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Joint Mission facilitates dialogue to discuss environmental issues

27 January 2014 - The OPCW-UN Joint Mission and the OPCW Technical Secretariat (TS) facilitated a dialogue on 16 January 2014 to discuss environmental issues related to the process of transportation of chemical materials from Syria for disposal outside its territory.  The meeting was attended by technical experts from the parties involved in the operation, the Joint Mission, OPCW TS, UNEP, and representatives of Greenpeace, Robin des Bois and the German NGO Forum for the Environment and Economy.

The OPCW-UN Joint Mission and the OPCW Technical Secretariat (TS) facilitated a dialogue on 16 January 2014 to discuss environmental issues related to the process of transportation of chemical materials from Syria for disposal outside its territory.  The meeting was attended by technical experts from the parties involved in the operation, the Joint Mission, OPCW TS, UNEP, and representatives of Greenpeace, Robin des Bois and the German NGO Forum for the Environment and Economy.

As per the Secretary-General’s letter to the Security Council of 7 October 2013, the Joint Mission is working closely with relevant experts and agencies including UNEP, WHO on the question of potential environmental and health risks in order to render appropriate advice to the Syrian authorities and others, as necessary. Experts from the relevant organizations provided short briefings on the measures being taken to ensure environmental protection and answer questions from participants. 

The Joint Mission highlighted that removal and destruction of Syrian chemicals will be conducted in full compliance with relevant national laws, international regulations and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (The CWC). 

The parties involved in the operation explained the substantial risk mitigating measures they have taken to ensure that environmental protection is an integral part of the operation. In particular it was noted that the crews of all ships involved in the operation have received extensive training in order to deal with any possible incidents and that there are experts on board to ensure, adherence to safety procedures for transport and incidence response management. In addition, the Joint Mission facilitated training for Syrian Arab Republic officials in packaging according to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code.

As part of the effort to ensure full inclusion of environmental protection measures, UNEP, under the auspices of the Joint Mission has advised the Syrian authorities and those involved in the maritime transportation operation. UNEP has concluded that all necessary precautions are being taken and that standard procedures are being followed.

The information exchange has contributed to a shared understanding of the measures undertaken for environmental protection in the process of removal and disposal of chemicals from Syria and participants agreed on the value of maintaining such contacts. 

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