Destruction of Syria's chemical weapons
|Part of a series on
the Syrian Civil War
|Syrian peace process|
The destruction of Syria's chemical weapons began in September 2013 on the basis of several international agreements with Syria that stipulated an initial destruction deadline of 30 June 2014. United Nations Security Council Resolution 2118 of 27 September 2013 required Syria to assume responsibility for and follow a timeline for the destruction of its chemical weapons and its chemical weapon production facilities. The resolution bound Syria to the implementation plan presented in a decision of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). On 23 June 2014, the last declared chemical weapons were shipped out of Syria for destruction. The destruction of the most dangerous chemical weapons was performed at sea aboard the Cape Ray, a vessel of the United States Maritime Administration's Ready Reserve Force, crewed with U.S. civilian merchant mariners. The actual destruction operations, performed by a team of U.S. Army civilians and contractors, destroyed 600 metric tons of chemical agents in 42 days. However, despite these efforts, the use of chemical weapons in Syria have continued to be reported, with the latest being the chemical attack on Khan Shaykhun in April 2017, which has been alleged to have been perpetrated by the Syrian government.
The chemical weapons agreements arose at a time when the United States and France headed a coalition of countries on the verge of carrying out air strikes on Syria in response to the 21 August 2013 Ghouta chemical-weapon attacks. To avoid a military intervention, the United States, Russia and Syria agreed to the "Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons" on 14 September 2013, which called for the elimination of Syria's chemical weapon stockpiles by mid-2014. Syria agreed to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention and to the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpiles.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) began preliminary inspections of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal on 1 October 2013, and actual destruction began on 6 October. Under OPCW supervision Syrian military personnel began "destroying munitions such as missile warheads and aerial bombs and disabling mobile and static mixing and filling units." The destruction of Syria's declared chemical weapons production, mixing, and filling equipment was successfully completed by 31 October deadline. The destruction of the chemical weapons fell well behind schedule. The entire chemical weapons stockpile had been scheduled to be completely removed from the country by 6 February 2014. Only on 23 June 2014, had Syria finished shipping the remaining declared chemicals. On 18 August 2014, all of the most toxic chemicals had been destroyed offshore. Western officials such as British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant have expressed concerns about the completeness of Syria's disclosures, and believe the OPCW mission should remain in place following the removal of chemical weapons until verification tasks can be completed.
Chlorine, a common industrial chemical, is outside the scope of the disarmament agreement; however, its use as a poison gas would violate the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in 2013. Various parties, including Western governments, have accused Assad of conducting illegal chlorine attacks in 2014 and 2015. A late disclosure in 2014 regarding Syria's ricin program raised doubts about completeness of the government's declaration of its chemical weapons stockpile, and in early May 2015, OPCW announced that inspectors had found traces of sarin and VX nerve agent at a military research site in Syria that had not been declared previously by the Assad regime.
- 1 Background
- 2 Framework for elimination of Syrian chemical weapons
- 3 OPCW Executive Council decision
- 4 Security Council Resolution 2118
- 5 Implementation
- 6 Problems with cargo
- 7 Alleged violations
- 8 Declared sites and chemical weapons
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
On 21 August 2013, rockets containing the chemical agent sarin struck several opposition-controlled or disputed areas of the Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, resulting in the death of more than 300 people and injury to thousands in the Ghouta chemical attack. The United States and other Western countries blamed the Syrian government for the attacks, while Syria blamed civil war opposition forces. In response to Ghouta, a coalition of countries led by the United States and France, which support the rebels, threatened air strikes on Syria. Russia, a key ally of Syria, along with China had earlier blocked efforts by the United States, France, and the UK to secure United Nations Security Council approval for military intervention. The United States and France headed a coalition of countries on the verge of carrying out air strikes on Syria.
During the G20 summit on 6 September, Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama discussed the idea of putting Syria's chemical weapons under international control. On 9 September 2013, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated in response to a question from a journalist that the air strikes could be averted if Syria turned over "every single bit" of its chemical weapons stockpiles within a week, but Syria "isn't about to do it and it can't be done." State Department officials stressed that Kerry's statement and its one-week deadline were rhetorical in light of the unlikelihood of Syria turning over its chemical weapons. Hours after Kerry's statement, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov announced that Russia had suggested to Syria that it relinquish its chemical weapons, and Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moallem immediately welcomed the proposal, and U.S.–Russian negotiations led to the 14 September 2013 "Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons," which called for the elimination of Syria's chemical weapon stockpiles by mid-2014. Following the agreement, Syria acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention and agreed to apply that convention provisionally until its formal entry into force on 14 October 2013. On 21 September, Syria ostensibly provided a list of its chemical weapons to the OPCW, before the deadline set by the framework.
On 27 September, the Executive Council of the OPCW adopted a decision, "Destruction of Syrian Chemical Weapons," a detailed implementation plan based on the U.S./Russian agreement. Later on 27 September, the UN Security Council unanimously passed United Nations Security Council Resolution 2118, incorporating the OPCW plan and making it binding on Syria. A joint OPCW-UN mission to supervise the destruction or removal of Syria's chemical arms, while its Director-General was charged with notifying the Executive Council regarding any delay in implementation. The Executive Council was to decide whether the non-compliance should be reported to the Security Council, which was responsible to ensure that Syria fulfilled its commitments under Resolution 2118.
