By Julian Pecquet - 01/07/14 10:36 AM EST
The first batch of chemical weapons has left Syria, the United Nations announced Tuesday.
“This movement initiates the process of transfer of chemical materials from the Syrian Arab Republic to locations outside its territory for destruction,” the head of the joint effort between the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Sigrid Kaag, said in a statement.
The ship will remain at sea “awaiting the arrival of additional priority chemical materials at the port,” she said. It is then expected to set sail for Italy, where the weapons will be transferred onto the U.S. Navy ship MV Cape Ray for destruction. Maritime security is being provided by naval escorts from China, Denmark, Norway and Russia.
Syrian President Bashar Assad agreed to get rid of his chemical weapons arsenal after the Obama administration threatened to bomb the country for violating President Obama's “red line” of using poison gas in the almost 3-year-old civil war. The OPCW said in October that it had verified that Syria had destroyed all its declared equipment and facilities.
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