Middle East

Berlin to send frigate to help destroy Syrian chemical weapons

Volunteers wear gas masks during a class on how to respond to a chemical attack, in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on September 15, 2013. AFP PHOTO / JM LOPEZ

BERLIN: The German government agreed on Wednesday to send a frigate to take part in an international mission in the Mediterranean Sea to destroy Syria's chemical weapons.

Up to 300 German soldiers will take part in the deployment to help protect the US vessel, MV Cape Ray, aboard which the weapons will be broken down at sea using hydrolysis.

The German mandate runs until December at the latest and must be approved by the Bundestag lower house of parliament where the left-right "grand coalition" has an overwhelming majority.

Germany has already accepted a UN request to destroy remnants of Syria's chemical weapons on its own soil, which state-owned company GEKA in the northern town of Munster is handling.

Some 370 tonnes of the secondary waste, so-called hydrolysates, are being shipped in about a dozen containers to the German plant, where it will be pumped into a 1,000-degree-Celsius (1,800-degree- Fahrenheit) incinerator.

"The sooner the chemical weapons are destroyed and no longer represent a danger for the people in Syria, the better," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a written statement Wednesday.

Syria has removed almost half of its chemical arsenal, the world's chemical watchdog said last month, but the war-torn country remains behind schedule for the destruction of its entire arsenal by June 30.

That deadline was agreed by Russia and the United States last year as part of a plan to avert US-backed military strikes in the wake of deadly chemical attacks outside Damascus blamed by the West on President Bashar al-Assad's regime.





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