A Russian official said extremists unsuccessfully targeted a chemical-arms shipment prior to its removal from Syria this week, the Voice of Russia reports.
“During the removal of the second consignment of chemical weapons on Jan. 27, 2014, the convoy carrying them was attacked by militants. The attack was defeated,” Russian Foreign Ministry Security and Disarmament Department Director Mikhail Ulyanov said in comments reported on Friday.
Ulyanov described the possible strike as he argued that Syria’s government is justified in moving slowly to send its chemical-warfare stocks out of the conflict-torn nation. The United States on Thursday accused Moscow’s ally in Damascus of deliberately delaying shipments in the international operation to fully eliminate its chemical arsenal by the end of June.
The Russian official attributed the effort’s slow pace to “the unfavorable security situation on the route for transporting chemical weapons components … to Latakia,” where they are to be picked up by foreign transport vessels and transferred overseas for destruction, Reuters reported.
“We see that the Syrians are approaching the fulfillment of their obligations seriously and in good faith,” the wire service separately quoted him as saying in an interview with Interfax.
Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government is “complaining about insufficient material and technical support from the international community,” noted Ulyanov, describing the recent convoy attackers as “radical opposition.” “It is not ruled out that Russia will be able to allocate something additional,” the Voice of Russia quoted him as saying.
Washington and international authorities, though, this week said Damascus already has sufficient equipment to move the materials faster.
“While the two shipments (of chemicals) this month represent a start, the need for the process to pick up pace is obvious,” Ahmet Üzümcü, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, told his agency’s 41-nation governing body on Thursday.
“Ways and means must be found to establish continuity and predictability of shipments to assure states parties that the program, while delayed, is not deferred,” he added in prepared comments.
International concerns grew over the use of chemical arms in Syria following an August sarin-gas strike in a Damascus suburb held by Assad’s opponents. Weeks later, his government acknowledged holding chemical arms and pledged to relinquish the stockpile.