U.S. Slams Continued Delays In Removing Syria’s Chemical Weapons

CREDIT: AP Photo/Syrian State Television

The United States on Friday slammed the Syrian government for its delays in implementing the deal designed to rid the country of its chemical weapons, saying President Bashar al-Assad’s government had placed “its energy into excuses, instead of actions.”

Ambassador Robert P. Mikulak made the remarks at the latest meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ (OPCW) Executive Council. This 41-member panel charts the course of the organization and is charged with overseeing last year’s agreement to extract Syria’s chemical weapons and destroy them. Mikaluk conceded that in the weeks since the last meeting of the Executive Council, there had been progress seen in the third transfer of chemicals for destruction. That progress, however, is not enough to satisfy the international community, Mikulak argued.

“The fact remains, however, that 95.5 percent of Priority One chemicals – CW agent and key binary precursors – remain in Syria as well as 81.1 percent of Priority Two chemicals, well beyond the dates set for removal by the Executive Council,” he lamented. “And the Syrian Government continues to put its energy into excuses, instead of actions.” Under the terms of the deal, all of Syria’s deadliest chemicals were to have been removed from the country by December 31, while the next most dangerous were to have been destroyed on February 5. Both deadlines have so far been missed.

Syria has regularly blamed the security situation its ongoing civil war has created as the reason behind the delays, but the United States believes that the government has been hiding behind the situation as an excuse to have lengthy delays between movement of chemical agents. In their latest report on the progress the Joint United Nations/OPCW mission to fulfill the terms of the agreement, the United Nations agreed with Washington’s assessment. “While remaining aware of the challenging security situation inside the Syrian Arab Republic, it is the assessment of the Joint Mission that the Syrian Arab Republic has sufficient material and equipment to carry out multiple ground movements to ensure the expeditious removal of chemical weapons material,” the report, released under Ban’s name, reads.

Though he didn’t call out Moscow by name, Mikaluk placed the blame on Russia’s shoulders for the lack of discussion over the delays at the OPCW’s last meeting. “Because a single member of this Council put its own political agenda above the welfare of the people of Syria and the international community,” Mikalkuk said. “This lapse in leadership was unworthy of this Council and an affront to the dedicated efforts of the OPCW Technical Secretariat and the OPCW-UN Joint Mission to remove chemical weapons from the military arsenal of the Assad regime.”

Syria on Friday submit to the OPCW a new 100-day plan to ensure that all of its weapons and facilities used to produce them are destroyed by the final June 30 deadline. This new plan, according to U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane, will need to be endorsed by both the OPCW and the United Nations Security Council, on which the United States possesses a veto.

The next deadline for Syria is the destruction of its twelve chemical weapons production facilities, which is supposed to be completed by March 15. “The weeks ahead will be critical for the success of this historic endeavor,” Mikulak said. “The United States urges Syria to finally make a course correction and fully comply with its obligations.”

Should Syria not, he warned, “this Council, and indeed the broader international community, will need to consider the steps that will need to be taken to ensure that the promise of our September 27, 2013, decision and UN Security Council resolution 2118 are realized, and chemical weapons are forever removed from the hands of the Assad regime.” In that event, the matter will return to the U.N. Security Council to determine the next course of action, including possibly issuing economic sanctions or other measures against the Assad government.