By Kyle Balluck - 12/29/13 09:44 AM EST
A December 31 deadline for the removal of the most critical chemical weapons material from Syria will not be met, according to the United Nations and an international monitoring group.
Officials in a joint statement issued in the Syrian port city of Latakia blamed a number of “technical difficulties,” adding that preparations continue “in readiness” for the transport of the materials for destruction.
Logistical challenges and inclement weather also contributed to the delay, the groups said.
“Despite this delay, the Joint Mission continues to work closely and intensively with the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic and the assisting States Parties to begin safe and secure removal and transportation operations as soon as possible,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.
“The Secretary-General commends the Special Coordinator and her team for their steadfast work in challenging circumstances.”
The December 31 date for the removal of the most critical chemical weapons material from Syria for destruction was the first “intermediate milestone” set by the OPCW.
Syria's chemical weapons are to be transported outside its territory to ensure their destruction in the “safest and soonest manner,” and no later than June 30.