Syria submits more detailed chemical weapons list for disposal

World -

Syria's government has missed deadlines to remove its chemical weapons from the country ahead of a June 2014 target to destroy all of them.

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Copyright 2014 Reuters
Copyright 2014 Reuters

The State Dept. said April 21, 2014, that it is investigating "indications" that Syria's government used chlorine gas in chemical attacks in April. The announcement came one day after French Pres. Francois Hollande said there are "elements of information" about such actions.

Syria submitted a "specific" list of chemicals to be destroyed, an official with the the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in an April 17 report. The original list was based on a range of estimates, but detailed amounts were submitted after inspections found discrepancies.

The Cape Ray, a U.S. naval vessel, has been fitted with at least $10 million worth of gear to carry about 560 metric tons of Syria's most dangerous chemical weapons precursors out to sea for processing. Hot water is the main agent used to neutralize the chemicals into a less poisonous mixture. Copyright 2014 Reuters

The Cape Ray, a U.S. naval vessel, has been fitted with at least $10 million worth of gear to carry about 560 metric tons of Syria's most dangerous chemical weapons precursors out to sea for processing. Hot water is the main agent used to neutralize the chemicals into a less poisonous mixture.

"Everything depends on the roll of the ship and they have tested that… They had some trial runs with the Cape Ray before it set sail and they are confident they should be able to keep operations going in relatively calm seas." Michael Luhan, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

Ships from ten countries will escort the former container vessel for 60 days of 24-hour processing to neutralize the chemicals. Calm seas in the Mediterranean are expected, but if they are rough, the process could take 90 days. Luhan countered concerns of a spill, saying, "Not a drop will go into the sea."

"The effort to remove chemical agent and key precursor chemicals from Syria has seriously languished and stalled." Robert Mikulak, U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

Syria missed the Feb. 5 deadline to hand over all of the chemical agents it has declared to the OPCW. There have been no shipments since Jan. 27. Mikulak said on Jan. 30 that Syria had removed just 4% of "Priority One" chemicals like sarin from the country, which was scheduled to be completed by Dec. 31.

Mikulak said Syria attributes the delay to "security concerns" and requests for additional equipment, but claimed the demands are "without merit, and display a 'bargaining mentality' rather than a security mentality."

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The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said Dec. 6, 2013, that all of Syria's unfilled munitions have been destroyed, as well as "special features" of buildings near Homs where the weapons were produced. The OPCW entered Syria in Oct. 2013 to begin the disarmament process.

A UN report released in Sept. 2013 said there was "clear and convincing evidence" that rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used in the Aug. 21, 2013, attack near Damascus, which killed hundreds. Inspectors were ordered to report on whether weapons were used, not on who used them.

The OPCW said in Nov. 2013 that the Syrian government had provided it with photo and video evidence that a chemical weapons site near the city of Aleppo was dismantled and abandoned. The images, tagged with time and location data, showed that the building was empty and had "extensive battle damage."

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On Aug. 26 the UN inspection team was able to reach victims of the apparent chemical weapons attack near Damascus and take samples, despite coming under fire from "unidentified snipers." One vehicle was incapacitated by the fire, forcing some inspectors to turn back, but there were no injuries reported.

A UN report published Dec. 12 said that in addition to the Aug. 21 sarin attack in Damascus, sarin was also likely used in attacks in Khan al Assal, Jobar, Saraqueb and Ashrafiah Sahnaya between March and August. The report did not place blame on either the government or opposition forces.

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