News / Middle East

Syria Likely to Miss Deadline to Destroy Chemical Weapons

American ship MV Cape Ray - on an unprecedented mission to collect and destroy highly toxic chemicals that form part of Syria’s chemical weapons program - is docked at Naval Station in Rota, Spain, Feb. 13, 2014.
American ship MV Cape Ray - on an unprecedented mission to collect and destroy highly toxic chemicals that form part of Syria’s chemical weapons program - is docked at Naval Station in Rota, Spain, Feb. 13, 2014.
Reuters
Syria has relinquished only 11 percent of its chemical weapons in three shipments, and it increasingly appears the nation will miss a politically-loaded midyear deadline to completely destroy the toxic stockpile, sources told Reuters on Friday.

Syria already should have handed over the 1,300 tons of toxic chemicals declared to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW], the body overseeing the process with the United Nations under a Russian-American deal.

A third shipment this week contained 54 metric tons of hexamine, a raw material for explosives, bringing the total shipped so far to a bit more than 140 tons, three sources at the OPCW said.

That includes only about 5 percent of the most toxic priority chemicals, according to the sources.

“Let's be honest, the important materials have not yet been brought, except a little consignment at the beginning. That means we are well behind schedule,” said one source. “They must speed up if we are to make the deadline. We should have been ready [to start destruction] 10 days ago and we haven't even started.”

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Sigrid Kaag, the head of the joint U.N./OPCW mission, both have recently expressed confidence the June 30 deadline can be met.

The next deadline is the end of March, when the most toxic chemicals, including sarin and mustard gas and their precursors, are supposed to have been destroyed outside the country.

“Rather than having handed over 11 percent, I see them as being 89 percent behind schedule,” said another source involved in the process. “It is imperative that they get a move-on if they are to meet the target date.”

Missing the June 30 deadline would have serious political implications, with Washington and Moscow having both invested diplomatic credibility in the chemical weapons elimination process, brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov, his Russian counterpart.

The United States has sent the MV Cape Ray, a ship outfitted with special equipment to neutralize the chemicals at sea, and says it will need 90 days to destroy roughly 500 metric tons of chemical weapons.

To meet that target, Syria would need to ship dozens of loads in coming weeks. The sources said this does not appear likely.

It is unclear what will happen if the deadline is missed. Russia, Syria's key ally at the United Nations, is opposed to sanctions.

By agreeing to give up his weapons of mass destruction, Assad averted U.S. led missile strikes, the threat of which was prompted by the Aug. 21 poison gas attack outside Damascus that killed hundreds of women and children.

Metal jackets

Syria has blamed the delay on the security situation due to fighting with insurgents, which has been ongoing for nearly three years and has killed more than 130,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes.

The Assad government has requested that more than a dozen shipping containers used to transport chemical weapons be outfitted with metal plating, radio scramblers and explosive detection equipment, to keep their cargo secure.

The United Nations has said it believes Damascus has all the equipment it needs and must speed up the process. The chemical weapons are supposed to be transported from around 10 sites across the country to the northern port of Latakia, where they will be loaded onto Danish and Norwegian ships.

Five armored containers are expected to arrive this week and another 10 in the coming month, sources said. However, they said the armor adds new logistical hurdles to what is already a complex, expensive international effort.

The armor, funded by the United Nations, is so heavy it will limit the chemical cargo that can be carried. Cargo will have to be transferred to other containers when it leaves the war zone so that the armored containers can be reused.

“The whole discussion about security is nonsense,” said one Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They have been moving this stuff around for years without armored vehicles, why do they need it now?”

Commercial destruction

The OPCW said Friday it had awarded two companies contracts to destroy around 800 metric tons of chemicals from Syria and millions of liters of effluent toxic waste from hydrolysis of other chemicals onboard the MV Cape Ray.

Ekokem of Finland and a U.S. unit of France's Veolia Environnement were awarded contracts, for which the OPCW had earmarked 40 million euros.

The international community has invested heavily in the operation, providing ships, vehicles, personnel and tens of millions of dollars in donations to OPCW and U.N. funds.

Washington gave shipping containers, GPS trackers, armored vehicles for inspectors, decontamination equipment and the cargo ship outfitted with a $10 million chemical treatment system.

China sent ambulances and surveillance cameras, Belarus gave 13 field kitchens, Russia donated 75 transport vehicles, 25 of them armored. Denmark and Norway provided cargo ships and military patrol boats. Italy offered use of a port. Germany and Britain will make available toxic waste destruction facilities.

You May Like

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

Euro falls after European Central Bank announces a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program More

Saudi King’s Death Clears Succession Route

Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef is Saudi Arabia's New Crown Prince-in-waiting More

Cloud Hangs Over US Counterterrorism Efforts in Yemen

Sources say resignations of Yemen's president, government has left US anti-terror operations 'paralyzed,' yet an American military 'footprint' remains More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Michael Wind
February 15, 2014 5:14 PM
now the navy can take some time in spain,a very nice country and the food is great.


by: Johnathan
February 14, 2014 10:08 PM
And so the story drags on and the people suffer, with NO consequences for the Syhrian Government who have failed to comply, playing cat and mouse with hostages, releasing them now and then. The West needs to be more assertive in this humanitarian crisis.

In Response

by: micheal olakunle from: Nigeria
February 15, 2014 9:52 AM
Russia and Iran are to be blame for killings in syria because they aided the man that syrians understand as oppression

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid