Syria’s regime recently handed over more of its chemical arms, but it has been slow to give up its deadliest substances, newly released figures indicate.
Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government on Friday and Monday placed separate batches of warfare chemicals on foreign freighters docked at the port of Latakia, according to fresh data circulated by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The watchdog agency is overseeing a global effort to remove and destroy the full Syrian arsenal by the end of June.
The regime’s ninth and tenth chemical shipments were partly composed of “Priority 1” agents, which international authorities have said represent the most dangerous component of Assad’s chemical stockpile.
Damascus has given up a far greater proportion of its materials deemed less dangerous, though. It has shipped out more than four-fifths of its lower-grade chemical warfare stocks, but only 29.5 percent of the Priority 1 stocks, according to the OPCW statement.
In total, Assad’s government has relinquished “more than 45 percent” of its declared stockpile, the international watchdog agency said in an e-mail. The government agreed to hand over its chemical weapons last September, weeks after a sarin nerve agent release allegedly killed more than 1,400 people in an opposition-held suburb of the Syrian capital.
Syria’s government currently is expected to finish shipping out its chemical arms by the middle of April. The 41-nation OPCW Executive Council originally demanded that Damascus finish handing over its Priority 1 stocks by the end of last year, and its remaining materials by early February.