WASHINGTON — The top enforcer of an international chemical-arms pact on Tuesday said his organization will deploy more personnel to Syria to support the nine-month effort to catalog and destroy the beleaguered government’s stockpile.
Ahmet Üzümcü, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said in a press release that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime recently kicked off chemical-arms destruction activities and sent more data to international auditors. That marks “a constructive beginning for what will nonetheless be a long and difficult process,” Üzümcü said.
In a statement to the 41-nation OPCW Executive Council, Üzümcü said he is poised to endorse a plan for cooperating with the United Nations to address Syria’s chemical arms. He is slated on Wednesday to brief reporters on developments in the disarmament mission, according to an OPCW press release.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday said the chemical-weapons watchdog and the United Nations would assemble roughly 100 personnel to conduct the disarmament operation from “a staging area and support base in Cyprus.”
The mission in Syria would involve eliminating over traversing “active confrontation lines … in some cases through territory controlled by armed groups that are hostile to the objectives of the joint mission,” he noted. It would target over 1,000 metric tons of warfare substances at multiple sites across the country.
OPCW experts would take the lead in confirming Syria’s chemical-weapons inventory and monitoring destruction activities, the U.N. chief added in a 10-page planning statement to the U.N. Security Council. He said U.N. officials would assist in communicating “with the Syrian government and opposition groups,” as well as aid in “security arrangements.” Each organization would fund its respective contributions with help from separate “trust funds,” he said.
“Without sustained, genuine commitment by the Syrian authorities, the joint mission will fail in its objectives,” the U.N. chief stated. He singled out language in a recent Security Council resolution that, in part, demands support from Damascus in “ensuring the security of activities undertaken by [U.N. and OPCW] personnel.”
On Monday, though, a senior Assad envoy said his government would take no responsibility for protecting disarmament personnel in the war-torn country, Kyodo News reported.
Back in Washington, Republican senators John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) on Monday voiced concern over a senior Syrian defector’s recent allegation that Damascus might have illicitly transferred chemical-warfare materials into Iraq and Lebanon.
“If true, this development would give rise to grave concern and must be corroborated as true or false by the intelligence community,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement.