Syrian Chemical Weapons Update: Week 6
The Syrian government submitted a new plan last week to delay the deadlines for its shipment of chemical weapons to the port of Latakia. The originally agreed deadline for all Syrian chemicals to reach Latakia was February 3, 2014.
According to this new timetable, which comes amid extreme Western frustration over holdups, shipment of chemicals to the port of Latakia would be completed by mid-April 2014, about a 9-10-week extension of the former plan. This agreement is said to be a compromise between Damascus, Russia, and Western powers, which are anxious to have the process completed.
In a positive step, the Syrian government sent the fourth shipment of chemicals to Latakia on Wednesday, February 26, 2014; this shipment was reported to include mustard agent; it was not reported how much of Syria’s 23 metric tons of mustard agent was shipped. UN-OPCW coordinator Sigrid Kaag said this was an “important step” towards eliminating Syria’s chemical arsenal.
Prior to the February 26th shipment, only about 11% of 1,200 tons of Syrian chemicals had been sent to Latakia to be destroyed via hydrolysis on board the MV Cape Ray and at other land-based facilities in the US and Europe.
In a report to the UN and OPCW, Syrian authorities said there were two attacks on the convoys transporting the chemical weapons in Syria on January 27, 2014. It is unclear where the convoys were when they were attacked, but points to the difficulties in transporting and destroying the weapons during the ongoing Syrian civil war. In the same vein, the first video of the transportation has been released, showing the inspectors and the guards with the chemicals.
On Tuesday, February 25, 2014, the OPCW announced that the Japanese government has donated €13.25 million to the OPCW Trust Fund to destroy Syrian chemical weapons. This comes a mere week after the EU’s €12 million donation and brings the total in the Trust Fund to over €46 million now.
The OPCW Executive Council will be meeting in The Hague March 4-7 to further address the ongoing demilitarization of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.