DAMASCUS: Syria’s entire declared stock of chemical weapons has been placed under seal, inspectors said Thursday, as international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi wrapped up a visit to muster support for peace talks.
“All stocks of chemical weapons and agents have been placed under seals that are impossible to break,” Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons spokesman Christian Chartier said, adding that the seals were “tamper proof.”
“These are 1,000 tonnes of chemical agents (which can be used to make weapons) and 290 tonnes of chemical weapons,” Chartier told AFP in The Hague.
The OPCW said earlier that Syria’s declared chemical arms production equipment had been completely destroyed.
Inspectors had until Friday to visit all chemical sites and destroy all production and filling equipment in accordance with a timeline laid down by the OPCW and a UN Security Council resolution.
The resolution stating that the arsenal must be destroyed by mid-2014, was agreed by the United States and Russia to avert military strikes on Syria after deadly chemical weapons attacks near Damascus in August.
The West blamed those attacks, which killed hundreds of people, on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which denied all responsibility, instead blaming the attack on rebels.
Washington said it was “increasingly confident” the chemical arsenal would be eliminated by June 30th of next year.
“Our target dates are ambitious but they are achievable. We have the support of the international community,” Thomas Countryman, a senior State Department official in charge of non-proliferation issues, told US lawmakers.
OPCW head of field operations, Jerry Smith, told the BBC his team had “personally observed all the destruction activities.”
“They are not now in a position to conduct any further production or mixing of chemical weapons.”
Smith said inspectors went to all but two of Syria’s 23 chemical weapons sites, and that the contents of the last two sites — in areas considered too dangerous to visit — had been moved to sites the inspectors did check.
“Therefore we have visited and seen the destruction of all Syria’s declared chemical weapons (production) capability,” he said.
IHS Jane’s Consulting hailed the inspection “milestone” but cautioned that the work was far from over, noting that Syria’s entire existing chemical arsenal is still under regime control.
“This is a very hurried process that has significant and real uncertainty associated with it. Only when the weapons are destroyed or removed from Syria will it be complete,” IHS Jane’s director David Reeths told AFP.