Uncertainty Persists on Key Syria Chemical Deadline

Global Security Newswire Staff
Feb. 27, 2014, 6:31 a.m.

It is un­clear if in­ter­na­tion­al au­thor­it­ies will have to aban­don a June goal for des­troy­ing the Syr­i­an re­gime’s chem­ic­al ar­sen­al, the New York Times re­ports.

A new ex­ten­ded timeline re­portedly gives Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s re­gime un­til April 27 to fin­ish mov­ing its chem­ic­al-war­fare stocks to a coastal port for elim­in­a­tion out­side the vi­ol­ence-plagued coun­try. The new sched­ule would rep­res­ent a delay of nearly three months from a Feb. 6 cutoff date, es­tab­lished last year, for the gov­ern­ment in Dam­as­cus to fin­ish pla­cing ma­ter­i­als on Dan­ish and Nor­we­gi­an trans­port ships docked at Latakia.

Of­fi­cials still have not in­dic­ated wheth­er the new sched­ule would re­quire the U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil to re­think its man­date for the chem­ic­al stock­pile’s full elim­in­a­tion by the middle of this year, the Times re­por­ted on Wed­nes­day.

As­sad’s gov­ern­ment agreed to re­lin­quish the ar­sen­al weeks after an Au­gust nerve-gas at­tack for which it nev­er ac­cep­ted blame. Syr­i­an of­fi­cials have cited se­cur­ity prob­lems to ex­plain delays in get­ting the ma­ter­i­als to Latakia from points across the di­vided coun­try.

Mi­chael Luhan, a spokes­man for the Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons, said “it looks like things are be­ing sor­ted out and that we are be­ing giv­en grounds for be­liev­ing there will be reg­u­lar move­ment now” of the Syr­i­an stocks. The in­ter­na­tion­al watch­dog agency said As­sad’s gov­ern­ment had handed over an ini­tial cache of mus­tard blister agent at Latakia on Wed­nes­day.

Still, en­voys at the United Na­tions said the dis­arm­a­ment pro­ject’s pace may con­tin­ue to pro­duce con­cerns on the Se­cur­ity Coun­cil, des­pite Wed­nes­day’s de­vel­op­ment.

“We are not in the realm of non­com­pli­ance yet, but we are get­ting in­creas­ingly rest­less,” said one en­voy tied to the 15-na­tion body.

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