Syria hands over last of declared chemical weapons

World Today

Syria hands over last of declared chemical weapons (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

The last of Syria’s acknowledged stockpile of chemical weapons has been handed over to Western governments for destruction, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Monday.

The final 8 percent of the 1,300-ton stockpile, which included mustard gas and raw materials for making sarin nerve gas, have been loaded onto Danish and Norwegian ships in the Syrian port of Latakia, said Ahmet Uzumcu, the director general of the OPCW.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it had eliminated the chemicals despite difficult security circumstances caused by its ongoing civil war. It credited the “firm political will of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the initiative of the Russian President Vladimir Putin” to give up the arsenal under the supervision of the U.N. Security Council.

Uzumcu acknowledged that it is still possible Syria has avoided declaring some part of its arsenal.

Syria’s government agreed to surrender its arsenal last fall when the U.S. threatened punitive missile strikes after a chemical attack on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus believed to have killed more than a thousand people.

Previous investigations by the OPCW have found evidence of chlorine gas used as a weapon in fighting between rebels and the Assad government. The OPCW stopped short of saying which side was to blame.

This is the first time that a country at war assents to a chemical weapons convention. Even so, some doubts remain as to whether Syria has seen the last use of toxic chemicals in warfare.

The chemicals, however, will not be destroyed by the initial June 30 target date. Chemicals are being shipped out of Syria Monday and transported to a second ship, the U.S.-owned MV Cape Ray. The Cape Ray is equipped with facilities to render such chemicals inert.

 

This story was compiled using information provided by the Associated Press.