Syria Destroys Last of Its Chemical Weapons: US Still Not Complying with International Law
December 7, 2013
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Xinhua News & Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has confirmed a major milestone in the Syrian chemical disarmament program, confirming the destruction of all chemical munitions in the country. The biggest chemical weapon arsenals that must be destroyed are in Russia and the US. The Convention requires member countries to destroy their chemical weapons within 10 years after the CWC entered into force -- by 2007. The US has still not complied with the treaty.
Watchdog Confirms: Syria
Destroyed Last of Its Chemical Munitions
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(December 6, 2013) -- The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has confirmed a major milestone in the Syrian chemical disarmament program, confirming the destruction of all chemical munitions in the country.
The disarmament of Syria's massive program is being done in stages, with the first step rendering production facilities inoperable, and then the existing munitions being destroyed. With that done, attention will turn to removing the non-weaponized chemical agents from the country for disincorporation.
Getting that done is harder than it sounds, with the plan to ship the chemicals out by sea, through the port of Latakia, under serious jeopardy because of the Syrian civil war. Much of Latakia's territory is under rebel control.
Either way, with the destruction of the filling machines, and now the destruction of the unfilled munitions, nobody is going to be able to readily use those chemicals for anything, but the deadline for getting them out of Syria is still June, and that's going to be a struggle.
OPCW: All Unfilled Munitions
Declared by Syria Destroyed
THE HAGUE (December 6, 2013) -- -- All category 3 (unfilled) munitions declared by Syria have been destroyed, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations announced in a statement published on Friday.
OPCW stated that it has "also verified the destruction of additional special features of buildings and structures at chemical weapons production facilities that were already rendered inoperable during the first phase of the mission."
"These activities were conducted at the Homs cluster of sites that had remained inaccessible for some time due to security reasons," according to the statement.
In addition, in a statement published on Thursday, special Coordinator of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission Sigrid Kaag said preparations are under way for "Phase III", namely the removal of chemical agents out of the country.
The plan is to transport the chemical agents to the Syrian port city of Latakia, where they will be shipped on commercial vessels provided by some Member States. They will then be loaded onto a United States ship and destroyed at sea using hydrolysis.
The joint mission of the OPCW and the UN for removing Syria's chemical agents out of the country for their destruction was set up two months ago to achieve the timely elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons program in the safest and most secure manner possible. Deadline for elimination is 30 June 2014.
Destruction of Chemical Weapons: Introduction
Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
(December 6, 2013) -- Each country that belongs to the OPCW must:
• Destroy all chemical weapons it owns or possesses;
• Destroy all chemical weapons it may have abandoned in another country; and
• Destroy facilities it owns or possesses which were involved in the production of chemical weapons.
Several countries have declared chemical weapons, amounting to nearly 70,000 metric tons of toxic agents in 8.6 million munitions and containers. The biggest arsenals that must be destroyed are in Russia and the United States. The Convention requires member countries to destroy their chemical weapons within 10 years after the CWC entered into force -- by 2007.
However, it is possible to request an extension of this destruction deadline by up to five years, until 2012, if there are problems with the destruction program. The approval of the other OPCW member countries is necessary for any extension of the destruction timeline. Most of the possessor States Parties have been granted with extension deadlines, some of them up to 2012.
More information about destruction deadlines.
Member countries cannot destroy chemical weapons in any way that they like. First of all, the principles and methods for the destruction of chemical weapons have to strictly follow the obligations of the Treaty: para. 12 of Part 4 A of the Verification Annex. On the second hand, the Convention stipulates that the destruction process cannot harm people or the environment.
Accordingly, the countries that possess chemical weapons are required to use safe technologies for their destruction. The OPCW continuously monitors the destruction of chemical weapons at a number of chemical weapons destruction facilities around the world.
The OPCW also regularly inspects all former chemical weapons production facilities declared by Member States in order to verify that they are all shut down and destroyed, or converted for peaceful purposes. Most of these facilities have been either completely destroyed or converted so far. The OPCW is overseeing the destruction/conversion of the few remaining facilities.
The OPCW is additionally required to monitor the destruction of chemical weapons that are old or deteriorated or that were abandoned by one country on the territory of another. Under the Convention, member countries must declare such weapons to the OPCW and undertake to destroy them.
Due to the unique nature of these discoveries and the hazard they represent, the Technical Secretariat adopts an approach of flexibility while working with the affected Member States to achieve the goals of the Convention.
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