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The Mission’s Special Coordinator, Sigrid Kaag, has qualified reports saying Damascus could hide part of its chemical arsenal as “speculations”.
The Joint Mission’s work is based on Syria’s declaration to the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) and additional information on toxic agents, Kaag told ITAR-TASS.
Kaag reiterated that Syria will not meet the June 30 deadline to completely destroy its chemical weapons. But she said in an interview with The Associated Press that the joint mission is hoping to wrap up and hand over its remaining work to the OPCW "within a finite period of time - count it on one hand in months."
Kaag also said an OPCW fact-finding mission left Syria last Friday into alleged chlorine attacks in Syria, which was ambushed and briefly held by gunmen in rebel-held territory on May 27.
The mission's experts reported Wednesday "that they will continue their work from The Hague and collect as much information and evidence as possible," she said. It was not clear whether the mission ever actually got to the site of an alleged chlorine attack.
The international effort to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons was sparked by a chemical weapons attack near Damascus last August 21 that killed hundreds of people. It was blamed on Assad's government, which denied involvement.Under an agreement brokered by the United States and Russia, the Syrian government is responsible for getting the most dangerous chemicals to the port.
Kaag said the major area of concern in getting the last shipment of containers to Latakia is fighting in the Damascus suburb of Adra where the convoy needs to pass. But she stressed that security issues on the roads "doesn't mean that additional delays can be incurred."
Kaag pointed to "the tremendous cost" for the countries that have supplied the vessels to carry the containers and the ships escorting them, as well as the United States which is providing a ship, now in an Italian port, specially equipped with two machines that will render the chemicals inert. That process takes approximately 60 days.
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.
Syria 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.