Nations Debate Extended Timeline for Syrian Chemical Handover

Global Security Newswire Staff
March 4, 2014, 7:53 a.m.

A key mon­it­or­ing agency began de­bat­ing Syr­ia’s re­vised plan to turn over war­fare chem­ic­als in a closely watched dis­arm­a­ment ef­fort, Re­u­ters re­ports.

The Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment’s latest pro­pos­al for re­mov­ing the sub­stances was the fo­cus of a Tues­day dis­cus­sion at the mul­tina­tion­al gov­ern­ing body of the Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons in The Hag­ue. The op­er­a­tion’s top in­ter­na­tion­al over­seer said the gov­ern­ment in Dam­as­cus had en­dorsed a 60-day timeline to com­plete its re­main­ing chem­ic­al ship­ments, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­por­ted on Tues­day.

“We an­ti­cip­ate a lot of ac­tion in the month of March,” said Sigrid Kaag, spe­cial co­ordin­at­or of the U.N.-OP­CW op­er­a­tion. She ad­ded that a goal to des­troy the en­tire stock­pile by June 30 is still with­in reach.

West­ern en­voys, though, con­tend that the re­gime must fin­ish the trans­fers this month in or­der to al­low oth­er coun­tries enough time to fin­ish neut­ral­iz­ing the ma­ter­i­als by the end-of-June ob­ject­ive date, ac­cord­ing to Re­u­ters. In­ter­na­tion­al au­thor­it­ies last year called for the han­dover to wrap up by early Feb­ru­ary, and Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s re­gime has blamed delays on rebel threats to ma­ter­i­als be­ing trans­por­ted across Syr­ia’s em­battled ter­rit­ory to a coastal pick-up point.

The chem­ic­al-dis­arm­a­ment agency on Tues­day said As­sad’s gov­ern­ment had placed two ad­di­tion­al arms caches in in­ter­na­tion­al cus­tody since last week. With the latest trans­fers, the re­gime has sur­rendered roughly one-third of its en­tire de­clared stock­pile and just over a fifth of its dead­li­est sub­stances, the or­gan­iz­a­tion said in a state­ment.

OP­CW Dir­ect­or Gen­er­al Ah­met Üzüm­cü said “it will be im­port­ant to main­tain this newly cre­ated mo­mentum.”

“For its part, the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment has re­af­firmed its com­mit­ment to im­ple­ment the re­mov­al op­er­a­tions in a timely man­ner,” he ad­ded in com­ments to the 41-na­tion OP­CW Ex­ec­ut­ive Coun­cil.

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