Syria misses deadline for chemical weapons destruction


A UN chemical weapons disarmament team arrived in Syria on Oct.1, 2013, to begin inventorying the country’s chemical weapons stockpile in readiness for its destruction. Photo by Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images

Ships carrying some of Syria’s chemical weapons to Italy aborted their mission and returned to port in Cyprus Monday night, reports the AFP, missing a deadline outlined by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The Dec. 31 deadline was the first key milestone under a deal arranged by Russia and the United States and backed by the United Nations Security Council that aims disarm Syria of its chemical weapons arsenal.

The OPCW Director-General Ahmet Ãœzümcü announced Saturday the possibility of delays. In a statement to the organization’s executive council, he said that “schedules have been disrupted by a combination of security concerns, clearance procedures in international transit and even inclement weather conditions.”

While the year-end deadline was missed, OPCW spokesman Christian Chartier told AFP that the organization was still on track to meet the overall deadline to remove Syria’s chemical stockpiles by June 30, 2014.