By Darrin Simmons
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
DAMASCUS, Syria-Syria has met a key deadline in the disarmament program, destroying all of its declared chemical weapons production and mixing facilities. The next deadline is November 15, when the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and Syria must agree to a detailed plan for destruction of the 1,000 metric tons of toxic chemicals.
“Phase three will last to June 2014 and will involve United Nations mission support to monitor all destruction of 1,000 tons of chemical weapons. The UN/OPCW has no mandate to destroy them so a UN member state will have to provide technical and operational support.
But also, we have to be a bit suspicious about the second phase as this is what Syria has declared, and see that other states will agree with Syria on the amount it said it has. Other countries may have their own intelligence,” stated Omar Al Saleh, a reporter for Al Jazeera.
The OPCW has inspected and removed chemical equipment from 21 out of the 23 chemical weapons sites across Syria, with the other two sites being too dangerous to inspect and already having their equipment transferred.
Locations of the sites which were not inspected have not been specified, demonstrating the perils of operating in a war zone with multiple places being under siege and unpredictably shifting battle lines.
A spokesman for the OPCW, Michael Luhan, reported that one of the two uninspected sites was near Damascus. It was also reported that eight inspectors returned to OPCW headquarters after spending a month in Damascus as part of an advanced team there on October 1st.
“Syria has completed the functional destruction of critical equipment for all of its declared chemical weapons production facilities and mixing/filling plants, rendering them inoperable,” said the OPCW.
While some experts favor the announcement as a milestone, others remain fearful as it has left Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in control of 1,290 tons of chemical weapons and an assortment of conventional weapons used during the country’s bloody civil war to kill over 100,000 people.
“The Assad regime continues to use artillery, air power and siege tactics against civilians, with thousands killed every month. While the destruction of facilities is an important first milestone, it brings no relief to the Syrian people. As winter approaches, the humanitarian situation grows more acute with millions left vulnerable,” stated the British Foreign Office.
It will remain to be seen whether Syria destroys all of its stockpiles by mid-2014.
For more information, please see the following:
Al Jazeera-Syria chemical weapons facilities ‘destroyed’-31 October 2013
Guardian-Syria’s chemical weapons production facilities destroyed, says watchdog-31 October 2013
New York Times-Chemical Arms Inspectors Say Syria Has Destroyed All Declared Sites-31 October 2013
Reuters-Syria meets deadline to destroy chemical production facilities-31 October 2013