Fourth shipment of chemical weapons removed from Syria

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 27 (PNA/ITAR-TASS) — A fourth consignment of chemicals, a quantity of sulphur mustard, was transported from Syria to the port of Latakia on Wednesday, February 26.

In Latakia, the chemical weapons were loaded onto a cargo ship and removed from the country. The sulphur mustard is one of five “priority chemicals” in Syria’s chemical weapons program and will be destroyed at sea aboard a U.S. vessel, the MV Cape Ray, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said.

“The removal of this sulphur mustard is an encouraging and positive development,” the OPCW Director-General, Ambassador Ahmet Uzumcu said. “Much work nonetheless remains to be done, and we look to the Syrian government to accelerate its efforts to transfer the remaining chemicals in regular, predictable and systematic movements.”

In a telephone conversation with ITAR-TASS, OPCW spokesperson Michael Luhan did not specify whether the consignment was the last portion of this chemical kept in Syria. However, he noted that there was still much work to be done.

Informed sources at the United Nations and the OPCW noted that stocks of sulphur mustard in Syria exceeded 20 tonnes and were located in different parts of the country.

The previous three consignments loaded onto ships in Latakia this year made up 11 percent of all chemical weapon stocks in Syria. Since chemical weapons are removed from the country in roughly equal amounts, it would be safe to assume that no more than 25 percent of all toxic combat agents have been transported out of Syria.

The delay — all chemical weapons were supposed to be removed by February 5 — forced the Syrian authorities to submit a corrected plan to the OPCW, which extends the deadline to the end of May. The plan will be considered by the OPCW Executive Council on March 4-7. Western countries are concerned that the delays will now allow Syria to destroy all of its chemical weapons by June 30, 2014 as was initially planned and it will need a delay of several months.(PNA/ITAR-TASS)