By Peter Sullivan - 04/14/14 04:13 PM EDT
Watchdog: Syria falling behind on chemical weapons removal
A chemical weapons watchdog group said Monday that Syria needs to speed up the surrender of its arsenal in order to meet an April 27 deadline.
“Both the frequency and volumes of deliveries have to increase significantly to restore alignment of actual movements against the projected time frame,” Ahmet Uzumcu, director general for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said in a statement. “I stress this point because only 11 weeks remain before the expiry of the deadline for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons programme on 30 June 2014.”
Despite the call for faster action, some progress has been made, as the OPCW said two recent deliveries raised the percentage of chemical weapons removed from Syria to 65.1 percent.
The April deadline looms after Syria missed an earlier date in February.
The tensions between the United States and Russia over Ukraine have raised concerns that cooperation between the two powers in overseeing the destruction of Syria’s weapons could be in jeopardy. Russia said last week that it still backs the timetable, according to state-controlled news agency Itar-Tass.
The OPCW said Uzumcu met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Monday to discuss the weapons removal, but gave no details on the substance of the talks.
The U.S. and Russia reached a deal to oversee the removal of the chemical weapons in the fall, after the U.S. had raised the prospect of air strikes to punish what it said was a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government.
Russian and Chinese warships are guarding the chemical weapons shipments while they are in Syrian waters, according to the OPCW.