OPCW, West mull Syria chemicals destruction at sea

OPCW, West mull Syria chemicals destruction at sea
Wed Nov 20, 2013 08:04:34

Representatives from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons (OPCW) along with Western officials have said they are considering whether to destroy the chemical weapons in the ocean, either on a ship or by loading them onto an offshore rig.

“The only thing known at this time is that this is technically feasible,” an OPCW official told Reuters on Tuesday.

A statement from OPCW and Western officials comes four days after Albania refused a US request to facilitate the destruction of the chemical weapons on its soil. That decision, somewhat of a surprise from the American NATO ally, was met with cheers from crowds of protesters who had gathered outside the prime minister’s office to demonstrate against the possibility.

Experts told Reuters that, despite Japan’s previous foray into destroying arms at sea, such an enterprise would be incredibly intricate and dangerous.

“There are discussions about destroying it on a ship,” one US official said.

The first step in any such process would involve removing more than 1,000 tons of toxic material out of Syria as the conflict that has engulfed the country continues to rage and spill over into the neighboring region, in particular Lebanon.

OPCW investigators have examined the sarin, mustard gas, and other chemicals under the control of the Syrian government. They determined last week that the majority of the deadliest chemicals should be moved out of Syria by the end of 2013 and eliminated by mid-2014.

Syria agreed to surrender the weapons and join the international prohibition on chemical weapons after US President Obama threatened a limited bombing campaign in response to a sarin gas attack that is alleged to have killed over 1,000 Syrian civilians.

The United Nations Security Council authorized the 2014 destruction of the weapons and charged a joint UN-OPCW panel with overseeing the plan as it is carried out. The OPCW executive council met Friday in The Hague, when the plan to remove “the most critical chemicals” from Syria was finalized. 

OPCW Director General Ahmet Umzucu said in a statement that the plan was a “clear road map” to meet the aforementioned deadline. 


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