(According to Rolling Stone, White House staff state off-the-record that Obama and Putin had already privately agreed in principle to start peacefully relieving Assad of his chemical weapons by 5 September, days earlier than the 9 September public breakthrough.)
As a result of these negotiations, in September 2013 Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention (formally acceding on 14 October), and agreed to the destruction of its chemical weapons, under the supervision of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, as required by the Convention.
Framework for elimination of Syrian chemical weapons
Negotiations and agreement
From 12 to 14 September 2013, details of the Framework were negotiated at the InterContinental Hotel in Geneva, Switzerland. High-level negotiations were held between Kerry and Lavrov, with large teams of experts simultaneously working on technical details. A key breakthrough was reported to occur when the U.S. and Russia agreed on their approximations of the Syrian chemical weapon stockpile (estimated at 1,000 tons of sarin, mustard agent and VX nerve agent). On 14 September 2013 the Framework was agreed and signed.
On the same day, after the signing, Syria announced that it was acceding to the Chemical Weapons Convention (provisionally applying it directly, but formally taking effect 14 October 2013), and in doing so becoming a member of the OPCW. This committed Syria not to use chemical weapons, to destroy its chemical weapons within 10 years, and to convert or destroy all of its chemical weapons production facilities.
Overview and enforcement
- Syria to provide a comprehensive listing of its weapons to the OPCW by 21 September 2013
- Initial OPCW on-site inspections of declared sites to be completed by November 2013
- Equipment for producing, mixing, and filling chemical weapons to be destroyed by November 2013
- All chemical weapons material and equipment to be eliminated in the first half of 2014
The Framework states that, in the event of noncompliance, the UN Security Council should impose measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The Framework does not state how Syria's compliance would be measured, or what the penalties Syria would incur if it did not comply. Under the UN Charter, Chapter VII measures range from "demonstrations" to sanctions or military action and could be vetoed by any of the five permanent members of the Security Council. Russia and China had previously vetoed three resolutions attempting to condemn or sanction Syria, and were considered likely to block any future Security Council sanctioned military action against Syria. The U.S. indicated it might resort to military action outside the UN if Syria failed to comply with the Security Council resolution requiring it to eliminate its chemical weapons.
Chlorine, a common industrial chemical which would later allegedly be used in poison-gas attacks inside Syria in 2014, is not on the list of prohibited chemicals covered by the disarmament agreement.
Reactions to the Framework
The "Framework for the Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons" was received positively by France, Germany, the UK, the European Union, China, and the Arab League. Israel expressed cautious optimism, but was skeptical that Syria would comply.
Ali Haidar, Syria's Minister of National Reconciliation, praised the agreement as "a victory for Syria that was achieved thanks to our Russian friends." He described the agreement as removing a pretext for a U.S. attack on the country. Iran also stated that the agreement had deprived the U.S. of a pretext for attacking Syria.
Leaders of the main rebel coalition, the Syrian National Coalition, were angered by the agreement. The U.S., without consulting the coalition, had changed its mind about striking Syria. Rebels furthermore worried the agreement might be a considered a de facto admission of the Bashar al-Assad government's legitimacy.
OPCW Executive Council decision
The Executive Council of the OPCW met on 27 September and adopted a decision, "Destruction of Syrian Chemical Weapons", that is a detailed and accelerated plan for the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons. The Executive Council also approved Syria's provisional application of the Chemical Weapons Convention pending entry into force on 14 October. The plan adds detail to but does not vary from the basic deadlines in the U.S.–Russian Framework. The OPCW stated that the Executive Council had agreed on "an accelerated programme for achieving the complete elimination of Syria's chemical weapons by mid-2014. The decision requires inspections in Syria to commence from 1 October 2013."
Inspectors were given unusually broad authority, because Syria was required under the plan to provide inspectors unobstructed access to any suspected chemical weapons site, even if the Syrian government had not identified the location in its list of chemical weapons sites, and without the special procedures normally required for "Challenge Inspections" under Article IX of the convention.
The decision also stipulates that if the OPCW Director-General determined there had been a delay in implementation of the decision, the matter should be discussed within 24 hours, when it should be decided whether the matter should be submitted to the UN Security Council.
The Executive Council's decision further calls, "on an urgent basis", for funding by member states of the Syrian chemical weapons elimination process.
Requirements for Syria
Under the Decision, which was incorporated into Security Council Resolution 2118, Syria is required to take the following actions:
- submit to the Secretariat by 4 October further information (to that provided on 19 September 2013) on its chemical weapons, in particular: "(i) the chemical name and military designator of each chemical in its chemical weapons stockpile, including precursors and toxins, and quantities thereof; (ii) the specific type of munitions, sub-munitions and devices in its chemical weapons stockpile, including specific quantities of each type that are filled and unfilled; and (iii) the location of all of its chemical weapons, chemical weapons storage facilities, chemical weapons production facilities, including mixing and filling facilities, and chemical weapons research and development facilities, providing specific geographic coordinates,"
- submit the declaration required by Article III of the Chemical Weapons Convention to the OPCW Secretariat no later than 27 October,
- complete elimination of all its chemical weapons material and equipment during the first half of 2014, "subject to the detailed requirements, including intermediate destruction milestones, to be decided by the [Executive] Council not later than 15 November 2013,"
- complete destruction of its chemical weapons mixing/filling and production equipment by 1 November,
- cooperate fully with Decision implementation, to include providing OPCW personnel with "immediate and unfettered right to inspect any and all sites in the Syrian Arab Republic," and
- designate one official as the OPCW Secretariat's main point of contact, and provide that person with authority to ensure that the Decision is fully implemented.
