Tuesday, December 3, 2013

UNSG Ban's plan to move chemical weapons out of Syria

Sigrid Kaag, Special Coordinator of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission
 to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons programme, 
speaks to the press following her briefing to the Security Council 
in closed-door consultations. 05 November 2013

27 November 2013

Dear Mr. President,
I have the honour to transmit the second monthly report of the Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) pursuant to paragraph 2 (f) of OPCW Executive Council decision EC-M-3 3/DEC.1 and paragraph 12 of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) (see annex). The present letter also provides the information requested in that resolution on the activities of the United Nations that took place from 23 October to 26 November 2013 related to the implementation of the resolution.

A number of milestones were reached during the reporting period, which the Director—General has detailed at length in his report. The Syrian Arab Republic submitted its initial declaration to OPCW on 23 October 2013, in which it disclosed details about its chemical weapons pro gramme. Furthermore, the Syrian Arab Republic submitted, as a part of its declaration, its plan for the programme’s destruction. In this plan, the Syrian authorities proposed that its chemical material should be removed from its territory for destruction.
On 21 November 2013, the Syrian Arab Republic submitted an amendment to its initial declaration increasing the total amount of declared munitions to approximately 1,260 items. '
On 31 October 2013, the Joint Mission confirmed that the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic had completed the functional destruction of critical equipment for all of its declared chemical weapons production facilities and mixing/filling plants, rendering them inoperable. By doing so, Syria met the deadline set by the OPCW Executive Council to complete destruction as soon as possible, and in any case not later than 1 November 2013.
On 15 November 2013, the OPCW Executive Council approved the destruction plan of the Syrian Arab Republic for the elimination of its chemical weapons programme. In its decision (EC-M-34/DEC.l), the Executive Council set out detailed requirements and a clear set of timelines for the removal and destruction of primary chemical material outside the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as the destruction of other chemical material, unfilled chemical munitions and chemical weapons production facilities inside the Syrian Arab Republic.
During this reporting period, the Special Coordinator visited Moscow, Washington D.C., The Hague, London and Ankara. She also participated in planning discussions at OPCW headquarters and addressed the Executive Council in The Hague, briefed the United Nations Security Council in
New York and addressed the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels. In each location, she held bilateral meetings with Member State counterparts to brief on the progress of the Joint Mission and to coordinate and seek support for its future activities. In addition, in all her meetings she solicited financial and in-kind voluntary contributions to two trust funds setup by OPCW and the United Nations to ensure that the Joint Mission operations are sufficiently funded and equipped for the significant tasks ahead.
The Special Coordinator also met with representatives of the United Nations in Geneva, including those of the Joint Special Representative for Syria, to coordinate relevant activities of the Joint Mission. She met with officials of the World Health Organization and is in contact with the United Nations Environment Programme to seek specialized assistance and advice in the domains of public health and environmental protection.
The Special Coordinator also met with counterparts in the Syrian Arab Republic in Damascus to coordinate Joint Mission activities and to seek the Government’s continuing commitment to its obligations under Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) and OPCW Executive Council decisions. The discussions reiterated the critical need to ensure the security of Joint Mission personnel and premises. She also met with representatives of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces in Istanbul to explain the Joint Mission’s mandated tasks and activities ahead of the Syrian Arab Republic commencing the transportation of chemical material inside the country and to discuss the need for the safety of the convoys.
In conducting these activities, the Special Coordinator has remained in constant contact With the Director-General of OPCW and myself to ensure that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons headquarters in The Hague and the United Nations Secretariat are fully and expeditiously informed of progress made and challenges faced in implementing mandated tasks.

United Nations component activities
The United Nations component of the Joint Mission has augmented its essential staffing, assets and capabilities required on the ground in Damascus, has developed the Joint Mission office in Cyprus and has established a small New York office, While remaining focused on having only alight footprint in each location. To this end, the Joint Mission continues to draw on
United Nations resources in the region as well as OPCW and United Nations Headquarters. Some of the United Nations support responsibilities continue to be met through temporary deployments of United Nations personnel Who provide short-term capabilities that are critical to the Joint Mission. Currently there are 15 OPCW experts and 48 United Nations personnel working in the Joint Mission, including national staff. These numbers for both OPCW experts and United Nations personnel are tailored to the specific operational requirements of the Joint Mission.
The United Nations component in Damascus continued to provide support through coordination and liaison with the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, opposition groups and international stakeholders. It also provided the Joint Mission with security advice and risk assessments, information assessments, communications and outreach, logistical expertise, and logistical and administrative support.
The United Nations component continuously assesses the security situation as it affects the operations of the Joint Mission in the Syrian Arab Republic. It is undertaking measures to install security enhancements at its current headquarters in Damascus. While some enhancements have been implemented, others are either being installed or awaiting importation clearances. All armoured vehicles have been equipped with communications and tracking systems. Safety and security measures have been put in place for all personnel and a programme of security training courses has commenced. Despite these measures, the facility remains vulnerable to certain risks, and the Joint Mission is actively exploring viable alternative locations to base its activities, should the security situation require it.
As I stated in my last letter to the Security Council (8/2013/629), the safety and security of all Joint Mission personnel is of central concern to me, the Director-General of OPCW and the Special Coordinator. The security environment in the Syrian Arab Republic, including in Damascus, remains complex, challenging and unpredictable. The safety and security of Joint Mission personnel remains the ultimate responsibility of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic. In addition, all parties must also ensure the access and safety of Joint Mission personnel at sites Where they may exert influence, in order that the Joint Mission may fulfill its mandate.
Key personnel have now deployed to the Joint Mission office in Cyprus. A donor coordination/advisory cell has been set up to work closely With international contributors. A Swedish aircraft and crew have deployed to Cyprus to carry out cargo and personnel airlift operations for the Joint Mission. Romanian Close Personal Protection officers, based partially in Cyprus to provide protection capabilities for the Special Coordinator in the mission area, have also deployed. It is envisioned that a Danish Close Protection team will assume this role from 1 March 2014 until the end of the mandate of the Mission.
A New York office of the Joint Mission has been established at United Nations Headquarters in order to communicate and coordinate closely with Member States and to ensure timely follow-up on behalf of the Joint Mission. A United Nations Liaison Officer has been continuously present at OPCW headquarters in The Hague to further ensure close collaboration and coordination.
The United Nations and OPCW are still negotiating the tripartite status-of-mission agreement with the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic. In addition, the United Nations and OPCW are seeking to conclude a memorandum of understanding With the Syrian Arab Republic regarding the provision of medical services to Joint Mission personnel.

