Last updated: 19 March, 2014

Syria surrenders almost half chemical arsenal

Syria has removed almost half of its chemical arsenal from the war-torn country, the world’s chemical watchdog said Wednesday, including its entire stock of lethal mustard gas.

Two shipments have in the last week been transferred from the port of Latakia to Norwegian and Danish vessels for destruction outside the country, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in a statement.

Syria has now handed over its entire stock of mustard gas, the only chemical agent Damascus had that did not require mixing to be used, the OPCW said.

Despite having shipped 45.6 percent of its Category 1 and Category 2 chemicals, Syria remains behind schedule for the destruction of its entire arsenal by June 30.

That deadline was agreed by Russia and the United States last year as part of a plan to avert US-backed military strikes in the wake of deadly chemical attacks outside Damascus blamed by the West on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The OPCW earlier this month noted that Syria had increased the pace of removing or destroying its arsenal after missing critical deadlines.

Syria was to have shipped out most dangerous Category 1 chemicals by December 31 and Category 2 chemicals by February 5.

Syria has destroyed 93 percent of its stocks of isopropanol, used to make sarin nerve gas, a task that was supposed to have been completed by March 1.

Syria has also missed a March 15 deadline to have destroyed its 12 chemical weapon production facilities.

Once Syria has delivered its chemicals to the main port Latakia, they are to be taken by Western warships to a US vessel, the MV Cape Ray, aboard which they will be broken down at sea using hydrolysis, a process expected to take 90 days.

UN Security Council resolution 2118 was passed after a massive chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds in several opposition areas around Damascus in August.

Rebels and the regime exchanged blame for that attack.