Security Council Resolution 2118
Negotiations over the Security Council resolution were initially contentious, as the U.S., the UK, and France submitted a draft resolution that included automatic invocation of Chapter VII, sanctioning use of military force if Syria did not fulfill its commitments under the agreement. Russia and China were opposed to any resolution that authorized enforcement under Chapter VII without a second vote of the Security Council. After further negotiations, on 26 September the five permanent members of the UN Security Council reached agreement on an implementation and enforcement draft resolution. On the following day, just hours after the OPCW Executive Council approved a detailed implementation plan for the U.S./Russian Framework, Security Council Resolution 2118 was unanimously passed, making the OPCW plan binding on the Syrians.
The resolution requires that Syria eliminate its chemical stockpile and allow complete access to UN and OPCW chemical weapons inspectors. If it does not comply with either demand, the Security Council would need to adopt a second resolution regarding imposition of military or other actions against Syria under the UN Charter's Chapter VII. The vote on the resolution was delayed until 27 September because the OPCW needed to vote first on its detailed implementation plan. Syria vowed to abide by the resolution.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has stressed that the Western and Arab-backed rebels in the Syrian civil war must also comply with the UN resolution, and must ensure that extremists do not acquire chemical weapons. "The responsibility is not only on the Syrian government," he stated, "but also on the opposition and all the states in this sphere should of course not allow these weapons to fall into the hands of non-state actors."
Reactions to Security Council Resolution 2118
Preparations and preliminary inspections
On 21 September 2013, Syria ostensibly met the Framework's first deadline, for comprehensive chemical weapons disclosure. The OPCW stated it had received and was reviewing the "expected disclosure" concerning Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles, 24 hours after stating it had received an "initial declaration" document from Syrian authorities. The OPCW stated that it would use on-site inspections to verify the accuracy of the disclosure by Syria. It would also "assist in putting into place arrangements to keep the warfare materials and the relevant facilities secure until their destruction."
OPCW began preliminary inspections of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal on 1 October 2013, and actual destruction of Syrian equipment began on 6 October 2013, with Syrian personnel under OPCW supervision applying angle grinders and cutting torches to "a wide range of items." Specifically, under OPCW supervision Syrian military personnel had begun "destroying munitions such as missile warheads and aerial bombs and disabling mobile and static mixing and filling units." The U.S. and Russia announced themselves "very pleased" with the rapid pace of Syria's chemical arms disarmament. The Economist commented that the demanding timeline may mean the OPCW will deploy ad-hoc destruction methods such as sledgehammers, tanks, or concrete fills.
On Monday, 7 October, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that the UN-OPCW joint mission would eventually have about 100 personnel in Syria, with a support base in Cyprus. In a letter to the Security Council, Ban set out the mission's three phases: establish an initial presence and verify Syria's stockpiles declaration; oversee chemical weapons destruction; and verify destruction of all chemical arms related materials and programs. On 13 October Ban announced that veteran UN diplomat Sigrid Kaag would head the joint UN-OPCW mission.
UN Secretary-General Ban in early October publicly recognized many of the challenges of the weapons destruction effort, in particular the dangerous nature of chemical arms destruction during a civil war, especially in urban areas such as Damascus, Aleppo, and Homs. "Heavy artillery, air strikes, mortar barrages and the indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas are commonplace and battle lines shift quickly," he wrote. Ban added that the most challenging phase of the destruction effort would begin in November, when OPCW and UN experts begin destroying Syria's estimated 1,000 tons of precursor chemicals and chemical weapons. In order to do so, they will need to cross battle lines between governments and rebel forces. The Syrian government and Western-backed opposition forces have pledged cooperation with chemical disarmament, but Al Qaeda-linked rebel groups, including Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, have not.
OPCW director-general Ahmet Uzumcu stated in early October that completing the destruction process by the mid-2014 deadline will depend on whether temporary cease-fires can be arranged between opposition and government forces. A nine-month ceasefire to allow the OPCW to carry out the entire chemical weapons destruction process was rejected by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), according to a report in Asharq Al-Awsat (a Saudi-linked pan-Arab newspaper).
Also exceptionally challenging will be the movement and destruction of deadly agents such as sarin, VX nerve agents and mustard agent during the civil war. The chemical weapons convention disallows movement of such deadly agents outside the country holding them, but Security Council Resolution 2118 allows extraordinary measures to be taken in Syria. Some of the chemicals will need to be transported along the highway between Damascus and Homs, which is still contested as of December 2013. Syria has requested the international community provide armored vehicles to assist in safe transport of the chemicals. In February 2014, Syria stated that rebels had attempted to attack two convoys transporting chemical weapons.
