Syria speeds up chemical weapon removal to meet June deadline

BY newsdesk  March 4, 2014 at 5:01 PM EDT
Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations mission for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons, said the Syrian government plans to accelerate the weapons removal and destruction in order to complete the process on schedule. Photo by Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images

Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations mission for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, said the Syrian government plans to accelerate the weapons removal and destruction in order to complete the process on schedule. Photo by Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images

The Syrian government is recovering from delays in reliquishing its chemical weapons and can still meet the deadline for their entire removal, an official said on Tuesday.

Sigrid Kaag, who heads the joint Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations mission, said Syria agreed to a 60-day timeframe to accelerate the weapons removal and destruction. “But of course our message is always one of continued expectation to achieve more, to do more and to do it safely and securely,” she said.

The international community is working in coordination to destroy about 1,300 metric tons of chemicals. Kaag said about one-third of the stockpile has been removed to date.

Syria had missed deadlines in December and February to turn over its chemical weapons, including mustard gas. The country has until the end-of-June to get rid of its entire stockpile on time. Under its revised proposal, Syria would hand over all chemical weapons by the end of April to have other countries destroy them by the June deadline.

“Given delays since the lapse of the two target dates for removal, it will be important to maintain this newly created momentum,” OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu told delegates at the group’s meeting on Tuesday.

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