Obama administration slams Syria for chemical weapons delay

The effort to rid Syria of its chemical weapons has “seriously languished and stalled” because of the Assad regime's obstructionism, the Obama administration said Thursday.

ADVERTISEMENT
Only about four percent of the chemical weapons that were supposed to be out of the country by the end of last year have been removed, said the head of the U.S. delegation to the executive council meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The Assad regime is to blame, Ambassador Robert Mikulak said, and should be denounced by the council.

“Today we are one month past the 31 December completion date set by the council,” Mikulak said in a statement. “Almost none of the Priority One chemicals have been removed, and the Syrian government will not commit to a specific schedule for removal. This situation will soon be compounded by Syria's failure to meet the February 5th completion date set by this Council for the removal of all Priority Two chemicals.”

The delay risks becoming a major embarrassment for the White House, which endorsed Secretary of State John Kerry's plan to get Assad to turn over his chemical weapons to avoid U.S. air strikes last year. Republicans have long argued that Assad never had any intention of complying.

Mikulak said the Assad regime's claims that the raging civil war has delayed the removal of chemical weapons don't hold water.

“Syria has said that its delay in transporting these chemicals has been caused by 'security concerns' and insisted on additional equipment – armored jackets for shipping containers, electronic countermeasures, and detectors for improvised explosive devices,” he said. “These demands are without merit, and display a 'bargaining mentality' rather than a security mentality.”

He also said that Syria has refused to destroy its chemical weapons production facilities as called for by the U.N. Security Council, opting for easily reversible measures such as welding their doors shut instead.

“In the report for this meeting,” he said, “the Council should express 'deep concern' over Syria's delays in implementation of its chemical weapons elimination obligations and call for the transport of all chemicals to Latakia for removal without any further delay.”

"Since the last meeting of this Council on January 8th, the effort to remove chemical agent and key precursor chemicals from Syria has seriously languished and stalled," he added. "To date, only four percent of the Priority One chemicals declared by the Syrian Arab Republic have been removed, and roughly the same small percentage of the Priority Two chemicals. Let us not forget that this Council on November 15th of last year adopted specific timelines for the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons program, which required that 100 percent of the Priority One chemicals be removed from Syria by 31 December." 

"The United States recognizes that 31 December was an ambitious goal for completing removal of the many tons of Priority One chemicals. However, the Syrian Arab Republic had not even begun the transport of Priority One chemicals to Latakia by 31 December, despite urgings from the Joint Mission Special Coordinator to 'intensify' its preparation efforts," Mikulak said.

Please send tips and comments to Julian Pecquet: jpecquet@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @TheHillGlobal and @JPecquetTheHill