Syria's chemical weapon stash '100 percent destroyed'

Syria's chemical weapon stash '100 percent destroyed'
2 min read
05 January, 2016
But officials remain concerned about the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Despite handing over chemical weapons, gases such as chlorine may still be being used [Anadolu]

The disposal of Syria's declared chemical arms arsenal has been completed, capping more than two years of delicate work, the global watchdog charged with eliminating the world's toxic weapons said on Tuesday.

"One hundred percent has been destroyed," said Malik Ellahi, the spokesman for the UN-backed Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

But The Hague-based organisation still remains deeply concerned by reports of the use of sarin and mustard gas in the country, as well as deadly chlorine gas in Syria's brutal civil war.

"This process closes an important chapter in the elimination of Syria's chemical weapon programme as we continue efforts to clarify Syria's declaration and address ongoing use of toxic chemicals as weapons in the country," said the OPCW's director-general, Ahmet Uzumcu.

Under the terms of an historic deal hammered out in September 2013 by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, Syria finally admitted to possessing more than 1,000 tonnes of chemical weapons after years of denials - and agreed to hand over the whole stockpile for destruction.

The deal averted threatened US airstrikes against Damascus after an August 2013 gas attack on rebel-held areas near the capital that was blamed by the West and the opposition on the regime. Hundreds of civilians were killed.

This completes the destruction of all chemical weapons declared by the Syrian Arab Republic

Under the agreement, Syria's entire chemical arsenal had been due to be eliminated by 30 June, 2014, and all chemical effluent by 31 December, 2014.

But the timetable slipped badly amid delays by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and complications posed by the civil war about to enter its fifth year.

The last remaining vestiges of the declared stockpile - some 75 cylinders of highly-corrosive hydrogen fluoride - were destroyed by the US firm Veolia at its treatment plant at Port Arthur in Texas, the OPCW said.

"This completes the destruction of all chemical weapons declared by the Syrian Arab Republic," the OPCW said in a statement.

"The need to devise a technical solution for treating a number of cylinders in a deteriorated and hazardous condition had delayed the disposal process," it added.

A total of 1,300 metric tonnes of chemical weapons have been removed from Syria, with the majority neutralised on the US Navy ship MV Cape Ray - and turned into less harmful effluent.