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Third shipment of chemical weapons removed from Syria

February 10, 2014, 22:27 UTC+3 UNITED NATIONS
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UNITED NATIONS, February 10,/ITAR-TASS/. A third shipment of chemical weapons material was removed from Syria on Monday, February 10.

The material is on board a Norwegian cargo vessel accompanied by a naval escort from China, Denmark, Norway, and Russia. Great Britain is participating in the naval escort in international waters. Finland is providing experts onboard the Danish vessel, the Joint Mission of the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said.

The Joint Mission confirmed that in-country destruction of some chemical materials had taken place alongside the removal of chemical weapons material, and welcomes progress to date.

Syria has been encouraged to expedite systematic, predictable and high-volume movements to complete the safe removal of chemical materials.

The Joint Mission continues to work closely with the Syrian Arab Republic and Member States to achieve timely implementation of UNSC resolution 2118 (2013) and OPCW Executive Council decisions, the Joint Mission said.

OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu noted that 93 percent of the Isopropanol, the key component in the production of the toxic gas sarin, had been destroyed in Syria.

He hopes that this and the removal of a third shipment of chemical weapons from Syria will “generate new momentum.”

“The Director-General, while noting this movement and the recent destruction of 93 percent of the Isopropanol, has expressed hope that these activities generate new momentum,” the OPCW press service said.

Uzumcu stressed that a significant effort would be needed to ensure the chemicals that still remained in Syria were removed - in accordance with a concrete schedule and without further delays - consistent with the obligations of Syria deriving from the OPCW Executive Council decisions and U.N. Security Council Resolution 2118.

The removal of dangerous chemical weapons from Syria for their subsequent destruction was supposed to be completed by February 5, but it was not for a number of reasons, including the unstable situation in Syria.

The Syrian authorities are required to destroy all stocks of the Isopropanol in the country by March 1.

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 Special Coordinator of the Joint Mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the U.N., Sigrid Kaag, said back then that there was a “collective expectation” by the Security Council that “looking at the end-of-June deadline there’s no reason to assume that a delay will occur, all things being equal.”

“We also have to remember that Syria is a country at war, the security situation can shift from day to day,” she added, citing recent logistic and other challenges that had led to delays in getting the necessary equipment up and working, including the facts that the equipment is coming from many different countries, heavy snow blocked roads and a customs strike caused delays at the border.”

The first chemicals removed on January 7 were transported from two sites and loaded onto a Danish vessel which left the port of Latakia. The operation was assisted and verified by the OPCW-U.N. Joint Mission in Syria.

“This is an important step commencing the transportation of these materials as part of the plan to complete their disposal outside the territory of Syria,” Uzumcu said.

The plan for destroying the Syrian chemical weapons outside of the country, which was submitted to the Executive Council in late December 2013, 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.

On November 15, 2012, 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. However this was not done because of logistical problems, bad weather and continuing fighting in the parts of Syria where chemical weapons are stored.

Syrian declared chemical weapons facilities will 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.

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