Phase II activities
The Joint Mission continues With ongoing phase II inspection and verification activities. While 3 of the 23 sites declared by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic have not received physical inspections by Joint Mission personnel owing to safety and security concerns, 2 of these 3 sites have now been verified with the support of sealed GPS cameras used by Syrian personnel, in accordance with guidance provided by Joint Mission inspectors. The exact geographical location and the time the images were captured were then fully authenticated. One of the two sites declared as abandoned by the Syrian Arab Republic was verified as such. Only one site remains to be verified. It has been declared by the Syrian Arab Republic as inactive. This site Will be verified as soon as conditions permit, and following a security assessment by Joint Mission personnel.
In addition, during the reporting period, Joint Mission inspectors also conducted visits to verify the complete destruction of Category 3 munitions at all relevant sites in the Damascus area, The Joint Mission has also completed plans for visits to the Horns area to verify the destruction of Category 3 munitions at the sites there. The Joint Mission remains poised to conduct visits when the security situation becomes permissive.
Also in this reporting period the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic began to destroy specialized and standard equipment belonging to production facilities, in addition to special features of buildings and standard buildings at the same locations. The Joint Mission will begin verifying activities at these sites in the coming days.

Phase III activities
In preparation for phase III activities, Joint Mission personnel visited a chemical material storage site near Damascus to determine the nature and quantity of specialist packaging materials required to safely transport all declared chemical material storage containers. The information was provided to an Operational Planning Group meeting at OPCW headquarters in The Hague, which met from 6 to 9 November 2013. Important pledges of in-kind donations, particularly from the United States of America, have since been confirmed to ensure safe and secure packaging, handling and transporting of the chemical material during phase III.
The Operational Planning Group meeting also supported the Syrian Arab Republic in outlining steps the Syrian authorities would be required to take for the removal of selected chemical material from the country for destruction outside its territory. The report of the Group includes timelines and projected logistics and security requirements considered necessary by the Syrian Arab Republic in this regard.
Following a request by the Director—General of OPCW, on 15 November 2013, the Special Coordinator sent a letter to all Member States attaching the projected logistics and security requirements identified by the Syrian Arab Republic as needed to meet the most urgent impending deadlines set out in the OPCW Executive Council decision of the same day.
The Director-General of OPCW made the letter of the Special Coordinator available to States parties of the Chemical Weapons Convention for their consideration.
Specialist packaging materials have begun to arrive in Lebanon, and the Joint Mission is contracting transport for onward movement to Damascus. Significant numbers of trucks Will be required to transfer the packaging materials overland to the Syrian capital. The Syrian authorities have identified a staging area in Damascus to store the packaging materials prior to their distribution to the various declared sites. In this connection, the United Nations and OPCW maintain that the Syrian Arab Republic, in accordance with its obligations as a State party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, is responsible for preserving public health and the environment.
In preparation for the packaging of the chemical agents, the Joint Mission has organized a packaging and International Maritime Dangerous Goods course in Beirut to train select Syrian personnel.
Joint Mission personnel have conducted an assessment mission to the port of Latakia, the location designated by the Syrian Arab Republic prior to the transfer of chemical material out of the country. The Joint Mission determined that the port city had all the necessary capabilities required to handle the planned loading and shipment of chemical warfare agents, as well as sufficiently secure facilities for the deployment of Joint Mission personnel. The Joint Mission is currently working to establish a temporary forward operating base in Latakia to support the inspection and verification of chemical material prior to loading. Chemical material may have to be repacked for maritime transport to ensure the highest safety standards.
The Joint Mission is also coordinating the offers of assistance and the planning With respect to the support of the maritime transfer of selected chemical material from the Syrian Arab Republic. In this regard, several Member States have indicated their Willingness to provide specialized cargo container vessels capable of safely storing and transporting the material at sea. Member States have also offered maritime escorts to ensure security of the vessels. The Joint Mission is in discussions with these Member States to facilitate an agreed arrangement. A maritime planning group, consisting of interested Member States, Will meet in Cyprus to take discussions forward. Details concerning the final destruction plan need to be available as soon as possible. In this regard, the United Nations and OPCW maintain that the States undertaking the removal and maritime transport should seek to agree among themselves on questions of possession, jurisdiction and control and the related questions of liability for, and mitigation of, security and other risks, including in respect of damage to public health and the environment.
In addition to the two trust funds set up by OPCW and the United Nations to fund these activities, the Director-General of OPCW was requested by the Executive Council to set up a third special trust fund to seek financial contributions for the complete destruction of the binary chemical components and associated reaction masses of the Syrian Arab Republic outside the country. On 20 November 2013, OPCW also issued an “Expression of Interest” seeking to identify commercial companies interested in participating in a future tender for the treatment and disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous organic and non-organic chemicals and related packaging materials. Member States are encouraged to contribute to all three trust funds set up by OPCW and the United Nations to ensure successful implementation of the mandate.

