A U.S. ship departed from Italy on Wednesday with hundreds of tons of warfare chemicals surrendered by Syria.
A Defense Department spokesman said equipment on the MV Cape Ray would “soon” begin destroying the materials, which a Danish transport ship had delivered from the conflict-torn country to Italy’s Gioia Tauro seaport.
The “neutralization” effort would take place in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea, and “should take several weeks to complete,” Rear Adm. John Kirby added in a statement.
Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government agreed to give up its chemical-weapons stockpile amid threats of an international military response to an August nerve-agent assault on a Damascus suburb. The regime turned over the last of its reported stockpile last week, clearing the way for new steps to destroy materials posing the greatest risk.
The world’s chemical-arms watchdog agency confirmed that the Cape Ray had received 600 metric tons of “Priority 1” chemicals. Those materials formed the deadliest component of the Syrian arsenal.
The Danish vessel Ark Futura “will continue on to the United Kingdom, where it will offload the rest of Syria’s Priority 1 chemicals for destruction in a commercial facility at Ellesmere Port. It will then head to Finland with some Priority 2 chemicals to be destroyed at a commercial facility at Riihimaki,” the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a press release. “A second cargo ship, the Norwegian vessel Taiko, has already delivered a consignment of Priority 2 chemicals to Finland for destruction at the Riihimaki facility,” the agency said. “The ship is now heading to Port Arthur, Texas … where the rest of the Priority 2 chemicals will be destroyed at a commercial facility.”