International officials said Syria appears poised to miss a March 15 target date for eliminating a dozen chemical-arms manufacturing sites, Reuters reports.
States parties to an international chemical-weapons ban called last year for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government to finish eliminating the 12 sites by the middle of this month. That goal is now out of reach, according to Thursday comments from sources at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
“That [deadline] will definitely be missed,” one insider told the wire service. “None of them have been destroyed at the moment.”
The source described seven of the facilities as “hardened” airplane storage sites, and five of the locations as underground installations. At a meeting of the 41-nation OPCW Executive Council this week, multiple Western envoys rejected a Syrian government proposal to close off the sites with cement rather than fully demolish them, according to agency insiders.
“The physical destruction of CW production facilities is a fundamental requirement of the [Chemical Weapons] Convention, and a prudent protection against the retainment or restart of a chemical-weapons program,” U.S. Ambassador Robert Mikulak said to the body in prepared remarks.
Assad regime’s pledged to relinquish its chemical-warfare stockpile and related assets when it faced accusations of releasing sarin nerve agent over an opposition-held suburb of Damascus, allegedly killing more than 1,400 people in August.
“Destroyed means destroyed,” a source told Reuters. “Why should a country that used chemical weapons against its own people be given special privileges?”
Assad’s government never accepted blame for the Aug. 21 strike, and Russia has backed the denials by its partner in Damascus.