Syria has submitted a new 100-day plan for the removal of its chemical weapons after failing to meet a Feb. 5 deadline, but the international mission overseeing the operation believes it can be done in a shorter time frame, diplomats said on Friday.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) executive committee met on Friday in The Hague to discuss its joint mission with the US amid growing international frustration at Syria falling behind on its commitments.
Damascus, locked in a three-year-old war with rebels seeking Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s overthrow, failed to meet the organization’s Feb. 5 deadline to move all of its declared chemical substances and precursors out of the country.
The final deadline under the plan is for all of Syria’s declared chemical materials to be destroyed by June 30.
“The Syrian 100-day plan for removal of the chemicals, on which we have been briefed, is not adequate,” Philip Hall, head of the British Foreign Office Counter Proliferation Department, told the organization, according to a copy of his statement.
“We now urge the Syrian authorities to accept the proposals submitted by the Operational Planning Group that provide for removal in a much shorter time frame, without compromising on security,” he added.
A senior UN diplomat said the international mission believes the operation can be carried out before the end of March, adding that Syria’s proposed end-of-May deadline would not leave enough time for the chemicals to be destroyed before the end of June.
“The international community has put into place everything that is necessary for transport and destruction of these chemicals. Sufficient equipment and material has been provided to Syria. The ships to carry the chemicals away from Syria are waiting,” US ambassador to the OPCW Robert Mikulak said. “The US ship to destroy CW agent and precursors is now in the region and waiting. Commercial facilities to destroy other chemicals have been selected and contracts awarded; they are waiting. And yet Syria continues to drag its feet.”
The US has sent the MV Cape Ray, a ship outfitted with special equipment to neutralize the worst of Syria’s chemicals at sea.
Mikulak said that of Syria’s 1,300 tonnes of declared chemicals, 95.5 percent of the worst toxins and 81.1 percent of the so-called priority two chemicals are still in the country.