Syria to send large shipment of chemicals by March: Moscow

Syria to send large shipment of chemicals by March: Moscow
Wed Feb 5, 2014 11:33:32

Russia has announced that the Syrian government plans to send a large shipment of chemical weapons out of the Arab country this month and to ship its entire stockpile by March 1.

On Tuesday, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, who conveyed the new pledges, also defended the Syrian government’s explanations for the missed deadlines, arguing that security dangers posed by the foreign-hatched war had created enormous problems in transporting the chemicals to the port of Latakia, where an international flotilla awaits them.

“There really are difficulties linked to the need to provide security for this operation,” Gatilov said in an interview with the official RIA news agency.

Gatilov’s remarks appeared to be in response to the exasperation expressed last week by the United States over Syria’s slow pace in exporting about 1,200 tons of chemical material, half of it considered especially dangerous.

The Syrian government promised in September, when Syria agreed to join the global treaty that bans the production and use of chemical weapons, that it would destroy the munitions. Because of threats by the foreign-backed militants, Syria missed a Dec. 31 deadline to export the chemicals and will miss a second deadline on Wednesday to export all the chemicals. Diplomats say that two small shipments, 4 percent of the total, have been removed from the country so far.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a group based in The Hague that is collaborating with the United Nations to oversee the destruction of the Syrian stockpile, added its voice to the criticism on Friday, when Ahmet Uzumcu, its director general, said, “The need for the process to pick up pace is obvious.”

The group welcomed Gatilov’s assertions, a response that appeared to reflect a wait-and-see attitude. “The OPCW looks forward to receiving such a plan from the Syrian authorities and will have something to say at that time,” Michael Luhan, a spokesman for the organization, said in an email.

Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since March 2011. According to reports, the Western powers and their regional allies -- especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey -- are supporting the militants operating inside Syria.

According to the United Nations, more than 100,000 people have been killed and millions displaced due to the violence.


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