Friday, May 23, 2014

Ban on chemical weapons in Syria: Joint Mission will continue its work beyond June 30th

Here is the UN Secretary General's eighth report on the chemical weapons in Syria. It was sent to the Security Council today, 23 May 2014. 

23 May 2014
Dear Mr. President (of the Security Council),
I have the honour to transmit herewith the eighth monthly report of the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), submitted 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 25 April to 22 May 2014 related to the implementation of the resolution.

During the reporting period, there had been no further removal of chemical weapons material 01' verification activities allowing for the closure of additional chemical weapons storage and production facilities. However, the Syrian Arab Republic accessed the last site containing chemical weapons material, carried out the destruction of its residual stockpile of isopropanol, and prepared remaining chemical material for removal as soon as security conditions permit.
At the time of issuance of this letter, a number of activities remain outstanding in order for the Syrian Arab Republic to fully eliminate its declared chemical weapons programme in accordance with the provisions of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) and the relevant decisions of the OPCW Executive Council. These are: the removal of the remaining chemical weapons material; the destruction of structures at twelve production facilities pending an agreement on the modalities of destruction by the OPCW Executive Council; the destruction of one item of loading equipment at one production facility; and the destruction of one building located at another production facility.
The Joint Mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations for the Elimination of the Chemical Weapons Programme of the Syrian Arab Republic (Joint Mission) continues to urge the authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic to carry out all remaining activities expeditiously.

Key developments
On 27 April 2014, the internal Syrian Arab Republic timeline for the removal of all chemical weapons material passed with close to 8% of material remaining at one storage facility inside Syrian territory. The Syrian Arab Republic had long before informed the Joint Mission that it did not have full security control in the area of that site, and that they had serious concerns about the safety and security of chemical weapons material convoys leaving the facility.
On 28 April 2014, the Syrian Arab Republic reported that armed opposition groups had taken control of two nearby facilities which had previously been emptied of chemical weapons material and expanded their presence in the area, rendering the remaining active storage facility inaccessible by road. The authorities further informed that a military operation was required to access the facility in order to adequately secure the area to allow safe extraction of the chemical weapons material.
On 15 May 2014, in order to destroy the remaining quantities of isopropanol held at the site and to finalize necessary preparations for eventual transportation of chemical weapons material to Latakia, the Syrian Arab Republic chartered an aircraft funded by the Joint Mission to airlift various equipment and packaging materials to the site.
Subsequently, the Syrian Arab Republic authorities destroyed its residual stockpile of isopropanol, and completed preparatory and packaging activities in readiness to remove the last batch of chemical weapons material. As of 20 May 2014, 7.2% percent of the chemical weapons material of Syria remained in country and awaiting swift removal for onward destruction. The Government of the Syrian Arab Republic insisted that final removal operations can be conducted solely through ground transportation when security conditions allow. Officials of Syrian Arab Republic pledged-to- remove the remaining chemical material as soon as possible in the shortest possible timeframe.
Further to the visit of the OPCW Technical Secretariat team from 22 to 28 April 2014, which sought to address technical discrepancies in the original declaration, a second team arrived during the reporting period to focus on subsequent amendments and verification issues. The Syrian Arab Republic extended its constructive cooperation to the Technical Secretariat team in the course of their duties.

Joint Mission activities
The Joint Mission continued its engagement with Syrian Arab Republic officials, impressing the importance of accessing the site holding chemical weapons material and urging them to remove and destroy as relevant all remaining chemical weapons material. The Joint Mission continued outreach activities with contributing international partners and Member States in the region.
The security situation in the Syrian Arab Republic continued to be challenging. In Damascus, shelling and mortar attacks escalated during the reporting period, increasing the risks to Joint Mission and all United Nations personnel. On 6 May 2014, the area near the Joint Mission headquarters was hit by mortar shelling. As a result, one Joint Mission national personnel and another United Nations national staff member were injured when one of the mortars landed close to their home, some 300 meters from the Joint Mission headquarters.
With the destruction and removal of much of the chemical weapons programme completed, and given the volatility of the security situation which continued to pose a significant risk to personnel, the Joint Mission initiated steps to reduce its presence inside the Syrian Arab Republic and adjust its functional footprint to a configuration commensurate to its remaining tasks. A number of Joint Mission personnel have already returned to parent duty stations and others transitioned to the Joint Mission’s support office in Cyprus. The Joint Mission maintained its core operations in Damascus to continue verification and other activities, although it temporarily relocated personnel from Latakia to Damascus pending the resumption of removal and verification operations. The Joint Mission maintained relevant personnel required at the port for remaining verification and inspection activities on stand-by.

Over the last eight months, a large part of the chemical weapons programme of the Syrian Arab Republic has been either removed from its territory or destroyed iii—country, equating to approximately 92% of its chemical weapons material. Preparatory activities for the removal of the remaining quantities have been completed. Other notable achievements during the past eight months include the functional destruction of all declared chemical weapons production and mixing/ filling specialized equipment, rendering it inoperable; the destruction of all unfilled munitions; the destruction of all containers previously holding mustard gas; the destruction of all isopropanol on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic; the closure of eleven out of twelve chemical weapons storage facilities; and the closure of five out of eighteen chemical weapons production facilities, with the modalities for destruction of twelve facilities currently under review in the OPCW Executive Council. All of these activities had been verified and inspected physically by Joint Mission personnel where security conditions allowed and through remote camera sruveillance Where security conditions did not permit physical presence of Joint Mission personnel.
It is imperative that the Syrian Arab Republic concludes remaining removal operations as quickly as possible, as the authorities have pledged to do. However, it is now evident that some activities related to the elimination of the chemical weapons programme of the Syrian Arab Republic Will continue beyond 30 June 2014.
With this in mind, and following consultation with the Director General of OPCW, I foresee that the Joint Mission Will continue its work for a finite period of time beyond 30 June 2014 during which most of the remaining activities for the elimination of the chemical weapons programme of the Syrian Arab Republic should be completed. This will also give sufficient time to put in place appropriate successor arrangements for OPCW to continue any residual in-country verification activities beyond this period.
I continue to be very concerned by allegations regarding the use of chlorine gas in the context of the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic and look forward to the results of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission. I call on the
I want to thank those Member States who continue to provide significant funds and in-kind contributions towards the removal and destruction of chemical weapons material from the Syrian Arab Republic. I am particularly grateful to those Member States providing maritime assistance and support, who have had to deploy in the eastern Mediterranean for considerably longer periods than had been originally envisaged.
Once again, I thank Special Coordinator Kaag and all the personnel of the Joint Mission for their courageous work carried out in challenging and dangerous conditions inside the Syrian Arab Republic.
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, Mr. President, the assurances of my highest consideration.
BAN Ki-moon
Follow me on Twitter @NabilAbiSaab


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