THE HAGUE: The last of Syria’s declared chemical agents have been shipped from the war-torn country after months of delays and are en route for destruction at sea, the world’s chemical watchdog said.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the news on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) and said the successful completion of such a tricky exercise showed that, when there was the political will, “there can be progress towards peace.”
Speaking in New York City, he praised several countries for their role, including China, Russia, Britain and the United States as well as Syria itself.
“As we speak, the ship [carrying the last chemicals]has just left the port [of Latakia],” Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, told journalists Monday in The Hague, where the OPCW is based.
“Removing the stockpile of precursor and other chemicals has been a fundamental condition in the program to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons,” Uzumcu said.
The Dutch head of the joint OPCW-UN mission, Sigrid Kaag, hailed the end of “the most operationally challenging task” in the international efforts to destroy Damascus’ chemical arsenal.
Syria had previously shipped out 92 percent of its stockpile of chemical weapons under the terms of a UN-backed and US-Russia brokered agreement to head off Western air strikes against the regime last year.
But Damascus delayed shipping the remaining 8 percent of the stockpile from another site, citing security concerns over transporting it to the port of Latakia.
“While a major chapter in our endeavors closes today, OPCW’s work in Syria will continue,” Uzumcu said.