Destruction of the chemical weapons could mark a “first, decisive step” in ending the conflict, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said today in an e-mailed statement. Weapons material can be destroyed at a government-owned facility in Munster, in the western German state of Lower Saxony, he said.
“After the Syrian chemical weapons — contrary to the expectations of many — are able to be quickly identified, secured and cleared away, the international community has an obligation to take care of their removal,” Steinmeier said.
The Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, charged with helping remove the weapons from Syria, said yesterday that inspectors had begun shipping away the most volatile chemicals. The milestone came a week after an initial end-of-year deadline, delayed because of security and logistics issues as well as bad weather.
The United Nations Security Council said yesterday that a June 30 deadline to remove all of Syria’s chemical weapons can be met. “Priority 1” chemicals will be destroyed aboard a U.S. vessel at sea, while less potent weapons will be taken to sites outside Syria for destruction on land in those countries that have agreed to take them, the UN said. Albania in November rejected a U.S. request to host facilities for the operation.
Syria agreed to give up its chemical-weapons arsenal under a Russian initiative endorsed by the UN Security Council in September. The deal led the U.S. to withdraw threats of military action to punish Assad’s government for its alleged use of sarin gas near Damascus in August.
Germany possesses “advanced technical capabilities” to undertake such work, Steinmeier said. The country has contributed 5 million euros ($6.8 million) to the OPCW’s weapons-removal fund, trained inspectors and provided transport.
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