MOSCOW, March 22, /ITAR-TASS/. Experts from the technical secretariat of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) should work out in cooperation with the Syrian authorities, and present next week, proposals on how to destroy the facilities that made chemical weapons in Syria, Mikhail Ulyanov, Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department of Security and Disarmament, told ITAR-TASS on Saturday, March 22.
“The list of the facilities subject to destruction has been submitted by Syria to the OPCW. However the methods of destruction, which the host country can choose, have sparked fierce debates. OPCW experts have been instructed to find, together with the Syrians, solutions that would make it possible to solve the task,” Ulyanov said.
There are 12 chemical weapon facilities to be destroyed in Syria. Their equipment has been dismantled and disposed of, and now their premises have to be destroyed. This work was supposed to be completed by March 15, but the deadline was not met.
“Besides, access to two facilities, which are controlled by the Syrian government and where chemical components are still kept, is blocked by rebels. This may also be a problem for the removal of chemicals,” the official said.
At the same time, he believes that one should not dramatise the situation. “Syria performs its obligations in full and does not create artificial obstacles to the application of the Chemical Weapons Convention,” he said, adding that this had also been noted by U.N. and OPCW officials.
“They do not question the ultimate goal. But some adjustments have to be made because the Syrian authorities have to deal with enormous difficulties amid the civil war and fighting and because rebels have not given up attempts to seize chemical weapons,” Ulyanov said.
He assessed the removal of chemicals from Syria as successful. “The overall amount of chemicals removed or destroyed is 55 percent of the stockpile Damascus had when it joined the OPCW in September 2013,” he said.
Almost a half of chemicals have been removed from Syria, the OPCW said on March 20.
The OPCW-U.N. Joint Mission confirmed the removal of three more consignments of chemicals from Syria on March 14, 17 and 20, which brought the overall amount of chemical stockpile on board Norwegian and Danish freight ships to 49.3 percent.
The Mission verified that 34.8 percent of total Priority 1 chemicals and 82.6 percent of Priority 2 chemicals had been removed from Syria.
According to the OPCW, no chemical weapons will be left in Syria by April 27. They will be destroyed by Britain, Germany, the United States, and Finland.
When all of the Syrian chemicals from all storage sites have been loaded aboard the Danish and Norwegian cargo ships, they will be transported to various locations for destruction under the verification of OPCW inspectors.
The majority of Priority 1 chemicals will be neutralised at sea aboard the U.S. vessel MV Cape Ray, while a smaller amount will be neutralised at a land-based facility in Ellesmere Port, UK. The Priority 2 chemicals will be destroyed at commercial facilities in the U.S. and Finland. A facility in Germany will dispose of part of the effluent from the Cape Ray operations, the OPCW said.
As the removal process continues, a team of OPCW experts is currently in Syria to facilitate the formulation of a plan to destroy certain structures that housed Syria’s chemical weapons production facilities. The Executive Council is expected to consider the plan at its next meeting.
The Syrian Government informed the Joint Mission of a revised plan for removing all relevant chemicals from its territory by April 27. The amended plan was considered by the OPCW Executive Council in The Hague in early March 7. Western countries were concerned that the delays would not 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.
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 were supposed to 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.