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Operation to remove chemical weapons from Syria protracted — Russian ambassador to UN

Vitaly Churkin says one facility with a small amount of chemical weapons remains unaccessible due to combat actions in the area

MOSCOW, June 06. /ITAR-TASS/. The operation to remove chemical weapons from Syria is being protracted, there is one facility in the area of combat operations left, Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said.

“The operation to withdraw chemical weapons that was to end on June 30 is somewhat being dragged on,” Churkin told the Russian TV channel Rossiya 24 on Thursday.

“However, if, in the next few days, as we hope, we manage to complete the operation, then Americans will need at least 60 days to destroy the chemicals on board their vessel,” he said.

“Yesterday, during consultations in the Security Council, we heard the head of the joint mission of the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Sigrid Kaag and addressed the problem in detai,” Churkin said.

“One facility remains where a small amount of chemical weapons components is left, but there is fighting around the facility, and it is apparently conducted by terrorist groups,” he said, adding that Kaag is “objective and is calmly and firmly pursuing a course for cooperation with the (Syrian) government.”

The Russian diplomat said “the Syrian government is either trying to mop up the area for a convoy of trucks carrying chemicals to go through to (the Syrian port of) Latakia to be loaded onto Norwegian and Danish vessels and then onto an American vessel for destruction, or (trying) to agree in some way.”

Moscow calls on countries “that have an influence on militant groups to prompt them to stop their combat activity,” Churkin said.

An international deal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons, mediated in September 2013, prevented a likely US-led military intervention in the Middle Eastern country.

The process of disarmament in Syria was launched after hundreds of civilians died in a chemical attack made on a Damascus suburb in August 2013. Syria’s chemical weapons are to be destroyed by June 30, 2014.

Fighting between Syrian government troops and militants has left over 100,000 people dead and displaced millions since its start in 2011, according to UN statistics.

The first two rounds of an international peace conference on Syria, dubbed Geneva II, organized by Russia and the United States and designed to negotiate a solution to the Syrian crisis, brought no particular progress in January and February. The parties to the Syrian conflict agreed to continue their discussions.