THE HAGUE: The last of Syria’s chemicals agents are packed and ready to be taken to Latakia port and out of the country when the security situation permits, the world’s chemical watchdog said Thursday.
“Some 100 metric tons of chemicals, or nearly 8 percent of Syria’s declared stockpile, remain at a single site,” Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons head Ahmet Uzumcu told a meeting of the body’s Executive Council at headquarters in The Hague.
“They have been packed and are ready for transportation [and] Syrian authorities have informed that they cannot yet be moved from the storage site due to the security situation in the area,” an OPCW statement quoted him as saying.
Syria has already shipped out 92 percent of its stockpile.
Under the terms of a U.N.-backed and U.S.-Russia brokered deal agreed last year, Syria’s government agreed to give up its entire stock of deadly chemicals by April 27, after missing several key deadlines.
Danish and Norwegian ships are to take the chemicals from Latakia port to a U.S. ship for destruction at sea, along with sites in Finland, the U.S. and Britain, by an increasingly unlikely June 30 deadline.
The deal was reached after a sarin nerve gas attack in a rebel-held Damascus suburb killed around 1,400 people. Damascus agreed to hand over its chemical arsenal after the U.S. threatened airstrikes against President Bashar Assad in response.
Uzumcu said that a fact-finding mission sent to Syria to probe chlorine gas attacks was preparing to visit areas where the chemical was allegedly used.
“This is a particularly challenging undertaking as safe and secure access to areas not controlled by the government is required,” he said.
“All efforts should be made, by all parties to the conflict, to enable safe access for our team enabling it to conduct its important work.”
The chlorine probe came after France and the United States alleged that Assad’s forces may have unleashed industrial chemicals on a rebel-held village in central Hama province this month.
Syria did not have to declare its stockpile of chlorine – a weak toxic agent – as part of the disarmament deal as it is widely used for commercial and domestic purposes.
Earlier, the British deputy representative to the OPCW that Syria has made no progress in relinquishing a last batch of chemical weapons it says is inaccessible due to fighting, making it increasingly likely it will miss a final deadline to destroy its toxic stockpile.
A statement, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, said that packaging material had arrived for the 100 metric tons of toxic chemicals.
“But there is still no sign of any movement of chemicals, nor any indications of a time scale for a move,” the statement said.
Under the deal, Syria’s entire stockpile is supposed to have been destroyed by mid-2014, but “it is growing ever clearer that the June 30 deadline will not be met,” the British statement said.