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UN, OPCW work to extend deadline for destruction of Syrian chemical weapons

February 21, 2014, 5:23 UTC+3 UNITED NATIONS
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UNITED NATIONS, February 21, 3:59 /ITAR-TASS/. ass) - The Syrian authorities are working together with the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to extend the deadline for the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons, Angela Kane, U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said on Thursday, February 20.

She said the new deadlines proposed by Syria would have to be approved by the U.N. Security Council and the OPCW.

According to the OPCW preliminary plan, all stocks of Syrian chemical weapons have to be destroyed by the end of June 2014. Kane did not specify what the new deadline would be like.

However she mentioned several factors that impeded the removal and destruction of chemical weapons. One of them is the security of toxic substances during transportation. She admitted that the deadlines set in the initial plan were overly ambitious.

France Presse quoted diplomatic sources as saying that Damascus would not be able to destroy its chemical weapons by June 30 and there might be a delay of several months. Up to date, 11 percent of chemical weapons have been removed from Syria.

The OPCW Executive Council will meet on Friday, February 21, to discuss, among other issues, the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons within the established timeframe.

A third shipment of chemical weapons material was removed from Syria on February 10.

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

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.

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 Joint U.N./OPCW Mission’s Special Coordinator 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.

The plan for destroying the Syrian chemical weapons outside 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.

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.

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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