U.N.: Syria chemical deadline ‘unlikely’ to be met
The U.S.-Russia deal aims to remove all of Syria‘s chemical weapons by mid-2014
The United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced on Saturday that the Syrian government is "unlikely" to meet a Dec. 31 deadline to transport the most dangerous chemical weapons out of the country.
"Preparations continue in readiness for the transport of most of the critical chemical material from the Syrian Arab Republic for outside destruction. However, at this stage, transportation of the most critical chemical material before 31 December is unlikely," said a joint U.N.-OPCW statement, according to Agence France-Presse.
Both organizations called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to “intensify efforts” to meet the deadlines despite notable “important progress” being made on Syria's chemical arsenal.
The U.N. and OPCW welcomed "important milestones" already met by Assad's government, but highlighted "the importance of maintaining positive momentum" in the disposal of the weapons.
The year-end deadline was the first step under the U.N. Security Council-backed agreement between the U.S. and Russia for the removal of Syria‘s chemical weapons.
In the statement, the two bodies said that Syria has started the destruction of chemical equipment at facilities it declared and completed the eradication of missiles intended for chemical weapons use ahead of schedule.
They added that Syria's worsening civil war, logistical problems and bad weather had held up the operation to move chemical agents to the port of Latakia.
Sent to port
Under the plan agreed on by the U.S. and Russia, Syria’s chemicals will be sent to an Italian port before being transported to a U.S. Navy ship specially fitted with equipment to destroy the weapons at sea.
The chemical weapons destruction operation is being monitored by both the U.N. and the OPCW even though the Syrian government has prime responsibility for moving the chemicals.
The international agreement reached on Sept. 26 aims to destroy all of the country’s chemical arms by the middle of 2014.
The deal has averted U.S.-led military strikes after a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 near Damascus that the Washington said killed 1,400 people.