OPCW Drafts Plan to Check Syrian Chemical-Warfare Stocks

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Sept. 17, 2013, 9:02 a.m.

An in­ter­na­tion­al chem­ic­al-arms-con­trol or­gan­iz­a­tion on Monday said it was draft­ing plans for its per­son­nel to con­duct in-per­son checks of Syr­ia’s chem­ic­al-war­fare as­sets amid the na­tion’s ra­ging civil war.

Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s gov­ern­ment is re­quired to fully de­clare by Fri­day its chem­ic­al-weapons hold­ings, as dic­tated by a U.S.-Rus­sia agree­ment for in­ter­na­tion­al mon­it­or­ing and elim­in­a­tion of the Syr­i­an ar­sen­al. That plan, ne­go­ti­ated last week, de­mands “a com­pre­hens­ive list­ing, in­clud­ing names, types, and quant­it­ies of its chem­ic­al weapons agents, types of mu­ni­tions, and loc­a­tion and form of stor­age, pro­duc­tion, and re­search and de­vel­op­ment fa­cil­it­ies.”

“Our ex­perts will veri­fy the ac­cur­acy of this dis­clos­ure with on-site in­spec­tions, and will also as­sist in put­ting in­to place ar­range­ments to keep the war­fare ma­ter­i­als and the rel­ev­ant fa­cil­it­ies se­cure un­til their de­struc­tion,” the Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons said in a state­ment. The group said that the Chem­ic­al Weapons Con­ven­tion — the treaty it is charged with en­for­cing — would take ef­fect on Oct. 14 for the gov­ern­ment in Dam­as­cus.

The 41-na­tion OP­CW Ex­ec­ut­ive Coun­cil “is ex­pec­ted to meet soon” to con­fer on a fleshed-out plan for veri­fy­ing the de­clared stocks, the press re­lease says. The ma­ter­i­als might be dis­persed across up to 80 loc­a­tions across Syr­ia, the Wall Street Journ­al re­por­ted last week.

The White House on Monday au­thor­ized de­liv­er­ies of chem­ic­al-weapon pro­tect­ive gear to OP­CW per­son­nel, as well as sup­plies of re­lated treat­ments and de­fenses to Syr­i­an med­ic­al per­son­nel and “vet­ted” op­pos­i­tion forces.

Brit­ish For­eign Sec­ret­ary Wil­li­am Hag­ue said he wants the OP­CW body to de­cide on a plan be­fore “the end of the week,” the Lon­don Tele­graph re­por­ted on Tues­day.

“We’ll then be work­ing on agree­ing a Se­cur­ity Coun­cil res­ol­u­tion over the week­end” to back up the OP­CW blue­print, Hag­ue said. “Of course, those timetables might slip but we’re look­ing at days, not weeks.”

Rus­sia’s top dip­lo­mat on Tues­day sug­ges­ted his coun­try might later con­sider al­low­ing the U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil to en­dorse a mil­it­ary re­sponse to po­ten­tial mis­steps by As­sad’s gov­ern­ment, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­por­ted. However, Mo­scow has op­posed in­clud­ing a threat of armed force in the ini­tial meas­ure planned by the 15-coun­try body.

Mean­while, a U.N. task force will re­turn to Syr­ia “as soon as pos­sible” to com­plete a fi­nal re­port on claims of chem­ic­al-weapon use in the coun­try, U.N. Sec­ret­ary Gen­er­al Ban Ki-moon told re­port­ers on Monday. The team’s ini­tial find­ings — made pub­lic the same day — de­scribe strong evid­ence that a sar­in nerve agent strike took place on Aug. 21 in the sub­urbs of Dam­as­cus.

Asked if he had used the re­port to as­sign blame for the strike, the U.N. chief said “it is for oth­ers to de­cide wheth­er to … de­term­ine re­spons­ib­il­ity.”

France, the United States and mul­tiple in­de­pend­ent ana­lysts de­scribed the U.N. find­ings as strong in­dic­at­ors that As­sad’s re­gime had or­ches­trated the Aug. 21 at­tack, For­eign Policy magazine re­por­ted on Monday. Wash­ing­ton has as­sessed the in­cid­ent to have killed more than 1,400 people, and has cited it as the basis for pos­sible mil­it­ary strikes against Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment tar­gets.

Rus­sia’s en­voy to the United Na­tions, though, said West­ern powers had “jumped to their con­clu­sions” about the U.N. find­ings.

Mo­scow has in­sisted that res­ist­ance fight­ers have been re­spons­ible for chem­ic­al strikes in Syr­ia, but Hag­ue mocked that stance. “Even the Rus­si­ans are not dis­cuss­ing the de­clar­a­tion and de­struc­tion of op­pos­i­tion-held chem­ic­al weapons be­cause even they don’t think they really ex­ist,” the Tele­graph quoted him as say­ing.

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