WASHINGTON – An initial batch of Syria’s most dangerous chemical weapons was
shipped to sea on Tuesday, marking the beginning of the destruction of the Assad
regime’s massive chemical arsenal.
The first quantity of “priority”
chemical weapons, deemed the most hazardous materials in the stockpile of Syrian
President Bashar Assad, were transported to Lattakia, verified by the United
Nations Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and then loaded
onto a Danish commercial vessel.
Denmark, Norway, and Syria itself
provided naval escorts for the first ship.
“The vessel has now left the
port of Lattakia for international waters,” Sigrid Kaag, special coordinator on
the project, said in a statement.
“It will remain at sea awaiting the
arrival of additional priority chemical materials at the port.”
secretary-general Ban Ki-moon congratulated the OPCW in a statement on their
“The secretary-general welcomes the continuing progress in the
international effort to eliminate the chemical weapons program of the Syrian
Arab Republic, as demonstrated by this latest achievement,” his spokesman
The OPCW hoped to remove all priority chemical weapons by the end
of 2013, but were delayed due to ongoing security challenges on the ground, as
well as inclement weather, UN officials said.
The OPCW called on the
government of Assad to pick up momentum in handing over the remaining
“We are exhorting the Syrian government to intensify its
efforts, so we can conclude the critical part of this mission absolutely as fast
as the conditions allow,” Michael Luhan, spokesman for the Organization for the
Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said on Wednesday.
“We are happy to see
there is finally movement. We hope to see that [this] movement continues
regularly now through the next few weeks, so we can get these chemicals out of
the country as quickly as possible.”
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Reuters contributed to this report