Syria chemical arms destruction could start in January

AFP-JIJI

The head of the world chemical weapons watchdog said Tuesday the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons could begin in late January.

“We hope that by the end of January, the destruction on the American ship could start,” the director general of the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ahmet Uzumcu, said.

The Syrian weapons are to be destroyed aboard the U.S. Navy’s MV Cape Ray, a 200-meter cargo ship.

“Much will depend in fact on the security situation and unfortunately the security situation has deteriorated over the past weeks. Some roads were not accessible,” Uzumcu said.

Uzumcu was speaking in Oslo ahead of formally receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to the OPCW in October.

The OPCW has spent years trying to rid the world of chemical weapons in relative obscurity before being thrust into the global limelight by the Syrian crisis.

To be shipped out of the country, Syria’s chemical arms must be transported through a war zone to the Mediterranean port of Latakia.

“There could be some slight delays, but I’m not that worried about delays. For me what’s important is this operation takes place in the safest and most secure manner,” Uzumcu said.

A road map adopted last month by the OPCW to rid Syria of its chemical stockpile says “priority” weapons must be removed from the country by Dec. 31.

“As to the Category Two chemical weapons which will be destroyed in commercial destruction plants, we hope that this operation could begin sometime in February,” Uzumcu said.