Watchdog Agency Sizes Up Chemical-Arms Removal Progress in Syria

A Syrian man stands on a damaged building following a reported Wednesday airstrike by government forces in the city of Aleppo. Syria's government as of Wednesday had turned over 11 percent of its declared warfare chemicals, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said.
A Syrian man stands on a damaged building following a reported Wednesday airstrike by government forces in the city of Aleppo. Syria's government as of Wednesday had turned over 11 percent of its declared warfare chemicals, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said. (Baraa al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images)

Syria's government had given up just over one-tenth of its chemical arms as of Wednesday, a week after most of them were to be removed, CNN reports.

Damascus so far has placed 11 percent of its declared chemical-warfare inventory on foreign ships for removal and destruction, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Syrian President Bashar Assad's government missed a Feb. 5 goal date for handing over most of the materials under an international disarmament effort overseen by U.N. and OPCW officials.

Assad's regime this week placed its third batch of chemical-arms substances in international custody. Prior to that transfer, the quantity of warfare chemicals moved the war-ravaged nation into foreign hands reportedly stood at less than 5 percent. Assad's government last September confirmed it stockpiled chemical weapons, just weeks after a deadly sarin nerve agent release in the Syrian capital's Ghouta suburb. The regime denied responsibility for the attack but pledged to support an operation to destroy the arsenal by the middle of this year.

A U.S. vessel on Thursday docked in Rota, Spain, with equipment intended to neutralize the most dangerous components of the Syrian chemical stockpile, the Associated Press reported. The MV Cape Ray is expected to eventually pick up the materials at Italy's Gioia Tauro seaport, and then destroy them in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.

"Our ship is prepared and our crew is trained to safely neutralize Syria's chemical materials," Defense Department spokesman Col. Steve Warren said in a prepared statement. "We stand ready to fulfill our contributions to this international effort; it is time for Syria to live up to their obligations to the international community."

The Greek branch of Greenpeace on Wednesday demanded more details about the destruction plan, Agence France-Presse reported.

Greenpeace Greece head Nikos Charalambides told the wire service that "there is a major communication shortage and the United Nations bears significant responsibility for this."

Neutralization plans now in place offer the "best possible solution" at present, but specifics are scarce on the exact contents and quantities of substances slated for use in the process, Charalambides said.

"The U.N. has given assurances that nothing will fall into the sea. But will they tell us where (the residue) will ultimately end up?" he said.

February 13, 2014
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Syria's government had given up just over one-tenth of its chemical arms as of Wednesday, a week after most of them were to be removed, CNN reports.

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