Syrian Chemical Weapons Destruction: Update 42

Sigrid Kaag, the leader of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission of Syrian chemical weapons removal, adressed the UN Security Council on Wednesday, November 5. She stated that the destruction of the remaining 13 chemical production and storage facilities will begin this month. This destruction process is likely to be completed by the summer of 2015. Kaag also mentioned that the OPCW is in Damascus this week in order begin the planning of the destruction process. These 13 facilities include seven hangers, five underground tunnels and one ricin production facility; the latter, along with three R&D facilities, was not disclosed in the initial Syrian handover of chemical weapons information.

A chemical plant in Germany charged with the task of disposing of about 400 metric tons of sulphur mustard agent, neutralized aboard the Cape Ray this summer has
reported injuries to workers. Three workers suffered burns from handling neutralized mustard gas. Andreas Krueger, chief of GEKA the firm set up by the German Defence Ministry to destroy the toxic effluent, revealed that the workers “were pushing what they thought was an empty gas container into the furnace.” However, it was not and the resulting release in vapour resulted in minor injuries for those three workers involved. This demonstrates how volatile mustard gas can be even after neutralization, let alone when actually employed as a weapon.

The CWC Coalition will participate in the upcoming 19th CWC Conference of States Parties (CSP) in The Hague, The Netherlands, December 1-5, 2014. Three CWCC side events will be held, including an Open Forum, a roundtable on “Syria, Libya, and the Middle East,” and a session on “Updating Chemical Weapons Demilitarization.” In addition, the CWCC will organize a business meeting and an evening reception. The CWC Coalition also just organized a roundtable discussion in Tel Aviv, Israel, in partnership with the Israeli Disarmament Movement, November 10-12, 2014, including a meeting with Knesset members in Jerusalem. A report will be forthcoming on this key meeting to discuss Israeli options for CWC ratification.