3 THE HAGUE
The ambitious plan, adopted by the OPCW Executive Council on November 15, last year, envisaged that all chemical weapons and their components would be removed from Syria before December 31, 2013
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© AP Photo/Petros Karadjias

THE HAGUE, February 05, 2:40 /ITAR-TASS/. The deadline by which the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) must remove all toxic agents from Syria expires on Wednesday. It is evident that the deadline will not be met. However, it is not clear so far what consequences this will lead to.

The ambitious plan, adopted by the OPCW Executive Council on November 15, last year, envisaged that all chemical weapons and their components would be removed from Syria before December 31, 2013, and destroyed aboard a special Americian ship configured for these purposes, the Cape Ray. However, on December 18, 2013, OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu did not rule out the possibility of delays brought on by "situation concerning logistics, clearing procedures for international transportation, and even unvafourable weather conditions". That the "removal of the most hazardous agents is unlikely" was stated on December 28 by the UN/OPCW joint mission which is responsible for the destruction of the chemical stocks of the Syrian Arab Republic (S.A.R.).

The beginning of this year did not add optimism. The first batch of hazardous chemicals was removed from Syria on January 7, and the second one almost three weeks later, on January 27. Somewhat later it transpired that this was accounted for less than 5 percent of the overall amount of agents subject to removal. Instability in Syria was mentioned as the cause of so slow a process. The instablity hampers the delivery of chemicals from facilities located all over the country to the port of Latakia. "Priority in this repspect is given quite justifiably to safety, not speed," Vassily Titushkin, Deputy Permanent Representative of the RF at the OPCW, emphasized in an Itar-Tass interview when describing the obtaining situation. However, on January 30, the USA accused Damascus of unwillingness to assume obligations with regard to a specific timeframe for the removal of chemical weapons.

The state of affairs regarding less dangeours chemical substances which are also subject to destruction, is no better. The deadline for the removal of toxic agents from Syria expires on Wednesday. However, this deadline is not met either, since priority is given to chemical weapons. It is not even clear so far who will destroy those less dangerous chemicals, as well as the reaction masses which develop after destruction of the chemical weapons proper.

OPCW suggested that commercial companies take part in a tender announced on December 20, last year. A month later, it became known that 14 enterprises filed bids, among them the Vector from Russia. Companies winning a contract were to be named on Feb 3. However, that did not happen.

OPCW spokesman Christian Chartier told Itar-Tass that the Organization "cannot given so far an exact date for making public the tender's results". "However, I am practically sure that the names of winners will become known within the next two weeks", he added. OPCW set June 30 as a deadline for the elimination of the chemical substances and December 31 as a date for the destruction of reacton masses.

Experts agree that the process of eliminating the S.A.R. chemical stocks is seriously "skidding". However, noone is in a hurry to draw conclusions. The blame or responsibility are being laid at somebody else's door. Officials state that the plan must be implementedby June 30 and that the deadline is an objective for them.

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