There have been no new developments this week on the Syrian chemical weapons destruction plan. This certainly cements prior statements that the June 30 deadline will not be met to destroy the Syrian “Priority One” chemicals on board the U.S. MV Cape Ray.
As mentioned last week, Special Representative of the UN-OPCW Joint Mission Sigrid Kaag met with reporters and said that while “significant” progress has been made, Syria still needed to remove 7.2% of the chemicals from the country. The approximately 100 metric tons of chemicals left in the country include the precursors needed to make sarin nerve agent, which was allegedly used in the August 2013 attack that prompted international involvement in the ongoing civil war. The 30 June deadline refers to the agreement to remove and neutralize all of Syria’s “Priority One” chemicals aboard the U.S. MV Cape Ray; first-stage processing of “Priority Two” chemicals and second-stage processing of neutralized chemicals at facilities in Finland, the UK, Germany and the U.S. have a 31 December 2014 deadline
The 92.8% of the Syrian chemicals that have been transported out of Syria thus far have been placed on the Norwegian Taiko and the Danish Ark Futura ships. The Taiko left the port of Latakia on 6 June to bring chemicals to the disposal facilities in Finland and the United States. The Ark Futura will remain in the waters around the port of Latakia until the remaining 7.2% of chemicals are removed from the final facility near Damascus. The Danish ship will then bring the chemicals to the port of Gioia Tauro in Italy to be transferred to the American ship for destruction via hydrolysis in international waters of the Mediterranean between Italy, Greece, and Libya. There is some remaining concern that the US and Italy have reportedly not yet agreed on liability for the transshipment in Italy; this could delay the Cape Ray processing schedule further.
Some good news is that US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reportedly discussed the Syrian chemical weapons destruction progress this week by phone.
On Tuesday, 10 June, Dr. Paul Walker of Green Cross International spoke at Deutsche Welle in Bonn, Germany on the Syrian chemical weapons destruction process. In an event hosted by Amerika Haus, Dr. Walker spoke on the challenge the OPCW inspectors are facing to fulfill their duties within civil war torn Syria, most recently to evaluate the alleged use of chlorine as a chemical weapon, and the innovative process the international community has begun to destroy the Syrian chemicals at sea, which has never been done before.