Key Syria Coordinator, White House Confer on Chem Removal Timeline

Syrian opposition fighters make their way through a village outside the city of Hama on Friday. International coordinator Sigrid Kaag met last week with White House officials to discuss timing for Syria's chemical disarmament.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
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Diane Barnes
March 10, 2014, 9:02 a.m.

Des­troy­ing Syr­ia’s chem­ic­al weapons by a June dead­line was the fo­cus of a White House meet­ing with the dis­arm­a­ment ef­fort’s in­ter­na­tion­al over­seer.

Deputy Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Ad­viser Ant­ony Blinken’s Fri­day meet­ing with Sigrid Kaag, the chem­ic­al-re­mov­al op­er­a­tion’s spe­cial co­ordin­at­or, came more than a month after the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment was sched­uled to fin­ish send­ing its chem­ic­al-war­fare stocks to the port of Latakia for neut­ral­iz­a­tion out­side the coun­try. Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s re­gime has blamed delays on threats to war­fare ma­ter­i­als in trans­it across the vi­ol­ence-rid­den na­tion.

Blinken’s dis­cus­sion with Kaag “fo­cused on en­sur­ing the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment main­tains reg­u­lar, sub­stan­tial and un­in­ter­rup­ted activ­it­ies to re­move its chem­ic­al weapons to en­able de­struc­tion in ac­cord­ance with the June 30 dead­line,” Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Coun­cil spokes­wo­man Caitlin Hay­den said in a state­ment.

The in­ter­na­tion­al chem­ic­al-arms watch­dog on Fri­day said the speed of the chem­ic­al de­liv­er­ies was in­creas­ing, and noted that 29 per­cent of the gov­ern­ment’s de­clared ar­sen­al had been re­moved from the coun­try. A re­vised sched­ule re­portedly gives As­sad’s re­gime un­til April 27 to wrap up the de­liv­er­ies to Latakia.

Dam­as­cus should main­tain “sys­tem­at­ic, pre­dict­able and sub­stan­tial move­ments” of war­fare ma­ter­i­als, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment by the 41-na­tion gov­ern­ing body of the Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons.

In Wash­ing­ton, though, the State De­part­ment said the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment’s faster chem­ic­al-arms move­ments might not save it from miss­ing the mid-year com­ple­tion ob­ject­ive.

“Re­cent ship­ments are en­cour­aging signs that Syr­ia is ac­cel­er­at­ing [chem­ic­al-arms] move­ments to Latakia, but the re­gime’s pre­vi­ous lack of ac­tion has put the June 30 dead­line for elim­in­a­tion of Syr­ia’s pro­gram at risk,” spokes­wo­man Jen Psaki said in a Fri­day press brief­ing.

As­sad’s gov­ern­ment agreed to sur­render its chem­ic­al ar­sen­al after an Au­gust nerve-gas at­tack on the edge of Dam­as­cus promp­ted threats of armed in­ter­ven­tion in the Syr­i­an civil war.

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