DAMASCUS: Syria has met the first deadline set by arms inspectors for the destruction of its chemical weapons after their use in Damascus in August — amid warnings that the international community is failing to get to grips with the wider crisis.
The Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said yesterday Syria’s declared chemical weapons production and mixing facilities had been destroyed — a day ahead of the target it had set.
It means that Syria can no longer produce any new chemical weapons, although it has yet to start destroying its stockpile, estimated at about 1,000 tonnes of chemicals and weapons, including mustard gas and the deadly nerve agent sarin.
David Reeths of IHS Jane’s Consulting, hailed the OPCW’s achievement in a conflict zone where 100,000 people have been killed in two-and-a-half years.
But he warned that there was a “significant level of uncertainty” surrounding the true status of the Syrian chemical weapons programme because inspectors had been unable to visit two of declared weapons sites due to unacceptable levels of risk.
“The OPCW is only certifying functional destruction of Syrian self-declared equipment from self-declared sites,” Reeths said. “Because little time has passed between the declaration and this certification, there is much greater uncertainty than usual surrounding the declaration.”
The deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria provoked a warning from David Miliband, a former British foreign secretary and head of the International Rescue Committee. He backed calls of the UN and international charities for a ceasefire after confirmation of a polio outbreak among Syrian children, calling it a “terrifying indication of what can happen when a country falls apart under the weight of war”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that doctors and aid workers were being targeted as a “disaster of epic proportions” gripped the country. The outbreak was a “shocking, jolting” reminder to the international community that while there may be progress on chemical weapons, there was misery, death and decay in Syria and its neighbouring countries.