Syria’s Last Chemical Cache Locked in Place by Fighting

Global Security Newswire Staff
May 9, 2014, 9:31 a.m.

Syr­ia’s fi­nal de­clared batch of war­fare chem­ic­al can­not be ex­trac­ted for de­struc­tion at this point be­cause of heavy fight­ing, a U.N. of­fi­cial has con­firmed.

“There is a lot of fight­ing tak­ing place,” Sigrid Kaag, the dip­lo­mat over­see­ing Syr­ia’s chem­ic­al dis­arm­a­ment, was quoted as say­ing on Thursday by the New York Times. “It’s not a situ­ation where you want a chem­ic­al weapons con­voy passing through.”

At a brief­ing with re­port­ers in New York, Kaag provided per­haps the most spe­cif­ic in­form­a­tion to date about the fi­nal eight per­cent of Syr­ia’s chem­ic­al weapons stock­pile that have yet to be re­moved from the coun­try. Locked in place at an air­field east of Dam­as­cus are 100 tons of ma­ter­i­als, packed in­to 16 con­tain­ers, that could be used to make the deadly nerve agent sar­in, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ports.

Once of­fi­cials can safely ac­cess the site, Kaag said it would take “less than a work­ing week” to pack the ma­ter­i­als and ship them to the port of Latakia, from which they could be taken for de­struc­tion to a U.S.-provided cargo ship mod­i­fied for the mis­sion.

While the ma­ter­i­als were con­sidered “safe and se­cure” at the re­gime-con­trolled air­field on Thursday, the rebel group threat­en­ing the site are “the more ex­treme kind,” the dip­lo­mat warned. “Glob­al ji­had has come to Syr­ia.”

Kaag in­dic­ated that mil­it­ary ac­tion by the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment was planned to push back the rebels.

“From their per­spect­ive, it is something that needs to hap­pen be­cause it is an im­port­ant route, and it’s not far from Dam­as­cus,” she was quoted as say­ing by the AP.

Syr­ia so far has re­moved roughly 92 per­cent of its de­clared chem­ic­al stocks, fol­low­ing a pledge to dis­arm last year in the wake of a sar­in gas at­tack in a Dam­as­cus. The re­gime made the com­mit­ment be­cause West­ern powers had con­sidered a mil­it­ary strike.

The Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons has sent in­spect­ors to the coun­try to in­vest­ig­ate al­leg­a­tions that Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment forces re­cently used mu­ni­tions filled with chlor­ine gas in the civil war.

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