OPCW: Hard to remove all chemical weapons from Syria by December deadline

Syrian army recaptures road needed to ship out chemical arsenal; "The road is open but not safe," says monitoring group.

By REUTERS
December 9, 2013 15:24
2 minute read.
Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Assad.

Syrian army forces loyal to Bashar Assad 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/George Ourfalian)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

OSLO - It will be "difficult" to remove all of Syria's most toxic chemical weapons from the country by a December 31 deadline, Ahmet Uzumcu, the head of the global chemicals weapon watchdog OPCW said on Monday.

But the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which has been charged with supervising the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal, said a mid-2014 deadline to have all the weapons destroyed is realistic.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


Earlier on Monday, Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces have taken control of a highway connecting Damascus to the coast that is needed to extract hundreds of tons of toxic chemicals for destruction, a monitoring group said on Monday.

Fighting in Syria poses a hurdle to implementing an agreement between Damascus and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to remove the deadliest chemicals weapons by the end of the year to be destroyed.

The army started an offensive in mid-November to secure the highway, which passes through the mountainous area of Qalamoun, roughly 50 km (30 miles) north of Damascus, stretches along the Lebanese border and hosts many military bases and outposts.

The army has retaken the highway towns of Qara and Deir Attiyah from mostly Sunni Muslim rebels fighting to oust Assad, and has made inroads around the town of Nabak close to the road.

"The road is open but not safe," said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, adding that it remained vulnerable to rebel attack.



Manar television, run by Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah group and which has reporters embedded with the Syrian army, cited Syrian security sources as saying the highway was now secure.

Rebels in the area did not respond to calls for comment. The government has never acknowledged that it did not fully control the road, a north-south artery that also links Damascus with the coastal stronghold of Assad's minority Alawite sect.

Syria has agreed under a deal arranged by the United States and Russia to dismantle its chemical arsenal and destroy all its 1,300 tons of sarin, mustard gas and other lethal agents.

The size of the stockpile, including 800 tons of industrial chemicals destined for incineration at commercial toxic waste plants, means it can only be transported by land and sea - using roads linking Damascus to the Mediterranean port of Latakia.

The Hague-based OPCW, which won the Nobel Peace prize in October, has been charged with supervising the elimination of Syria's chemical arsenal. The US-Russian agreement averted planned US missile strikes after a sarin gas attack killed hundreds of people in the Damascus area in August.

The United States is donating a naval ship and equipment to destroy Syria's chemical arsenal, but there is no agreement yet about where it will anchor while the work is carried out.

Syria's conflict began with peaceful anti-Assad protests in March 2011 and developed into an armed insurrection when these were violently suppressed. More than 100,000 people have been killed and fighting has broadly settled into a bloody stalemate.

Related Content

August 21, 2018
Iran unveils fourth-generation fighter jet

By ANNA AHRONHEIM