Removing Syria chemicals mired by security woes

Removing Syria chemicals mired by security woes
Thu Dec 5, 2013 18:34:29

Efforts to remove Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons in compliance with a UN-backed deal continue to be hampered by inadequate security conditions due to the persisting foreign-backed insurgency in the crisis-ridden country.

While, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is drafting plans for the removal of Syria’s estimated 1,000 tons of hazardous chemicals, head of the UN mission for the destruction of Syrian chemical arms, Sigrid Kaag, said in a press conference on Wednesday that "there are factors beyond our control" interfering with the OPCW’s efforts to eliminate the country’s chemicals by mid-2014, as planned.

The plan calls for a Danish vessel to transfer its chemical cargo to an American ship. However, using overland routes to transport the chemical weapons is a risky option considering that Syria remains in the grip of a bitter and protracted civil war, RT reported Thursday.

Kaag said poor security conditions on the highway connecting the capital Damascus to the port city of Latakia forced her to take an airplane to Beirut and then a helicopter to Latakia for a recent meeting.

Following her briefing to the UN Security Council, Kaag said if that road is inaccessible due to security reasons, "it's a real issue."

However, getting the chemical weapons to the Mediterranean coast is just part of the problem. Once in Latakia, the hazardous cargo will be taken aboard a Danish ship, which will then deliver the shipment to the Cape Ray, an American vessel specially outfitted with equipment to neutralize the weapons.

Due to the hostile relations between Damascus and Washington, the US vessel will not dock at Latakia, not to mention the Russian naval base of Tartus, the second largest port city in Syria. Instead, the American ship will be forced to meet the Danish ship in international waters off the coast of Syria, or at a foreign harbor.

The United States and Russia reached a historic agreement on September 14 that called for Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons to be destroyed by the middle of 2014 in a last-ditch effort to halt looming American airstrikes against the Arab nation.

Washington had accused Syrian government of ordering a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013, which caused the death of hundreds of civilians. Syria, however, fiercely rejected the US allegation, blaming the attack on foreign-backed insurgents that are widely believed to be linked to al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Russia has also rejected the US-led accusation against Damascus, arguing that there was no proof the Syrian opposition did not carry out the chemical attacks.


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