Albania's rejection of a U.S. request that it host the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile highlights the daunting task of where to carry out a crucial part of the international deal that avoided U.S. strikes on Syria.
The U.S. recently asked its ally, Albania, to agree to the request. After a week fraught with protests and lack of information in Albania, Prime Minister Edi Rama rejected to destroy Syrian chemical weapons on his country's soil.
Former U.S. ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker says the request to Albania was a U.S. effort to seize a fortuitous opportunity.
He asked, “Where else can you go where you have an ally or you have the possibility of executing this, where you have a government that may be willing to help?
Albania is only one of three nations worldwide that have declared a chemical weapons stockpile to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and destroyed it.
Counting on its strong relationship with the United States, Albania was considered OPCW’s strongest hope to take Syria's stockpile. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had three phone conversations with Rama in efforts to secure cooperation.
“When the secretary of state takes on an issue that he feels needs to be resolved - in this case the disposition of Syria’s chemical weapons - then he is going to do whatever he feels he needs to do to try to advance that process,” Volker said.
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Ian Brzezinski says Albania’s decision was a setback for the efforts to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons.
“The United States government put a lot of hope that Albania would provide the resources and the location for the destruction of these weapons," he said. "So now we have a process under way, a strategy under way to eliminate these weapons as missing a specific and very important component. Where and how they are going to be destroyed.”
Brzezinski says the international community has a difficult path ahead.
“The next step for the United States together with Russia is to find another country that could host the facilities to destroy these weapons, these chemicals," he said. "There are basically two options out there - find another country that will do it or destroy them on site in Syria, which of course raises a whole set of security issues.”
Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany and Norway, have said they will not destroy Syrian chemical weapons on their soil. OPCW spokesman Christian Chartier said Wednesday the alternative of a destruction at sea, on a boat or floating rig, is a “feasible” possibility.