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Monday, April 28, 2014

Ban's report on chemical weapons in Syria

25 April 2014
Dear Madam President,
I have the honour to transmit herewith the seventh monthly report of the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) pursuant to paragraph 12 of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) (see annex). The present letter provides information requested in that resolution on the activities of the United Nations from 22 March to 24 April 2014 related to the implementation of the resolution.

During the latter half of the reporting period, the Syrian Arab Republic made important progress towards the elimination of its entire declared stockpile of chemical weapons material. As at 24 April 2014, the total figure for removal and in-country destruction had reached 92.5%. This includes 96.7% of high priority chemical materials and 82.6% of other chemical materials removed. The amount of declared isopropanol verified as destroyed in-country remained at 93.1%.
The Syrian Arab Republic had earlier committed to removing all chemical weapons material from its territory by 13 April 2014, apart from material located at two sites that were considered inaccessible by the government owing to the prevailing security situation, which were to be cleared by 27 April 2014. The Syrian authorities postponed planned chemical weapons material removal operations for two weeks in late March 2014 in view of the deterioration in the security situation in the Latakia region. Removal operations resumed on 4 April 2014 and a systematic and regular series of movements was re-established in mid-April 2014.
At the same time, the Syrian Arab Republic had made significant progress eliminating other parts of its chemical weapons programme. This included the destruction of the remaining standard equipment and buildings related to the storage and production of chemical weapons material, aside from the twelve remaining production facilities currently awaiting an OPCW Executive Council Decision on the modalities for destruction.
It is critical for the Syrian Arab Republic to maintain its commitment and determination in ensuring the removal and in-country destruction of the final 7.5% of its declared chemical weapons material, and the timely completion of other remaining activities. This would permit the Syrian Arab Republic to achieve remaining timelines in line with its obligations under Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) and relevant Decisions of the OPCW Executive Council.

Activities towards the elimination of the chemical weapons programme of the Syrian Arab Republic
Following military confrontations in the north of the Latakia region that began on 21 March 2014, the Syrian Arab Republic authorities informed the Joint Mission that the security situation necessitated the diversion of military forces and the redeployment of security assets previously dedicated to safeguarding the security of chemical weapons material during the course of transport and loading operations at the port of Latakia. In view of this development, the Syrian Arab Republic postponed scheduled movements.
During the initial part of the reporting period, the Syrian Arab Republic continued packing and loading chemical weapons material at storage facilities in preparation for movement to Latakia. At the same time, Syrian personnel conducted internal movements consolidating material from sites deemed vulnerable to attack, by moving them to safer locations. At the request of the Joint Mission, the Syrian Arab Republic also carried out concurrent activities required prior to the closing of each of the twelve chemical weapons storage facilities and eighteen production facilities. These activities included the decontamination of containers with chemical residue and the destruction of remaining standard buildings and equipment. Syrian personnel also destroyed all remaining containers that had previously held sulphur mustard. These operations were subsequently verified by the Joint Mission.
Consequently, by the end of the reporting period, the Joint Mission had verified the closure of eleven of the twelve declared storage facilities, and five of the six production facilities that are not currently under review at the OPCW Executive Council. Notably, the modalities of destructiOn for the remaining twelve production facilities are currently under review by the OPCW Executive Council.
Following the resumption of chemical weapons material removal operations on 4 April 2014, the Syrian Arab Republic had conducted a total of 18 movements until 24 April 2014. During this period, the Syrian Arab Republic reiterated its concerns over the security risks posed by ongoing military confrontations in the north of the Latakia region. Accordingly,_the authorities decided to limit the size of each convoy. Nevertheless, the Syrian Arab Republic achieved the removal of all declared chemical Weapons material with the exception of material held at one site, Where the Government had determined it would not be possible to undertake removal operations due to the prevailing security situation. Some 7.5% of declared chemical weapons material now remains at this one site in the Syrian Arab Republic. This includes high priority and other chemicals, as well as a small percentage of isopropanol which is to be destroyed in-country. The Syrian authorities have recommitted to the removal and destruction of this remaining stockpile as soon as the security situation permits.
Any further postponement in the completion of chemical weapons material removal operations will delay the commencement of outside country destruction activities. This in turn could delay full elimination of the chemical weapons programme as envisioned in the relevant Decisions of the OPCW Executive Council and Security Council resolution 2118 (2013). Furthermore, postponement in the'completion of removal operations increases direct and indirect costs to Member States participating in the maritime effort. An early commencement of out-of-country destruction is imperative. The Joint Mission engaged with the Syrian Arab Republic on a continuous basis to provide recommendations to its Syrian counterparts and helped to facilitate progress in furtherance of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013). The Special Coordinator remained in close contact with senior Syrian officials underscoring the critical importance of the timely removal of chemical weapons material.
The Joint Mission maintained its operations throughout the reporting period. It conducted sampling and analysis of chemical weapons material, and carried out verification and inspection activities, including final inspections of storage and production facilities. Verification and inspection were carried out physically at sites Where security conditions were conducive, and remotely, using surveillance camera equipment, Where security conditions did not permit. During removal operations, Joint Mission personnel carried out additional verification and inspection activities at the port of embarkation prior to loading the containers onto the cargo vessels.
The Joint Mission continued outreach activities With representatives of contributing Member States, including those assisting in maritime operations. During the reporting period, the Special Coordinator visited Egypt and met with diplomatic representatives in Damascus, Beirut and Nicosia. The Joint Mission continued its engagement with the World Health Organization (WHO) helping to strengthen the hazard response capability of the Syrian Arab Republic, including managing and responding to chemical accidents and mass casualty incidents involving toxic materials.

As the Syrian conflict continues, significant progress had been made towards the elimination of the chemical weapons programme of the Syrian Arab Republic, which must reach its successful conclusion as quickly as possible.
It is the responsibility of the Syrian Arab Republic to complete the removal of its entire stockpile of chemical weapons material and ensure the full elimination of its chemical weapons programme on its territory. The continuing the security situation only underscores the importance of expediting the removal of remaining chemical weapons material and the destruction of remaining parts of its chemical weapons programme.
I call once more on Member States to use their influence on all of the parties to the Syrian conflict to abstain from any activity which could directly or indirectly impact the completion of chemical weapons material removal operations and remaining in—country destruction activities, including the safety and security of Joint Mission personnel.
I am concerned about recent reports of allegations regarding the use of toxic chemicals during the course of the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic. All necessary steps should be taken to establish the facts surrounding these allegations.
A number of Member States have provided significant funds and in-kind contributions towards the removal and destruction of chemical weapons material from the Syrian Arab Republic. This support will be required a while longer to complete remaining removal operations. There may be an additional requirement to support possible destruction activities related to production facilities currently under review in the OPCW Executive Council.
Once again, I Wish to express my appreciation'to the Special Coordinator and the staff of the Joint Mission for working 'under hazardous and challenging circumstances inside the Syrian Arab Republic. The safety and security of the Joint Mission is ultimately the responsibility of the Syrian Arab Republic. It remains amongst my highest concerns. The Joint Mission shall continue to assess the security situation and review its presence on the ground. It shall do so in order to minimise risks and undertake its remaining mandated activities as quickly and safely as possible. '
In the face of the tragedy that has befallen the Syrian people, the timely completion of the elimination of the Syrian Arab Republic’s chemical weapons programme will make a modest, but hopefully meaningful, contribution to peace and security in the country and the Wider region.
I would be grateful if you would bring the present letter and its annex urgently to the attention of the members of the Security Council.
Please accept, Madam President, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Ban Ki-moon
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