October 10, 2013
Russia has sent a list of its chemical weapons experts to the head of the international team working to rid Syria of chemical weapons production capability and stockpiles, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday.
The head of the joint UN-Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) team told journalists in The Hague Wednesday that it plans to visit at least 20 chemical weapon storage facilities in the coming weeks.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that the joint team should comprise 100 specialists in Syria and Cyprus to accomplish this mandate. With the arrival of a new 12-member team in Syria today, there are currently 27 OPCW experts on the ground, according to the organisation’s spokesman cited by AFP.
“We have sent a list of 13 experts to OPCW general director, who oversees the inspection teams’ staffing,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told a news briefing in Moscow on Thursday.
Under an ambitious US-Russian deal struck in September, the Syrian government’s entire chemical arsenal must be placed under international control by November and destroyed by June 30, 2014. According to some estimates, it includes 1,000 tons of the nerve agent sarin, VX nerve gas, mustard gas and other banned chemicals.
Lukashevich said the international community faces a daunting task in Syria as some chemical weapons could be located in combat zones.
An EU source told RIA Novosti on Thursday night that Russian diplomats will meet with their European colleagues on Friday to discuss the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles.
The US Pentagon has, meanwhile, suggested using a US-made mobile destruction unit to deal with the weapons, the news agency Reuters reported Thursday.