The UK is to help the international mission to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons program, officials said on Friday, joining a complex operation with prominent roles for the US, Denmark and Norway.
Britain’s Foreign Office said it has agreed to destroy 150 tonnes of two industrial-grade chemicals from Syria’s stockpile at a commercial facility. The chemicals used in the pharmaceutical industry will be shipped to the UK before being transferred to a commercial site to be incinerated and destroyed, it said in a statement.
“It is important to stress that these are chemicals, not chemical weapons,” the Foreign Office said, explaining that the two chemicals only become highly toxic when mixed to make a nerve agent.
The commitment adds another layer to the complex and unprecedented operation to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, which comes after the confirmed use of chemical weapons in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on Aug. 21, which the US government says killed 1,400 people. A number of questions remain about how Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal will be destroyed, including what will be done with the material once it is rendered harmless.
The Foreign Office said the two chemicals would be removed from Syria separately and sealed in standard industrial containers to international standards.
Under the plan by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, chemicals will be transported from 12 storage sites to Latakia in Syria. The chemicals will then be loaded onto Danish and Norwegian ships and shipped to an Italian port, where the most toxic chemicals will be transferred to a US ship for destruction at sea.