United Nations, Dec 5 — The head of the joint United Nations and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons team charged with eliminating chemical weapons in Syria said Wednesday that despite obstacles, the programme to remove and destroy chemical agents at sea was on track.
Sigrid Kaag, chief of the mission, said the weapons would be broken down into various chemical agents and put aboard a ship in the Syrian Mediterranean port of Latakia, before being taken to another as yet unidentified port to be “transloaded” onto, most likely, a US naval ship for disposal.
She reassured that all precautions were being taken and a representative of the UN Environmental Program was present in Syria to ensure safety, reported Xinhua.
Speaking to reporters outside the UN Security Council chamber, Kaag said that in her second monthly report to the Council, she briefed its 15 members about the “progress made to date”.
But most importantly, the mission chief also briefed them on the “preparations for the very critical phase III, which is the removal out of country of the most critical chemical agents”.
“We went a little bit of the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ and the work of the joint mission, but of course very mindful of the very volatile conditions in country, in an active war zone,” she said.
Kaag said one of the main problems was security, explaining that when she recently had to go to Latakia from Damascus, she could not go by road but instead had to fly to Beirut and then take a helicopter to Latakia because of fighting along the Damascus-Latakia road.
She added that she had discussed the security measures that need to be taken by the Syrian government, which is responsible for safety and security, and the “constructive cooperation with the Syrian authorities”.
“The question always is the deadlines,” Kaag said, referring to questions raised by Council members.
“The ambition levels are very high — the questions asked: ‘Can you do it? Will you do it?’ Our response is we’ve done everything we can. The joint mission, the Syrian authorities are preparing. There is full international support. The effort is there and now we need to see to make sure that we can actually do it,” she said.
The joint team has been mandated by the Council to have eliminated all chemical weapons from Syria by the middle of next year.