Syrian Chemical Weapons Destruction: Update 32

A letter released on Wednesday, 27 August, addressed to the president of the UN Security Council British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated that the Joint Mission of the UN and the OPCW will come to a close in September 30th. He added that despite the dissolution of this joint mission “[s]uccessor arrangements will be in place at that time to ensure a seamless transition.” However no elaboration was provided on what exactly this might entail. In addition, the UNSC stated that negotiations with the OPCW concerning the destruction of 12 former chemical weapons production facilities in Syria is ongoing.

A monthly report on Syria was attached to the letter stating that the OPCW’s fact-finding team was “continuing its work to establish the facts surrounding the allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic.” This dissolution of the Joint Mission comes at a precarious time as a UN commission of inquiry (the independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria) reported the Syrian government of dropping barrel bombs on civilians—a war crime under international law. Furthermore these bombs were believed to contain chlorine in eight occurrences in April. This report has called for an arms embargo on the Syrian government. It stated that, “the [Syrian] Government continues to commit violations, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, with impunity.” Importantly, this report marks the first time that the UN has outright given direct blame to the Assad-run Syrian government.

In more positive news the OPCW reported on Thursday, August 28, that 93.8% of the Syrian chemical weapons agents and precursors have now been neutralized and/pr incinerated. This includes 100% of “category 1” chemicals – 1,047 metric tons, and 79.1% of “category 2” chemicals – 207.8 MTs. Interestingly, the total tonnage of Syrian declared chemicals has been increased to 1,309.8 MTs from the earlier August 14th estimate of 1,301.3 MTs. The July 28th estimate was 1,292.7 MTs. There was no explanation as to why these totals have increased over the past month. The OPCW also stated in the August 28th statement that additional destruction operations would continue in Finland, the UK, US, and Germany of toxic effluent and toxic waste from the Syrian program.