OPCW director-general Uzumcu called the overall timeline "doable," though one of his field experts characterized it as "Herculean." The Economist magazine commented in October 2013 that the timeline was "ambitious, to put it mildly," but acknowledged it had been "worked out in consultation with American and Russians experts with full knowledge of the OPCW's capabilities." Li Hong, secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, stated that both the turbulent civil war and the financial cost of chemical weapons disposal will be a heavy burden on the Syrian government, and called it "unrealistic" to expect Syrian chemical weapons to be fully eliminated by 2014. Expert opinions were summarized in Foreign Policy magazine as follows: "Taking control of [Syria]'s enormous stores of [chemical] munitions would be difficult to do in the midst of a brutal civil war. Dozens of new facilities for destroying the weapons would have to be built from scratch or brought into the country from the U.S., and completing the job would potentially take a decade or more."
In October 2013, Amy Smithson of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies stated that the government appears to be cooperating, but cautioned that the Syrian government has a "very sorry track record" on working with nuclear inspectors, and that it is easier to hide chemical weapons than a nuclear program. Chemical weapons expert Gwyn Winfield writes that Syria has an incentive to hold onto some of its chemical weapons, since its original incentive for developing a chemical weapons capability, as a deterrent against a suspected Israeli nuclear weapons arsenal, "isn't going to go away." In contrast, Ralf Trapp, a former OPCW official, has expressed optimism that satellite surveillance would deter cheating. Under the disarmament resolution, Syria is required to allow inspection of any site that raises suspicions.
A disagreement arose regarding the number of chemical weapons sites in contested areas of Syria, with the Syrian foreign minister stating that one-third of sites are in such areas. FSA official Louay Miqdad stated in early October that there were no chemical weapons in areas occupied by opposition forces, "which is something that the Assad regime itself acknowledges, while these storehouses are also not located on the front, so why should we stop fighting?" According to the OPCW chief, one abandoned site is in rebel-held territory and routes to others lead through rebel-held territory. Malik Ellahi of the OPCW states that few of the locations inspectors must visit will be difficult to access.
In April 2014, disarmament experts such as Ralf Trapp characterized the pace of the operation as impressively quick. With 92.5% of the arsenal removed or destroyed, Trapp noted that many people hadn't expected such speed to be achievable given the ongoing civil war.
In late October 2013, the OCPW said it expected 1 November deadline for destruction of CW production, mixing and munition-filling capability to be met. It was reported on 23 October that it had visited 18 of 23 declared sites. It was reported that "'low tech, quick and cheap' methods were being used, such as filling equipment with concrete, smashing it, sometimes using heavy vehicles." The OPCW "said the Syrian government had provided complete co-operation with the 27 weapons inspectors in the country."
On 31 October, the OPCW announced that it had met the deadline for destroying all declared equipment and facilities related to chemical weapons production, having visited 21 out of 23 sites, and received assurances from the Syrian government that the other two sites had been abandoned and emptied of chemicals and equipment, with these dispersed to sites visited by the OPCW. The two sites were unreachable due to being in contested areas of the ongoing civil war. On 7 November, the OPCW said that one of the two unvisited sites had been officially verified as "dismantled and abandoned", based in part on images that the Syrian government shot using a "tamperproof" GPS-enabled camera provided by the OPCW. Later, in January 2014, U.S. Ambassador Robert Mikulak worried that the October destruction was incomplete and "reversible" and claimed that it did not, in fact, meet requirements.
On 15 November, the OPCW approved a plan to transport Syria's chemical weapons to a location outside its territory by 5 February 2014, where the weapons would then be destroyed. Acceptance of shipments of the 1,000 tons of chemical agents for destruction have been refused by most countries approached by the OPCW. As of November 2013[update], Belgium and France were still considering whether to agree to such shipments.
The countries of Norway and Denmark agreed to transport the chemical weapons from Syria to Italy where they were to be handed over to a United States Navy ship for destruction in international waters. The Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate Helge Ingstad will take part in the operation, as will the Norwegian marine corps unit Kystjegerkommandoen. The Norwegian government hired in the Norwegian registered RoRo cargo ship MV Taiko for the mission. Denmark will participate with the Danish frigate HDMS Esbern Snare and the Danish government has hired in the civilian cargo ship Ark Futura for the mission.
The United States will destroy the highest-priority chemicals, which were scheduled for removal from Syria by 31 December, on board the MV Cape Ray in international waters of the Mediterranean, using an U.S. Army Field Deployable Hydrolysis System. The United Kingdom gave the United States £2.5 million of specialist equipment and training to enable the highest-priority chemicals to be processed more quickly. In addition around 150 tonnes of priority two chemicals, toxic material similar to industrial chemical agents, will be transported to the UK with the help of the British Royal Navy and destroyed there. The remaining stock of priority two chemicals not going to Britain will be destroyed by commercial companies.
The first shipment of components for chemical weapons were removed from Syria by a Norwegian/Danish flotilla on 7 January 2014. The 31 December deadline for complete removal of priority chemicals had been missed; on 7 January, the New York Times assessed the delay was due to the difficulty of overland transport of chemical weapons in the middle of a civil war. A second shipment was removed around 27 January; that same day, the U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, expressed concern over the worsening delays and assessed that Syria already has the resources required to transport the weapons promptly despite the ongoing civil war.
On 2 July, the Danish ship Ark Futura arrived in the Italian port of Gioia Tauro, carrying the chemical weapons, which were then loaded onto the U.S. ship Cape Ray. The Cape Ray was equipped with two Field Deployable Hydrolysis Systems capable of neutralizing the poisonous substances and converting them into industrial waste. On 19 July 2014, around 250 protesters gathered at the Souda base to protest the elimination of the chemical weapons in the nearby region of the Mediterranean Sea.
