Middle East

Envoy: Last dangerous chemicals must leave Syria

Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad (L) meets members of a fact-finding mission from Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Organization (OPCW), who visited Kafr Zeta village in Hama countryside on Tuesday to inspect the use of chlorine gas, in Damascus May 28, 2014, in this handout released by Syria's national news agency SANA. (REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters)

UNITED NATIONS: The head of the mission charged with destroying Syria’s chemical weapons called on President Bashar Assad and countries with influence on the warring parties Wednesday to ensure the immediate removal of containers of dangerous chemicals from the country.

Sigrid Kaag told reporters after briefing the U.N. Security Council that a number of nations confirmed that Syria’s security concerns about transporting the final 7.2 percent of Syria’s declared chemical stockpile to the port of Latakia “are legitimate.”

She said the joint U.N.-Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons mission that she heads had other information that security conditions in the area not far from Damascus “have been very volatile.”

But she said getting the last containers onto Danish and Norwegian ships “is very, very critical,” and she called for help from key nations. She said she would return to Damascus in a few days to press for immediate removal of the chemicals from “harm’s way.”

Kaag reiterated that Syria would not meet the June 30 deadline to completely destroy its chemical weapons.

She stressed that security issues on roads from the site where the last containers had been prepared for shipment “doesn’t mean that additional delays can be incurred.”

Kaag pointed to “the tremendous cost” for the countries that have supplied the vessels to carry the containers and the ships escorting them, as well as the United States, which is providing a specially equipped ship with two machines that will render the chemicals inert. That process takes approximately 60 days.

Syrian authorities left the removal of chemicals from the contested site for a later time, knowing it would need additional security and possibly military operations, though officials told the government “that if you leave it for last there is a higher risk,” Kaag said.

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters that a number of Security Council members noted that “these security concerns were not there at a time earlier when they should have been moved at a much earlier stage.”

Kaag said Syria had indicated that when conditions permit, removal would take place immediately.

The international effort to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons was sparked by an attack near Damascus last Aug. 21 that killed hundreds of people.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 05, 2014, on page 8.




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