Ridding Syria of its chemical weapons (CW) is a costly undertaking. It is projected to cost many tens of millions of Euros. To this end both the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have set up trust funds in support of the Syrian CW disarmament project. The OPCW has already managed to collect close to €60 million. International financial and in-kind support were required as Syria had notified the organisation upon its accession to the CWC that it was not in a position to pay for the CW destruction operations. Despite the international community’s assumption of responsibility for the disarmament project via the decisions taken by the OPCW Executive Council and the UN Security Council on 27 September, analysis of the list of donors reveals that neither Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) members (barring a single exception) nor Arab League states have come to the assistance of its fellow member state. Yet both bodies do repeatedly declare their full commitment to General and Complete Disarmament or a region free of non-conventional weapons for the Middle East.
Yesterday I reflected on the hybridisation of coercive and cooperative disarmament arrangements regarding the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons. I argued that President Bashar al-Assad is seeking to challenge the coercive elements in the CW disarmament project, but that he will not defy the overall obligations assumed under the CWC.
In a session on 6 February, the UN Security Council reviewed progress thus far. According to an Agence France Presse report, it rejected several of Syria’s explanations for the delays and concluded that the country should speed up the process to remove the precursor chemicals from its territory. Unsurprisingly, some Western countries – notably the USA and the UK – offered the harshest criticism, while Russia parried
The publication of the 4th monthly report by the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last month drew worldwide attention to Syria missing important interim deadlines for the removal of chemicals from its territory. US Ambassador Bob Mikulak’s head-on criticism of Syria’s procrastination at the latest OPCW Executive Council meeting reflected frustration shared by many states. The responsibilities Syria assumed under the US-Russian Framework agreement of 14 September, as a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and under UN Security Council Resolution 2118 (2013) include the removal of the Priority 1 chemicals by 31 December and the shipment abroad of all other declared chemicals with the exception of those it must destroy by itself (essentially isopropanol and the mustard agent residue in the original containers) by 5 February. The tripartite status-of-mission document, which stipulates the operational roles for Syria, the OPCW and the UN, was finally signed on 6 February. According to Resolution 2118, this agreement should have been concluded by 1 November. Being critical to organising the whole destruction process within the tight deadlines, the UN and the OPCW had already handed the Syrian government a proposal on 16 October.
Open letter to Secretaries John Kerry and Chuck Hagel
February 3, 2014
Secretary of State John Kerry
US Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington DC 20520
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel
US Department of Defense
1400 Defense Pentagon
Washington DC 20301-1400
RE: Public Outreach and Stakeholder Involvement in Destruction of Syrian Chemical Weapons
Dear Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel:
We the undersigned environmental, public health, nonproliferation, and arms control experts have been closely following all aspects of the Syrian chemical disarmament process. We believe that the most urgent issue today is to make sure that all relevant chemicals from the Syrian stockpiles are speedily delivered to the port of Latakia and loaded onto the Norwegian and Danish ships.