By 30 January 2014, only about four percent of the priority chemicals had been removed. Syria continued to blame security issues; U.S. officials disagreed and accused the government of deliberately causing or prolonging the delay. On 31 January, Russian diplomat Mikhail Ulyanov responded that "the Syrians are approaching the fulfilment of their obligations seriously and in good faith." The U.S. blamed Syria's Assad government for intentionally delaying efforts to remove chemical arms from the country for destruction, suggesting that the goal of liquidating the arsenal by midyear is in jeopardy. Stating that Assad is, in effect, slow-walking the chemicals in order to obtain more security equipment, U.S. Ambassador Robert P. Mikulak said that "Syria has demanded armored jackets for shipping containers, electronic countermeasures, and detectors for improvised explosive devices." He said the demands are "without merit" and "display a 'bargaining mentality' rather than a security mentality."
Around 21 February, Syria proposed a hundred-day plan for removal of the chemicals. British official Philip Hall criticized the plan as "not adequate". At the time, the US had stated destruction of the chemicals, once off-site, would take 90 days; given that timeframe, Syria's proposed May removal deadline would not leave enough time for all munitions to be destroyed to meet the end-of-June deadline for complete destruction of Syria's chemical weapons. Around 4 March, Syria agreed to a 60-day timetable for removal of the stockpile. By 4 March 2014, almost a third of the stockpile had been removed or destroyed.
Syria missed a 15 March deadline for destroying its 12 chemical weapons production facilities. Syria has proposed to instead render the facilities inoperable by sealing their entrances; the U.S. and its allies oppose this proposal and insist on destruction.
By 21 March, Syria's entire supply of mustard agent had been removed. On 27 April, Syria missed its revised 60-day deadline for complete removal of its full chemical weapons arsenal. As at 23 May, Syria had removed or destroyed 92.5% of its declared chemical stockpile.
On 23 June, the head of OPCW, Ahmet Üzümcü, announced in The Hague that the last of Syria's declared chemical weapons had been shipped out of the country for destruction. The last 8% of the chemical stockpile was loaded onto ships at Latakia. The most toxic chemicals, including sarin precursors and sulphur mustard, were destroyed by 18 August aboard the US naval vessel MV Cape Ray. The remaining were destroyed in the US, Great Britain and Finland. On 4 January 2015, the OPCW confirmed that the destruction was completed.
Despite American criticisms of the delays, the OPCW has described Syria's cooperation as "satisfactory".
Problems with cargo
In a news article published in Norway's biggest newspaper Verdens Gang in December 2015, it was revealed that the operation had been far more dramatic then expected and reported. There were rocket attacks against Latakia while "Taiko" was docked. There were explosions and strikes around the docks and there were incidents where boats that could be intent on possible suicide attacks would come too close to the ships and had to be warned off. The commander of the Norwegian frigate requested that the moorings on the freighter "Taiko" were rigged with explosive charges every time she went to land in Syria so the lines could be remotely severed very quickly in an emergency allowing the ship to get to safer waters as soon as possible if any threat occurred. From the start, the shipments of containers that were transported to the cargo ships were in bad shape and some leaked potentially lethal material and gases. The containers were characterized by having been filled up hastily in a war zone before they were transported to the pier and handed to the Norwegian forces. When almost half of the cargo gave signs of leakage, an emergency meeting was held onboard Taiko with representatives from OPCW, UN, USA, Norway, Denmark, Syria and Finland. The Norwegian soldiers were ordered to deal with the situation. However no country would accept a docking of the ship with the material leaking on board, and Norwegian personnel and ships had to sail back to Syria and deal with such containers and in some cases move the material to different containers.
Chlorine, a common industrial chemical, was allegedly used in poison-gas attacks by the Assad government in 2014. Chlorine is not on the list of prohibited chemicals covered by the disarmament agreement; however, its use as a weapon violates the Chemical Weapons Convention.
In July 2014, Assad disclosed to the OPCW "a facility for the production of ricin" but stated that "the entire quantity of ricin produced was disposed of prior to the entry into force" of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The lateness of this disclosure raised doubts about the completeness of the government's declaration of its chemical weapons stockpile. The Israeli intelligence community believes the Assad government retains a "residual" chemical stockpile of somewhere between several hundred kilograms to several tons of chemical weapons, about 1% of its original stockpile.
Declared sites and chemical weapons
Syria declared 23 sites to OPCW, the location of which are not disclosed for confidentiality reasons. On these sites a combined 41 facilities were present containing "1,300 tons of chemical precursors and agents and 1,230 unfilled munitions".
According to U.S. chemical weapons nonproliferation expert Amy Smithson, declared sites are believed to include:
- four production facilities near Safira, Khan Abu Shamat, Homs, and Hama
- six storage facilities near Safira, Homs, Hama, Furqlus, Latakia, and Palmyra
- a research and development site in Damascus
Allegations of undisclosed sites
The Economist reported in early October that Syria had disclosed 19 chemical weapons-related sites, whilst unnamed Western intelligence sources believed 45 sites to exist in total. One U.S. official said it was not clear if the discrepancy is "a deception" or merely a "difference of definition" regarding what constitutes a chemical weapons site. In Science Insider, experts stated that there was a possibility of incomplete record-keeping, citing an incident in 2002 wherein Albania discovered, in a cluster of mountain bunkers, 16 tons of primitive, undocumented chemical weapon agents that Albania had forgotten about. Chemical weapons expert Winfield has commented that the success of the destruction plan depends on Syria revealing all of its chemical arms stockpile, much of which is moveable and may be spread across dozens of sites.
