Syria misses another chemical disarmament deadline

Agence France-Presse
500 tonnes of 'category two' chemicals were supposed to have been shipped out of Syria on February 5

A file picture dated 31 August 2013 shows the flag of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in front of their building in The Hague, The Netherlands. File photo by Guus Schonewille/EPA

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Syria missed yet another key deadline in destroying its chemical stockpile when it failed by Wednesday, February 5, to have “less dangerous” chemicals removed from its soil under an internationally-brokered agreement.

Asked whether the February 5 deadline to have so-called “category two” chemicals removed had been met, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) spokesman Michael Luhan told Agence France-Presse: “There is no reason to comment. The situation is evident.”

In addition to 700 tonnes of the most lethal chemicals – that should have left the war-wracked country on December 31 – an additional 500 tonnes of “category two” chemicals was supposed to have been shipped out by Wednesday.

Sources involved in the process last month already indicated that the second deadline would not be met, putting disarmament weeks behind schedule.

So far, just two small shipments of chemicals have so far left the Syrian port of Latakia, accounting for less than 4% of the country’s declared arsenal of most dangerous chemicals, the United States said last month.

Last week the world’s chemical watchdog also called on Damascus to “pick up the pace,” echoing similar sentiments by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Syria has told the OPCW that it is “making intensive efforts to prepare for, and accelerate, the transportation of chemicals, and that it is currently working on a tentative schedule for completing the transportation of chemicals.”

The UN Security Council last year backed a US-Russian deal to destroy Syria’s vast chemical arsenal as a way to avert US strikes threatened after chemical attacks near Damascus that Washington blamed on the regime.

Under the agreement, Syria’s entire chemical arsenal is to be eliminated by June 30.

Syria has declared around 700 tonnes of most-dangerous chemicals, 500 tonnes of less-dangerous precursor chemicals and around 122 tonnes of isopropanol – which can be used to make sarin nerve gas – its arsenal.

The around 120 tonnes of isopropanol must now be destroyed by March 1, while the next executive council meeting is to be held on February 21.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been battling rebels for nearly 3 years, following his government’s brutal crackdown on a pro-democracy uprising that began in March 2011. –