Syrian Chemical Weapons Destruction: Update 17

There has been no further movement this week of the remaining 7.5% of chemicals left in Syria.  At least 100 metric tons of chemicals, including the precursors to sarin, remain in the country as the 30 June international deadline approaches for the chemicals to be transported out of Syria and destroyed in first-stage.  As mentioned last week’s update, the international community has stressed the importance of completing this mission as soon as possible, and has urged Syria to move the last 100 MTs to the port of Latakia without any more delays.

Evidence is mounting that the Assad regime has used chlorine against Syrian citizens.  After allegations last month, various sources have been clarifying whether chlorine was indeed used.  In a report released on 13 May, Human Rights Watch, the international NGO, claimed there was “strong evidence” the Syrian government had dropped barrel bombs with chlorine gas on at least three towns in Northern Syria in April 2014.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said that there is strong evidence that Assad’s forces have used chlorine gas, and potentially other chemical weapons as well, in the past few months.  This not only violates the Chemical Weapons Convention, of which Syria is now a member, but also shows Assad again working against Western powers.

In response to a question on the chlorine attacks from the Washington Post, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he has “seen the raw data that suggests there have been…a number of instances in which chlorine has been used in the conduct of war.”  Secretary Kerry’s statement is the most recent of three P5 (the British and French have also alleged chlorine use) confirmations of evidence pointing against Assad.  Kerry went on to say that “there will be consequences [if chlorine was used but that] we’re not going to pin ourselves down to a precise date, time, manner of action.”

The OPCW sent international inspectors to Syria, with the approval of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a week ago to investigate the alleged chlorine attacks.  An OPCW report is expected to be available on this visit in the next few weeks.

And finally, on Monday, May 19th, Green Cross International, the CWC Coalition, and the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, will host a roundtable discussion on Syria and chemical weapons in Geneva, Switzerland.  Speaking at the meeting will be Alexander Likhotal and Paul Walker of Green Cross, Serguei Batsanov of Pugwash, Ralf Trapp formerly of the OPCW, and Jean Pascal Zanders of The Trench.