Syria Stops Removing Chemicals Amid Coastal Clashes

Global Security Newswire Staff
April 4, 2014, 7:04 a.m.

Syr­ia’s gov­ern­ment has stopped trans­fer­ring chem­ic­al arms to a coastal pickup point, cit­ing threats from a nearby rebel in­cur­sion, Re­u­ters re­ports.

Ship­ments of war­fare chem­ic­als in­to Syr­ia’s Latakia province hal­ted after March 20, the United Na­tions in­dic­ated on Thursday. To ex­plain the stop­page, Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s re­gime ref­er­enced an op­pos­i­tion of­fens­ive launched around that time near the pro­vin­cial cap­it­al, where for­eign ves­sels are tak­ing the ma­ter­i­als for de­struc­tion out­side the war-dev­ast­ated na­tion.

As­sad’s chief U.N. del­eg­ate said the sus­pen­sion may force ad­di­tion­al lags in a sched­ule for re­lin­quish­ing the gov­ern­ment’s chem­ic­al stock­pile. Dam­as­cus agreed to sup­port the ar­sen­al’s dis­man­tle­ment after an Au­gust nerve-gas strike raised the pro­spect of for­eign mil­it­ary in­ter­ven­tion, and in­ter­na­tion­al au­thor­it­ies are push­ing to fully elim­in­ate the haz­ard­ous ma­ter­i­als by the end of June.

Speak­ing to journ­al­ists on Thursday, Syr­i­an Am­bas­sad­or Bashar Jaa­fari said dis­arm­a­ment ef­forts would fall fur­ther be­hind sched­ule “un­less the se­cur­ity situ­ation evolves in the right dir­ec­tion.”

U.N. spokes­man Far­han Haq, though, said over­seers pressed As­sad’s gov­ern­ment “to re­sume [chem­ic­al] move­ments as soon as pos­sible in or­der to meet the timelines.”

Sigrid Kaag, the in­ter­na­tion­al dis­arm­a­ment ef­fort’s spe­cial co­ordin­at­or, said Dam­as­cus earli­er this week com­mu­nic­ated an in­ten­tion to re­start ship­ments to the Latakia sea­port “in com­ing days,” ac­cord­ing to par­ti­cipants in a U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil brief­ing on Thursday.

Kaag re­portedly said that if ship­ments re­star­ted right away, it would still be pos­sible to fin­ish re­mov­ing the chem­ic­als this month and fully elim­in­ate them by June. She ad­ded, though, that the sched­ule is grow­ing more daunt­ing, ac­cord­ing to in­siders.

Ship­ping out ma­ter­i­als now pack­aged at three sites would bring the por­tion of re­moved stocks to roughly 90 per­cent, en­voys quoted Kaag as say­ing.

Mean­while, rebels said As­sad’s forces on Thursday re­leased war­fare chem­ic­als on the Dam­as­cus sub­urb of Jobar, Re­u­ters re­por­ted sep­ar­ately. Earli­er this week, the gov­ern­ment said op­pos­i­tion forces in the neigh­bor­hood were plot­ting a chem­ic­al at­tack.

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