More Chemical Disarmers Poised to Enter Syria

Diane Barnes, Global Security Newswire
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Diane Barnes, Global Security Newswire
Oct. 8, 2013, 10:02 a.m.

WASH­ING­TON — The top en­for­cer of an in­ter­na­tion­al chem­ic­al-arms pact on Tues­day said his or­gan­iz­a­tion will de­ploy more per­son­nel to Syr­ia to sup­port the nine-month ef­fort to cata­log and des­troy the be­lea­guered gov­ern­ment’s stock­pile.

Ah­met Üzüm­cü, dir­ect­or gen­er­al of the Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons, said in a press re­lease that Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s re­gime re­cently kicked off chem­ic­al-arms de­struc­tion activ­it­ies and sent more data to in­ter­na­tion­al aud­it­ors. That marks “a con­struct­ive be­gin­ning for what will non­ethe­less be a long and dif­fi­cult pro­cess,” Üzüm­cü said.

In a state­ment to the 41-na­tion OP­CW Ex­ec­ut­ive Coun­cil, Üzüm­cü said he is poised to en­dorse a plan for co­oper­at­ing with the United Na­tions to ad­dress Syr­ia’s chem­ic­al arms. He is slated on Wed­nes­day to brief re­port­ers on de­vel­op­ments in the dis­arm­a­ment mis­sion, ac­cord­ing to an OP­CW press re­lease.

U.N. Sec­ret­ary Gen­er­al Ban Ki-moon on Monday said the chem­ic­al-weapons watch­dog and the United Na­tions would as­semble roughly 100 per­son­nel to con­duct the dis­arm­a­ment op­er­a­tion from “a sta­ging area and sup­port base in Cyprus.”

The mis­sion in Syr­ia would in­volve elim­in­at­ing over tra­vers­ing “act­ive con­front­a­tion lines … in some cases through ter­rit­ory con­trolled by armed groups that are hos­tile to the ob­ject­ives of the joint mis­sion,” he noted. It would tar­get over 1,000 met­ric tons of war­fare sub­stances at mul­tiple sites across the coun­try.

OP­CW ex­perts would take the lead in con­firm­ing Syr­ia’s chem­ic­al-weapons in­vent­ory and mon­it­or­ing de­struc­tion activ­it­ies, the U.N. chief ad­ded in a 10-page plan­ning state­ment to the U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil. He said U.N. of­fi­cials would as­sist in com­mu­nic­at­ing “with the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment and op­pos­i­tion groups,” as well as aid in “se­cur­ity ar­range­ments.” Each or­gan­iz­a­tion would fund its re­spect­ive con­tri­bu­tions with help from sep­ar­ate “trust funds,” he said.

“Without sus­tained, genu­ine com­mit­ment by the Syr­i­an au­thor­it­ies, the joint mis­sion will fail in its ob­ject­ives,” the U.N. chief stated. He singled out lan­guage in a re­cent Se­cur­ity Coun­cil res­ol­u­tion that, in part, de­mands sup­port from Dam­as­cus in “en­sur­ing the se­cur­ity of activ­it­ies un­der­taken by [U.N. and OP­CW] per­son­nel.”

On Monday, though, a seni­or As­sad en­voy said his gov­ern­ment would take no re­spons­ib­il­ity for pro­tect­ing dis­arm­a­ment per­son­nel in the war-torn coun­try, Ky­odo News re­por­ted.

Back in Wash­ing­ton, Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­ors John Mc­Cain (Ar­iz.) and Lind­sey Gra­ham (S.C.) on Monday voiced con­cern over a seni­or Syr­i­an de­fect­or’s re­cent al­leg­a­tion that Dam­as­cus might have il­li­citly trans­ferred chem­ic­al-war­fare ma­ter­i­als in­to Ir­aq and Le­ban­on.

“If true, this de­vel­op­ment would give rise to grave con­cern and must be cor­rob­or­ated as true or false by the in­tel­li­gence com­munity,” the law­makers said in a joint state­ment.

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