As Syria deadline nears, OPCW-UN mission focuses on swift removal of remaining chemicals
4 June 2014 – Given that the 30 June 2014 deadline for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons programme will not be met, the focus now is on the immediate removal of the remaining materials, the head of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission said today.
"The deadline will not be met," Special Coordinator Sigrid Kaag told reporters, referring to the destruction of the full arsenal of the country's chemical weapons in line with the decisions taken by the UN Security Council and the OPCW Executive Council.
The removal of the most critical material for destruction began in early January, in line with an agreement brokered by Russia and the United States, by 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 removal of the chemical agents out of the country involves transporting them to port of Latakia, where they will be shipped on commercial vessels provided by some Member States. They will then be loaded onto a United States ship and destroyed at sea using hydrolysis.
Ms. Kaag, speaking to reporters after a closed-door session with the Security Council, stressed that what is important is that all material is out of harm's way and destruction can begin as soon as possible aboard the US ship, especially since "considerable" time and investments have been made to get the job done.
At the same time, she underlined that "significant" progress has been attained over an "impossible" period of nine months in dismantling most of Syria's declared chemical weapons programme.
The focus now is on the urgency of the removal of the remaining 7.2 per cent of the declared chemical weapons material, which is still held at one site, and is made difficult owing to the volatile security conditions.
"We have an indication from the authorities that as soon as security conditions permit, removal from the site will happen; additional indications are that this is expected to be soon," said Ms. Kaag.
"The security considerations have been assessed as reasonable," she noted. "However, that doesn't mean that additional delays can be incurred. There's not only the issue of the deadline of 30 June, there's equally so the tremendous cost on the maritime partners. The operation should have long been completed in this regard."
The joint mission has also spoken to Member States with influence over the parties to the conflict in Syria to assist in this regard.
"We call on all Member States to exercise their influence to ensure the immediate removal of the remaining chemicals... the urgency, the time, the pressure to remove the remaining 7.2 per cent is very, very critical."
The Special Coordinator also discussed with the Security Council the residual activities of the joint mission, as well as how the joint mission will continue its work and possible successor arrangements when the OPCW Executive Council and the Security Council determine that its mandate has been completed.
Source: UN News Centre