- International reactions to the 2013 Ghouta attacks
- Syria and weapons of mass destruction
- 2017 Khan Shaykhun chemical attack
- "Last of Syria's chemical weapons shipped out". BBC News. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
- "Cape Ray Completes Destruction of Syrian Chemical Agents" (PDF). Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association. M.E.B.A. Telex Times. 21 August 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 September 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
- "Insight: After chemical horror, besieged Syrian suburb defiant". Reuters. 4 October 2013.
- "China Welcomes Russia–U.S. Framework Agreement on Syria: Wang". Bloomberg. 22 September 2013. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
China welcomes a framework agreement signed by Russia and the U.S.
- Spokesperson (14 September 2013).. state.gov. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
- Gordon, Michael R. (14 September 2013).. The New York Times. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
- "Resolution 2118 (2013)" (doc). United Nations documents. United nations. 27 September 2013. p. 1. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
Noting that on 14 September 2013, the Syrian Arab Republic deposited with the Secretary-General its instrument of accession to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (Convention) and declared that it shall comply with its stipulations and observe them faithfully and sincerely, applying the Convention provisionally pending its entry into force for the Syrian Arab Republic
- "U.S. sanctions Syrian officials for chemical weapons attacks". Reuters. 12 January 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
- Edith M. Lederer, Matthew Lee (27 September 2013). "UN Security Council votes unanimously to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile". Independent. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
- Mariam Karouny (6 October 2013). "Destruction of Syrian chemical weapons begins: mission". Reuters. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
- Mariam Karouny (14 October 2013). "U.N. names envoy to lead Syria chemical weapons mission". Agence France-Presse. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
- Loveday Morris and Michael Birnbaum (31 October 2013). "Syria has destroyed chemical weapons facilities, international inspectors say". The Washington Post. Retrieved 31 October 2013.
- Gladstone, Rick (22 February 2014). "Syrians Seek New Delay in Export of Chemical Arms". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
- "Syria, Western powers disagree on progress of chemical-weapons mission". The Globe and Mail. Reuters. 23 April 2014. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
- Deutsch, Anthony (2014-09-10). "UK blames Assad regime after watchdog documents chlorine attacks". Reuters. Retrieved 2017-02-26.
- Mike Corder (17 September 2011). "Syria had ricin program: OPCW document". The Daily Star. Associated Press. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
- "Chemical weapons watchdog says Syria declared program to produce ricin – Fox News". 19 September 2014.
- Deutsch, Anthony (9 May 2015). "Exclusive: Weapons inspectors find undeclared sarin and VX traces in Syria – diplomats". Yahoo News. Reuters. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
- Elizabeth A. Kennedy; Frank Jordans (1 December 2011). "Syria now in a civil war with 4,000 dead: United Nations". The Christian Science Monitor. Associated Press. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
- Richter, Paul (28 August 2013). "Russian resistance torpedoes United Nations resolution on Syria". Los Angeles Times.
- Mark Hosenball (1 August 2012). "Exclusive: Obama authorizes secret U.S. support for Syrian rebels". Reuters. Reuters. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
- "Russian offers troops to help remove Syria chemical arms". BBC. 22 September 2013.
- Steve Gutterman; Alexei Anishchuk; Timothy Heritage (10 September 2013). "Putin, Obama discussed Syria arms control idea last week: Kremlin". Reuters. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
- "Press Conference by Kerry, British Foreign Secretary Hague". United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London: U.S. Department of State. 9 September 2013. Retrieved 8 December 2013.
- Kim Hjelmgaard (9 September 2013). "Kerry to Assad: Turn over chemical weapons to prevent strikes". USA Today. Retrieved 26 September 2013.
- Patrick Wintour (9 September 2013). "John Kerry gives Syria week to hand over chemical weapons or face attack". Guardian. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
- Julian Borger and Patrick Wintour (9 September 2013). "Russia calls on Syria to hand over chemical weapons". Guardian. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
- "Syrian official: Chemical weapons deal a 'victory'". USA Today. 15 September 2013. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
- "Syria meets deadline for chemical weapons disclosure". Reuters. 21 September 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
- "Decision: Destruction of Syrian Chemical Weapons" (PDF). OPCW. 27 September 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
- Edith M. Lederer, Matthew Lee (27 September 2013). "UN Security Council votes unanimously to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile". Associated Press. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
- Michael R. Gordon (26 September 2013). "U.N. Deal on Syrian Arms Is Milestone After Years of Inertia". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 September 2013.
- Joseph Charlton (16 September 2013). "Syria crisis: ‘clear and convincing evidence of sarin gas’ says UN". The Independent. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
- Obama Vs. The Hawks Rolling Stone magazine: The media seized on [Senator Kerry's Sep. 9] comment as an off-message ad-lib. But behind-the-scenes discussions had been taking place for some time. What had changed was that the Russians were taking it seriously with the U.S. now on the brink of bombing Syria.
