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
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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