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UNITED NATIONS, February 27, (ITAR-TASS). The United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are studying Syria’s proposal to extend the timetable for the removal of toxic chemicals from the country to the end of April.
The U.N. is in touch with Sigrid Kaag, the Special Coordinator of the Joint U.N./OPCW Mission, who plans to make further announcement within the next several days, the spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary-General, Martin Nesirky, said on Thursday, February 27.
The amended plan for the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons will be considered by the OPCW Executive Council in The Hague on March 4-7. Western countries are concerned that the delays will now allow Syria to destroy all of its chemical weapons by June 30, 2014 as was initially planned and it will need a delay of several months.
On Wednesday, February 26, a fourth consignment of chemicals, a quantity of sulphur mustard, was transported from Syria to the port of Latakia, where the chemical weapons were loaded onto a cargo ship and removed from the country.
The sulphur mustard is one of five “priority chemicals” in Syria’s chemical weapons programme and will be destroyed at sea aboard a U.S. vessel.
“The removal of this sulphur mustard is an encouraging and positive development,” the OPCW Director-General, Ambassador Ahmet Uzumcu said. “Much work nonetheless remains to be done, and we look to the Syrian Government to accelerate its efforts to transfer the remaining chemicals in regular, predictable and systematic movements."
In a telephone conversation with ITAR-TASS, OPCW spokesperson Michael Luhan did not specify whether the consignment was the last portion of this chemical kept in Syria. However, he noted that there was still much work to be done.
Informed sources at the United Nations and the OPCW noted that stocks of sulphur mustard in Syria exceeded 20 tonnes and were located in different parts of the country.
The previous three consignments loaded onto ships in Latakia this year made up 11 percent of all chemical weapon stocks in Syria. Since chemical weapons are removed from the country in roughly equal amounts, it would be safe to assume that no more than 25 percent of all toxic combat agents have been transported out of Syria.
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 plan for destroying the Syrian chemical weapons outside the country, which was submitted to the Executive Council in late December 2013, aimed 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.
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.
Syria renounced its chemical weapons material and joined 1992 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons under an agreement brokered last year by Russia and the United States.