Skip to main content

OPCW approves road map for Syria chemical weapons destruction

By Susannah Cullinane, CNN
November 16, 2013 -- Updated 1451 GMT (2251 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • OPCW says it has approved a detailed plan to destroy Syria's chemical weapons by mid-2014
  • A U.N. resolution authorized a mission to oversee weapons destruction
  • Weapons inspectors began checking chemical sites in the war-torn country in October
  • A location for destruction of weapons outside Syria has not yet been announced

(CNN) -- The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says it has approved a road map to destroy Syria's chemical weapons by the middle of next year.

A joint OPCW-United Nations team charged with overseeing the destruction of the weapons began inspecting sites in October. The U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized the mission set a deadline of mid-2014 for Syria to destroy its chemical weapons or face consequences.

The OPCW's executive council met Friday at its headquarters in The Hague to finalize a detailed plan.

In a statement, the council said chemical weapons would be transported outside Syria to be destroyed "to ensure their destruction in the safest and soonest manner and no later than June 30, 2014."

Under the plan, all declared chemical substances and precursors except for isopropanol will be removed from Syria no later than February 5.

Isoproponal is a chemical used in the manufacture of the nerve gas sarin, but it is also widely used as a solvent.

The OPCW said it was envisaged that "the most critical chemicals" would be removed from Syria by the end of 2013.

Becoming a chemical weapons inspector
Report: Syria may hide chemical weapons
Syria meets first chemical weapons date

It said destruction of Syria's declared chemical weapons facilities would take place between December 15 and March 15 "according to a risk-based criterion."

OPCW Director General Ahmet Umzucu said the plan provided a "clear road map" and set ambitious milestones to be met by Syria's government. November 15 was the deadline for the council to approve a plan for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile.

"This next phase will be the most challenging, and its timely execution will require the existence of a secure environment for the verification and transport of chemical weapons. Continuing international support and assistance for this endeavor will remain crucial," Umzucu said.

The government of Norway on Thursday offered to provide a commercial cargo ship and a military escort to pick up the Syrian weapons stockpile and deliver it to a destination to be destroyed.

However, the OPCW statement did not state which countries would host the weapons destruction, and Albania announced Friday it was rejecting a U.S.-backed plan for it to take the stockpile.

Albania rejects plan

In a televised address, Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama said the country had "no capacity of any kind pertaining to the transport and technological processes involved."

Crowds of protesters erupted in cheers outside the address, where hundreds were demonstrating against the request, which they claimed would put Albania at risk of pollution or accidents.

Rama had originally been in favor of the plan, which would have had the roughly 1,300 metric tons of sarin, mustard gas and other chemical weapons from Syria shipped to NATO-member Albania for destruction.

"There was an inclination to say 'yes' initially as an obligation to our big allies, but how can the U.S. take the chemical weapons from the hands of a killer only to kill other people on the planet," said Rama, the new prime minister of the normally stalwart U.S. ally.

"We respect the prime minister's decision," the U.S. Embassy in Tirana said in a statement. "We remain confident that we will complete elimination of the program within the timeline agreed upon."

'Reaching out'

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of State told media Friday there had been "extensive discussions" with several countries relating to finding a location.

"Several countries have seriously -- are seriously -- considering and have seriously considered hosting the destruction efforts," spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

OPCW-UN Joint Mission special coordinator Sigrid Kaag told the OPCW's executive council she was "reaching out to others to consider joining this international effort, which is key to the successful implementation of the executive council's decision."

The statement said that Umzucu would present a specific plan for the destruction of chemicals outside Syrian territory. "The director general is also requested to establish a special trust fund for this purpose," it said.

Sarin allegations

The U.N. resolution on Syria's chemical weapons was based on a deal struck between the United States and Russia that averted an American military strike over allegations the Syrian government used sarin nerve gas in an August 21 attack on a Damascus suburb. U.S. officials said at least 1,400 people died in the attack. Syria denied responsibility, blaming rebel forces.

In Friday's update, the OPCW said its mission in Syria had verified that more than 60% of Syria's declared unfilled munitions had been destroyed. Syria had committed to destroy all unfilled warheads and bombs by January 31, it said.

It follows its announcement on October 31 that Syria had destroyed all its declared chemical weapons mixing, filing and production facilities and that all of the chemical weapons at inspected sites were under seal.

Read more: Syria meets first chemical weapons destruction deadline

The mission had visited 21 out of 23 sites, the OPCW statement said, and 39 of the 41 facilities at those sites. The remaining two sites were too dangerous for the inspectors to go to, it said, but Syria had declared those sites as abandoned. The chemical weapons equipment there was moved to other sites, which were inspected.

The Syrian conflict began in March 2011 after government forces cracked down on peaceful protesters during the Arab Spring movement and is now a full-blown civil war.

The United Nations estimates that more than 100,000 people have died in the conflict.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1243 GMT (2043 HKT)
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
June 24, 2014 -- Updated 2133 GMT (0533 HKT)
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1141 GMT (1941 HKT)
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 2117 GMT (0517 HKT)
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 2025 GMT (0425 HKT)
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
June 2, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
June 3, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
June 5, 2014 -- Updated 1610 GMT (0010 HKT)
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
May 28, 2014 -- Updated 2119 GMT (0519 HKT)
What caught our experts' ears was as much about what he didn't address as much as what he did.
May 20, 2014 -- Updated 1019 GMT (1819 HKT)
The three-year war in Syria has claimed 162,402 lives, an opposition group said Monday, as the raging conflict shows no signs of abating.
May 31, 2014 -- Updated 0141 GMT (0941 HKT)
Official: The U.S. believes a jihadi featured in a suicide bombing video in Syria is Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha who grew up in Florida.
May 20, 2014 -- Updated 1437 GMT (2237 HKT)
For the first time, Britain has convicted someone of a terrorism offense related to the Syrian civil war.
ADVERTISEMENT