ESS Blog

2014 Mar 21st

Syrian Chemical Weapons Destruction: Update 9

According to reports by Reuters, the Syrian port of Latakia, from where the Syrian chemical weapons are being transported out of the country, has been attacked by rockets numerous times this past month.  Last week, we reported that the port city had been fired upon twice, and this week that number has been increased to five times.  Reuters reports that while at least one of the rockets landed near where the UN-OPCW experts were staying, none of the chemical transports were hit.

As of 20 March 2014, the OPCW confirmed that another consignment of Priority 1 chemicals was sent from Latakia on its way to Gioia Tauro in Italy to be transferred for hydrolysis aboard the MV Cape Ray.  With this most recent shipment, 11 shipments constituting just under half (49.3%) of the chemicals will have been removed from Syria.  The most recent update states that 34.8% of the Priority 1 chemicals and 82.6% of the Priority 2 chemicals have been shipped out of the country on the Danish and Norwegian ships for destruction.

It is still unclear which chemicals make up Priority 1 or 2, or how many tons of each chemical there are in total.  The OPCW press release does confirm that most Priority 1 chemicals will be destroyed via hydrolysis aboard the American MV Cape Ray, with a small portion destroyed at a facility in Ellesmere, UK; the effluent from the neutralization of the 23 tons of mustard agent will be destroyed in Germany.  The Priority 2 chemicals will be destroyed at commercial facilities in the U.S. and Finland.

It now appears unlikely that there will be a Green Cross International public forum on the Syrian chemical weapons disposal process in Rome, Italy as neither the UN nor the OPCW will utilize donations from the Syria Trust Fund for this form of public outreach.  Rather, the OPCW, UN, and US government appear to be supporting a day of events aboard the MV Cape Ray while it is docked in Rota, Spain to answer the growing number of governmental, NGO, and press inquiries about the process and its potential impacts on public health and the environment in the Mediterranean. 

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