Last updated: 18 November, 2013

Belgian minister “not favourable” to Syrian arms destruction

Belgian Defence Minister Pieter De Crem on Monday said he was “not favourable” to destroying part of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal in Belgium.

Belgium, along with France and Albania, were contacted by the United States as possible sites for the dismantling of Syria’s more than 1,000-tonne arsenal. Albania has since refused to take part.

“I’m ready to make an effort to contribute, but I’m not favourable at first sight and in the longterm to doing that at home,” De Crem told the Flemish VRT radio station.

Belgium on the other hand was prepared to help in making an inventory of the weapons, he said. “We can offer our help to neutralise them” but “I believe this should be done near Syria, in the wider sense,” he was quoted as saying by Belga news agency.

“Transporting these arms is in itself a difficult mission,” he added.

Albania last Friday said it would not help destroy the arsenal on its territory after the move sparked a string of domestic protests.

Norway too has ruled out destroying the chemical weapons on its soil but along with Denmark has offered ships to help take the chemicals out of Syria.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also offered financial or technical help on joining talks with his European Union counterparts in Brussels.

“It is decisive, crucial to find ways to destroy the chemical weapons and Germany is ready to support this with financial and technological support.”

The world’s chemical watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), on Friday adopted a final roadmap for ridding Syria of the weapons by mid-2014.