9 January 2014
Chemical weapons removal from Syria has started
The removal of the most critical material for destruction began on 7 January 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 the 1992 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons. ‘This movement is very important because it’s the first important step in an expected process of continued movement for the onward destruction out of country’ Sigrid Kaag, head of the Joint Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations told reporters after updating the Security Council on the accord, which set 30 June for the elimination of all materials.
On 7 January, a first quantity of priority chemical materials was moved from two sites to the port of Latakia and loaded onto a Danish commercial vessel which then sailed for international waters with a naval escort from Denmark, Norway and Syria. All the so-called ‘priority 1’ chemicals are to be destroyed at sea aboard a US vessel. Lower priority chemicals will be taken to land sites outside Syria for destruction by companies in countries that have agreed to accept them.
OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü noted that the delays were caused by security concerns, the procurement and delivery of large quantities of packaging and transportation materials and equipment, and adverse weather conditions. Despite these challenging circumstances, Syria has now received ‘virtually all of the necessary logistical resources for the ground transportation’ of priority chemicals to the port of Latakia for removal from Syria, he added.