Weapons will be transported to Syrian port of Latakia, from where they will be shipped on commercial vessels and loaded onto a US ship, and finaly destroyed at sea using hydrolysis says head of OPCW mission.
The final phase of the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons is set to take place at the end of the month when they will be loaded onto a ship “and destroyed at sea using hydrolysis,” said Ms Sigrid Kaag, Special coordinator and head of the joint UN and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Speaking to the 15 members of the Security Council in a closed session on Wednesday – she reported the “functional destruction of critical facilities and weaponry has already taken place,” as UN source reported after the meeting.
Ms. Kaag went on to explain that the preparations are under way for “Phase III”, for the removal of chemical agents out of the country.
She also confirmed the chemical agents will be transported to the Syrian port city of Latakia. From there they will be shipped on commercial vessels provided by some UN member states. As it was reported earlier – the chemical agents will then be loaded onto a US ship “and destroyed at sea using hydrolysis.”
Kaag said there are deadlines that are set for that operation and those time frames “are quite ambitious.”
Kaag also explained that the planed removal of Syrian chemical arsenal out of the country — will require a number of various operations: “packaging material, logistics, special trucks and containers.” She announced that there is training on the way for Syrian staff in the packing and handling of the chemicals “to meet international maritime regulations concerning hazardous goods.”
The Joint Mission was set up back in October to achieve the scheduled elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons – by June 30th – 2014, in accordance with the the Security Council resolution and OPCW decision in that respect. The joint mission is comprised of 15 experts from the OPCW and 48 UN personnel.
But, the head of the joint UN and OPCW Mission also warned – that the security conditions in Syria “are such that it’s an ongoing concern and it could also at any time derail our (UN and OPCW) ability to meet deadlines.”
In a letter sent to the Security Council on the same topic, addressed to Chinese Presidency of UNSC in November, which is stil not made public (but, Anadolu Agency is in possession of its original version), UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said – the situation in Syria is still “volatile, unpredictable and highly dangerous.”
But, Mr. Ban said the UN has received assurances from two main sides in Syrian conflict – they will cooperate in the transport of dangerous chemicals.
The Syrian government, which will take the lead in packing and trucking the toxic materials to Lathakia, showed “constructive cooperation,” Ban wrote. He also confirmed the “representatives of the Syrian opposition based in Istanbul have also indicated their support for the safe transportation of convoys containing chemical material.”
Sigrid Kaag went to stress that the “collective will of the international community” is firmly behind UN and OPCW joint Mission. But, she added — there are still security constraints when it comes to the transportation of the chemicals across Syria, since the operation is taking place at the “active war zone.”
She pointed to the road connecting Damascus and Homs – which is a main communication infrastructure artery in Syria. Kaag said that if the UN-OPCW missiion would not be able to travel there, it would be “a real issue.”
Financial assistance has been critical, she said. But, Kaag also voiced gratitude to the donors of two UN and OPCW trust funds to finance the Joint mission’s operation. Sterssing, how this is an extremely important, Kaag appealed for more means, calling on the international community to support the special Third trust fund set up for the same chemical weapons removal operation.