- Adams, Paul (14 September 2013). "Syria talks: Can US-Russia deal bring hope to Syria?". BBC. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
- McElroy, Damien (14 September 2013). "America and Russia agree plan to 'eliminate' Syria's chemical weapons". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
- "Reference: C.N.592.2013.TREATIES-XXVI.3 (Depositary Notification)" (PDF). Secretary-General of the United Nations. 14 September 2013. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
- "Syria's Accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention Enters into Force". OPCW News. 14 October 2013. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
Syria deposited its instrument of accession with the United Nations Secretary-General on 14 September.
- "About the Convention". OPCW. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
- "CWC". NTI. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
- "Bumpy road to destruction of Syria chemical weapons". Agence France-Presse. 15 September 2013. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 26 September 2013.
- "U.S., Russia closer to deal on U.N. Syria resolution". The Washington Post. 25 September 2013. Retrieved 26 September 2013.
- "UN Security Council votes to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons". Associated Press. 28 September 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
- "Lawmakers debate whether US outfoxed on Syria; Obama says 'foundation' set for war settlement". The Washington Post. 15 September 2013. Archived from the original on 16 September 2013. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
- Croft, Adrian (2 October 2013). "U.S. to 'wait and see' on use of force in Syria: army chief of staff". Reuters. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
Despite the deal, U.S. President Barack Obama has kept the option of military force on the table.
- Gladstone, Rick (22 April 2014). "Nearly 90% of Syria's Chemical Arms Have Been Removed". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
- (14 September 2013). Reaction to US-Russia Syria Plan Generally Favorable. Voice of America. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
- Tom Rogan and Michael Cohen (16 September 2013). "Is the US-Russia deal on Syria's chemical weapons the right move?". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
- Khaled Yacoub Oweis (20 September 2013). "Insight: Angered by chemical deal, Syrian rebels may lose the West". Reuters. Retrieved 24 September 2013.
- "OPCW Executive Council Adopts Historic Decision on Destruction of Syria Chemical Weapons". OPCW. 27 September 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
- "Syria chemical weapons: UN adopts binding resolution". BBC. 28 September 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
- "Decision: Destruction of Syrian Chemical Weapons" (PDF).
- "Lavrov: US pressuring Russia into passing UN resolution on Syria under Chapter 7". RT. 22 September 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
- "UPDATE 1-Russia says opposes any resolution threatening force against Syria". Reuters. 22 September 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
- "Russian official: Talks with U.S. on Syria not going 'smoothly'". Haaretz. 24 September 2013. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
- "Syria hands over remaining chemical arms inventory to watchdog". The Times of India. 21 September 2013. Archived from the original on 23 September 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
- Michael Corder (27 September 2013). "Syrian Chemical Arms Inspections Could Begin Soon". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 20 October 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
- http://www.washingtontimes.com, The Washington Times. "Syria vows to abide by U.N. resolution".
- "Syria's chemical weapons destruction on track, US and Russia agree". Associated Press. 7 October 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
- BALDOR, LOLITA C.; JELINEK, PAULINE (27 November 2013). "US offering to destroy Syria chemical weapons aboard US ship at sea". stripes.com. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 27 November 2013.
- "Hague watchdog probes Syria chemical weapons data". BBC News. Reuters. 21 September 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
- Borger, Julian (20 September 2013). "Syria submits chemical weapons inventory to international watchdog". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
- "Syria 'submits chemical weapons data' to Hague watchdog". BBC News. 20 September 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
- "Syria crisis: OPCW receives Syrian chemical arms data". BBC News. 21 September 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
- "The OPCW Prepares for Historic Challenge". Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
- "Kerry 'very pleased' at Syria compliance over chemical weapons". NBC News. 7 October 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
- "Syria's chemical weapons: Can it be done?". The Economist. 5 October 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
- "Syria: Chemical weapons team faces many dangers, says U.N. chief Ban". NBC News. 8 October 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
- "U.N. names envoy to lead Syria chemical weapons mission". Al Arabiya. 14 October 2013. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
- Nick Cumming-Price (9 October 2013). "Watchdog Says Syria Has Been Cooperative on Weapons". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
- McDonnell, Patrick J. (15 October 2013). "Push to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons may extend Assad's rule". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- Asharq Al-Awsat, 12 October 2013, Syria: FSA open to "temporary" ceasefire
- "An inconvenient truth". The Economist. 14 December 2013. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
The biggest obstacle is getting the lorries carrying the chemicals through to Latakia, because the highway between Damascus and Homs, which they have to use, remains contested... The Syrian government has asked the international community to provide armoured vehicles to help it move the chemicals. The request is understandably being treated with suspicion but it might have to be granted if there is no other way of getting the chemicals to Latakia. Russia, an Assad ally, has said it is willing to step in.
