Syrian Chemical Weapons Destruction: Update 7

This week the OPCW received a revised timeframe from the Syrian Arab Republic that aims to have all chemical weapons removed from the country by the end of April 2014.  This is three months past the original deadline of the beginning of February 2014.  The Executive Council of the OPCW met this week, March 4-7, 2014, to review the Syrian proposal, but no official statement has yet been issued.  As reported in prior updates, the US and other States Parties have been highly critical of these ongoing shipment delays in Syria.

The OPCW-UN Joint Mission revealed that another two shipments of chemicals, including Priority 1 sulphur mustard agent, have made it to the port of Latakia this week.  This brings the total number of shipments up to six since January.  Special Coordinator Sigrid Kaag has said that one third of Syrian chemicals have now been removed from the country, probably about 400 metric tons.  According to an OPCW press release, with the sixth shipment, 35% of the chemicals, including 23% of the Priority 1 chemicals and 63% of the Priority 2 chemicals, will have been removed from Syria.

US officials have estimated that the first-stage processing on board the MV Cape Ray will take 60-90 days, so the current schedule to complete this stage by June 30, 2014 might still be met, but with few if any days to spare.  The current schedule also includes final second-stage destruction at the land-based commercial facilities by the end of 2014.

Once the chemicals have been removed by the Danish and Norwegian ships from the port of Latakia, about 560 metric tons, including some 23 metric tons of mustard agent, will be transferred to the U.S. MV Cape Ray in the Italian port of Gioia Tauro for first-stage destruction through hydrolysis, and another 600 metric tons or more of precursor chemicals will be destroyed in countries including the UK, Germany, Finland, and the U.S.  This land-based destruction will also include several thousand metric tons of neutralized toxic waste, 240 55-gallon drums with liquid and solid waste, and 50 cubic-yard containers with spent filters.