Syria conflict: Regime to get rid of chemical weapons ‘within days’

beirut

Syria has nearly completed the removal and destruction of its chemical weapons, with 92.5 per cent of its stock now removed or destroyed.

Sigrid Kaag, the head of the joint mission between the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations, told the Security Council she expected Syria to meet the 27 April deadline for removing all prohibited chemicals.

“Last stretch towards completion… Syria strongly encouraged to make it happen,” she tweeted from Latakia.

This would allow a 30 June deadline to be reached to destroy 1,300 tonnes of chemical weapons, despite missing every previous deadline. The OPCW estimates that Cape Ray, the US ship which will destroy 560 tonnes of chemicals, will need 60 days to complete the process. Syria is looking to close down the mission as soon as possible.

“Once this mission is finished, you will hear about a final report submitted by Ms Kaag to the council and to the executive board of the OPCW and that will be the end of everything,” Syria’s UN ambassador, Bashar Jaafari, said.

But Britain claims there is still work to be done.

“Our view is that there is a continuing role for the joint mission well beyond the removal of the chemicals, which could happen quite quickly now. There’s a number of tasks that are still to be carried out, including verification of the destruction of production facilities,” said Mark Lyall Grant, Britain’s ambassador to the UN.

Syria has seven hardened aircraft hangars and five underground facilities, the majority of which now have been destroyed. Those still remaining are just structures and contain “junk”, according to OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan. The Chemical Weapons Convention demands that the structures are also destroyed completely. Member states have been given a plan devised by OPCW experts and the Syrians for the sites’ complete destruction.

As for two sites the mission has been unable to access, the mission has “closed the book”, says Mr Luhan.

The Syrian government provided video of their contents being moved to other sites. “They have compensated for the lack of access and those materials were subsequently accounted for,” he said.

As late as September 2013, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied having chemical weapons. International pressure increased following the worst chemical weapons attack in a quarter of a century in August 2013, in a Damascus suburb. The US threatened air strikes as Syria crossed a “red line” by using chemical weapons. A surprise decision by the Obama administration to request approval from Congress for military action removed that threat, but international pressure forced Syria to join the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The 30 June deadline was ambitious, with a new mission operating in a war zone. As deadlines flew by without result, the regime was accused of stalling. The Syrians cited security concerns and requested material to ensure safe transport. The UK and US baulked at providing equipment such as armoured cars, out of fear they would be used in Syria’s civil war. In the end, China and Russia stepped forward, the latter supplying 25 armoured trucks.

The mission has proven to be truly international. In addition to the Cape Ray, material is being destroyed at commercial destruction facilities in Britain and Germany.

Transport has involved ships from the US, Norway and Denmark and Italy.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most