Update on Syrian Chemical Weapons Destruction and the Fact-Finding Mission into Alleged Chlorine Gas Attacks

Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü briefed the OPCW Executive Council on Wednesday on progress in the work of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission in Syria. While welcoming the complete destruction by Syrian authorities of all declared stocks of isopropanol he stressed the urgency of removal of the remaining chemicals from the Syrian Arab Republic so that destruction operations can begin without further delay.

Some 100 metric tonnes of chemicals, or nearly 8 percent of Syria’s declared stockpile, remain at a single site. Over the last week they have been packed and are ready for transportation.  The Syrian authorities have informed that they cannot yet be moved from the storage site due to the security situation in the area.

Technical consultations on the destruction of structures that housed 12 chemical weapons production facilities (CWPFs) are ongoing.  All CWPFs in Syria were rendered inoperable last year ahead of the 1 November 2013 timeframe set by the OPCW Executive Council.  The Director-General expressed the hope that these consultations can soon be concluded to inform a Council decision on the modalities of destruction.

The Director-General also briefed the Council on the OPCW fact-finding mission on allegations of use of chlorine gas in Syria. The mission is involved in the delicate process of preparing for on-site activities. This is a particularly challenging undertaking as safe and secure access to areas not controlled by the government is required. The Syrian Government has accepted the terms of reference for the mission and agreed to provide security for the Mission in areas under its control. 

“The alleged use of chlorine in Syria is of grave concern to the OPCW and the international community,” Ambassador Üzümcü said.  “All efforts should be made, by all parties to the conflict, to enable safe access for our team enabling it to conduct its important work.”

Following extensive discussions at its 41st meeting, “The Council, mindful of the established framework set out for the total elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme by the Chemical Weapons Convention and relevant decisions, called on the Syrian Arab Republic to undertake all possible efforts to complete the speedy removal of the remaining chemicals.”

The Council also expressed deep appreciation for the dedication, professionalism and commitment of the staff members of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission and of the Technical Secretariat, both in The Hague and in the field, in carrying out their functions.

 

Ibrahim Zaaboub

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