The head of an international mission to Syria charged with destroying the country’s chemical weapons called on President Bashar Assad’s government on Sunday to ensure it meets a deadline to destroy all its toxic chemicals amid a raging civil war.
Sigrid Kaag of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) told reporters in Damascus that 92.5 percent of Syria’s chemical materials had been removed from the country and destroyed. She called it “significant progress,” although she called on Syria’s government to ensure remaining materials would be eradicated by the end of April.
“I strongly encourage (the Syrian government) to go for that last push that we can really talk of hundred percent removal and destruction,” Ms. Kaag said.
Syria missed an April 13 deadline to destroy all its chemical weapons in accessible locations. International experts say that could impact on reaching a June 30 deadline to remove all Syria’s chemical weapons.
“An important (achievement) has been made in permanently closing down production facilities,” Ms. Kaag said, adding it came in “a very short period of time and under difficult and challenging security conditions.”
Another 12 chemical weapons production facilities are still being reviewed by the OPCW to see how they will be destroyed, she said.
She said the timely removal of toxic chemicals had become even more pressing to ensure “none of the chemical weapons material falls in the wrong hands,” referring to rebels trying to overthrow Mr. Assad who include the increasingly influential al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.
She said fighting in areas where sensitive sites were located could rapidly deteriorate, making a “timely and swift extraction even more” important.
Syrian officials did not comment on Ms. Kaag’s remarks.