- "Syria can meet target for chemical disarmament: mission chief". Reuters. 21 March 2014. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
- "China ready to assist Syria with destruction of chemical weapons". China Daily USA. 24 September 2013. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
- "There's Almost No Chance Russia's Plan for Syria's Chemical Weapons Will Work". Foreign Policy. 10 September 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
- Laub, Karin (14 October 2013). "Despite obstacles, experts say Syria's chemical weapons threat can be neutralized in weeks". Star Tribune. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- Stone, Richard (24 October 2013). "Syria Stockpiled 1000 Tons of Chemicals for Weapons". Science Insider. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- Corder, Mike (15 October 2013). "Security a concern for weapons inspectors in Syria". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- Nick Cumming-Bruce (27 April 2014). "Syria Misses New Deadline as It Works to Purge Arms". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
- The Guardian, 23 October 2013, Syria deadline for chemical weapons destruction will be met, says OPCW
- The New York Times, 29 October 2013, Inspectors Visit All but 2 of Syria's Declared Chemical Sites
- Mike Corder; Ryan Lucas (7 November 2013). "Syria weapons inspectors say they verified 22 of 23 declared chemical sites". Toronto Star. Associated Press. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
- "U.S. blasts Syria for "seriously languished and stalled" removal of chemical weapons". CBS News. 30 January 2014.
- "Albania shuns Syria chemical weapons destruction". BBC. 15 November 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- Cowell, Adam (25 October 2013). "Norway Rejects U.S. Request to Help Destroy Syrian Chemical Weapons". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- NTB (1 January 1970). ""Helge Ingstad" i posisjon utenfor Syria – Bergens Tidende". Bt.no. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
- "Syria: Denmark and Norway offer to transport chemical weapons". regjeringen.no. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
- Bendavid, Naftali (1 December 2013). "U.S. to Destroy Syrian Chemical Arms at Sea". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
- "Pentagon Readies Ship for Syrian Chemical Weapons Disposal". usni.org. U.S. NAVAL INSTITUTE. 2 December 2013. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
- "UK to help United States destroy Syrian chemical weapons faster". Reuters. 13 January 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
- "Syria: UK To Aid Chemical Weapons Destruction". Sky News. 13 January 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
- "How Syria's chemical weapons are being destroyed". The Telegraph. 9 January 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
- "UK contributes to the destruction of Syria’s chemical stockpile". Foreign & Commonwealth Office. 20 December 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
- "Her ligger den norske fregatten rett utenfor kysten av Syria". Vg.no. 1 January 1970. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
- "Flotilla Awaits Order to Enter Syria for Weapons Removal". Yahoo! News. 20 April 2011. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
- "First load of chemical weapons has left Syria". regjeringen.no. 7 January 2014. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
- Gladstone, Rick (7 January 2014). "First Batch of Deadly Chemicals Exported From Syria". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 January 2014.
- "U.N. suggests removal of Syria chemicals unnecessarily delayed". Reuters. 28 January 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 July 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-02.
- "Protest at Greek NATO Base over Destruction of Syrian Chemicals". www.naharnet.com. Agence France Presse. 19 July 2014. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
- "Russia backs Syria on chemical weapons plan".
- U.S. Says Syria Delaying Chemical Disarmament, The Wall Street Journal, By NAFTALI BENDAVID and ADAM ENTOUS, 30 January 2014
- Syria must stop stalling on its delivery of chemical weapons, The Washington Post 1 February 2014
- "New Syrian chemical-arms removal plan slammed". Al Jazeera. 22 February 2014. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
- Corder, Mike (4 March 2014). "AP Interview: Syria chemicals deadline achievable". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Archived from the original on 6 March 2014. Retrieved 6 March 2014.
- "UPDATE 1-Chemical weapons to be destroyed outside Syria could be gone by April 13-Russia's RIA". Reuters. 14 March 2014. Retrieved 15 March 2014.
- Gladstone, Rick (28 May 2014). "Syria to Miss Deadline on Weapons, Official Says". Retrieved 4 June 2014.
In a May 23 letter to the Security Council obtained by The New York Times on Wednesday, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that roughly 8 percent of the stockpile remained in Syria, awaiting shipment for destruction abroad.
- "Syria’s Chemical Arsenal Fully Destroyed, U.S. Says". 18 August 2014. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
- "OPCW Confirms Syrian Chemical Weapons Destruction Completed". Sputnik News. 4 January 2015.
- "Syrian Chemical Weapons Moved to U.S. Ship for Destruction at Sea". Wall Street Journal. 2 July 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
- "VG eksklusivt: På innsiden av Norges Syria-oppdrag".
- Carroll, James R. "Chemical weapons expert wary of Syria". USA Today. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
- Harel, Amos. "Israeli intelligence: Syria retains small WMD capacity". Haaretz. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
- "OPCW: 21 out of 23 weapons sites inspected". China Network Television. 29 October 2013. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
- NICK CUMMING-BRUCE; MICHAEL R. GORDON (27 October 2013). "Syria Meets Deadline for Arms Destruction Plan". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- "Chemical weapons watchdog says Syria declared 41 facilities with 1,300 tons of chemicals". The Washington Post. 29 October 2013. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
- ADAM ENTOUS; JULIAN E. BARNES (27 September 2013). "Syrian Chemical Disclosure Falls Short of U.S. Count". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- Warrick, Joby (10 January 2005). "Albania's Chemical Cache Raises Fears About Others". The Washington Post. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
Altogether, the (Albanian) bunkers hold nearly 600 vessels containing about 16 tons of what is known in military jargon as "bulk agent."
- UN, Security Council requires Scheduled Destruction of Syria’s Chemical Weapons, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2118 (2013) (includes full resolution text)