Syrian Chemical Weapons Destruction: Update 10

Shipments of chemical weapons from Syria have stalled for the time being.  As of last week, 11 shipments had been made from the port of Latakia in Syria, transporting 49.3% of the chemicals out of the country.  As tensions rise between Russia and the West over Crimea, however, there is a possibility that Syrian shipments might slow even further, meaning chemicals would remain in the country past even the June 30th deadline.

This past week, the Nuclear Security Summit took place in The Hague. Many officials took this opportunity to stop by the OPCW. The Director General of the OPCW Ahmet Uzumcu met with Italian Foreign Minister Ms. Federica Mogherini, Russian Foreign Minister Mr. Sergey Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State Mr. John Kerry, Japanese Prime Minister Mr. Shinzo Abe, Australian Foreign Minister Hon. Julie Bishop MP, and Cypriot Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Ministry Mr. Alexandros Zenon.

On Wednesday, 26 March 2014, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the next steps for American foreign policy on Syria.  Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation Thomas Countryman from the Department of State was rather pessimistic about the Syrian operation.  He told the Committee that it was unclear whether the Assad regime had disclosed its full chemical arsenal to international authorities and that he could only discuss these matters in a confidential briefing; Countryman told Senators that the private briefing would be “illuminating” as to whether there were undisclosed weapons or facilities that needed to be isolated and destroyed.  Countryman also briefly discussed the need for destruction of Syria’s former CW production facilities, about which there have been many discussions in the past month.  This information comes as recently confirmed Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security at the U.S. Department of State Rose Gottemoeller flew to Cyprus after the Nuclear Security Summit to meet with UN Special Coordinator Sigrid Kaag to further discuss the joint UN-OPCW Syrian operation.

There is still very little information forthcoming regarding public outreach in Rota, Spain, and the Mediterranean in general.  As mentioned previously, the U.S., UN, and OPCW would like to organize a day of outreach to officials, NGOs and media to further discuss the chemical weapons destruction process aboard the MV Cape Ray.  It now looks unlikely that the planned Green Cross International public forum in Rome will take place; however, Green Cross Italy Director Elio Pacilio is spoke on Friday, March 28th, at the University of Rome to shed some light on the process.  More public outreach is needed: over the weekend, over ten thousand Crete citizens protested against the OPCW-UN plan to destroy the chemicals on board ship in the Mediterranean.

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