The Joint Mission has made considerable progress in verifying the implementation of phase II by the Syrian Arab Republic, in planning for phase III and in starting initial phase III activities. The OPCW Executive Council decision of 15 November 2013 set ambitious timelines. Achieving these timelines Will require an unprecedented effort and coordination from all stakeholders under extremely challenging conditions.
Several Member States have played a critical role assisting in the implementation of respective OPCW Executive Council decisions and Security Council resolution 2118 (2013). In particular, I would like to reiterate my appreciation to the Government of Cyprus for agreeing to host the Joint Mission office on its territory and for facilitating the deployment of Joint Mission personnel and assets. I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to the Government of Lebanon for facilitating the transit of all Joint Mission personnel and assets through Beirut’s entry hubs to the Syrian Arab Republic.
In addition, a number of Member States have provided material funding, technical expertise and critical assets to the Joint Mission, and several other Member States are awaiting confirmation of their offers. The Joint Mission has received valuable additional in-kind support from Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States and the European Union. As at 25 November 2013, the OPCW trust fund included €10.8 million With contributions from Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. The United Nations trust fund currently includes $2 million from the United States and pledges in the amount of €250,000 from Denmark and €250,000 from Luxembourg. Without this assistance, the Joint Mission would not have been able to implement its mandated tasks.
Going forward, there remain a number of issues and circumstances that could impact the implementation of mandated tasks in accordance with OPCW Executive Council decisions and Security Council resolution 2118 (2013).
First, Member State voluntary in-kind contributions continue to be at the forefront of requirements. As described above, progress has been made in procuring and delivering packaging material for phase HI activities. Member States considering contributions of assets necessary to ensure security have been asked to engage bilaterally with the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic. At the same time, the Syrian authorities are being encouraged to consider alternative options to ensure the safety and security of inland transportation for the chemical material. In addition, it is possible that other needs may be identified regarding the destruction of chemical material and reaction mass outside the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as possible additional equipment needed to complete the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons, material and production facilities inside the Syrian Arab Republic.
Second, full clarity regarding the plan for the removal and destruction of chemical material outside Syrian territory is critical, including the location for destruction. In order to move forward, detailed arrangements need to be put in place, including timelines concerning the availability of equipment and the docking facilities, and careful agreement regarding specific roles and functions of the Joint Mission and concerned Member States.
Third, the implementation of Joint Mission mandated objectives cannot occur without conditiOns inside the Syrian Arab Republic that are conducive to carrying out these tasks. The Syrian authorities have continued their constructive cooperation with the Joint Mission. Representatives of the Syrian opposition based in Istanbul have also indicated their support for the safe transportation of convoys containing chemical material. The Security Council, in resolution 2118 (2013), emphasized the importance of ensuring the security of activities undertaken by Joint Mission personnel and allowing them immediate and unfettered access. Furthermore, the Council, by that resolution, decided that all parties in the Syrian Arab Republic shall cooperate fully in this regard. Nevertheless, recent fighting in the Syrian Arab Republic shows that the security situation is volatile, unpredictable and highly dangerous.
The Director-General of OPCW and I remain deeply concerned about the safety and security of Joint Mission personnel.
Given the complexity of the mission and the unpredictable operating environment, many factors remain outside the control of the Joint Mission. Its personnel are making every effort to ensure that the necessary arrangements are in place to implement mandated objectives. The international community should remain unwavering in its support to the women and men of the Joint Mission. The United Nations will continue to act in partnership with OPCW, and through the Joint Mission, to implement the provisions of the decisions of the Executive Council (EC-M-33/DEC.1 and EC-M-34/DECl) and
Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) in their entirety.
I should be grateful if you would bring this letter urgently to the attention of the members of the Security Council.
Please accept, Mr. President, the assurances of my highest consideration.

 BAN Ki-moon
Follow me on Twitter @NabilAbiSaab


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