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Russia Joins Effort to Remove Syria's Chemical Weapons

Russia will send armored trucks to Syria as part of an international effort to remove its chemical weapons, says OPCW.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 12/19/2013, 4:16 AM

UN chemical weapons experts in Syria
UN chemical weapons experts in Syria
Reuters

Russia will send armored trucks to Syria as part of an international effort to remove chemical weapons from the war-torn country for destruction at sea, RIA Novosti reports.

The report cited a statement posted online on Wednesday by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Russia is also ready to provide security for cargo operations at the port of Latakia and in Syrian territorial waters while weapons stocks are transferred to a U.S. navy ship that will “neutralize” the chemicals, said OPCW director general Ahmet Uzumcu.

Uzumcu said Russia would provide water tanks and other logistical supplies as well as the large-capacity trucks. It was also willing to consider further financial or material support for the multinational operation to remove the most deadly of Syria’s chemical weapons within one month.

The OPCW statement comes a day after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow was ready to provide a naval escort for ships carrying chemical weapons being removed from Syria.

Uzumcu said, according to RIA Novosti, that Denmark and Norway would provide ships and military escorts for transporting the Syrian chemicals at sea and for carrying chemicals to be disposed of at commercial facilities.

Finland had also offered chemical weapon “emergency-response” capabilities, and Italy was providing access to a port for trans-loading the priority chemicals from Danish and Norwegian vessels to the U.S. ship.

The United States will also provide nearly 3,000 container drums to store the chemicals and GPS trackers to monitor their movement, as well as loading, transportation and decontamination equipment.

China is also joining the operation by providing surveillance cameras and 10 ambulances.

The joint United Nations-OPCW team in Syria aims to remove the most toxic chemicals from Syria by the end of the year for destruction at sea and destroy the entire program by mid-2014.

The plan to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile is a joint Russian-U.S. Syrian chemical plan that was endorsed by the UN Security Council in September.

The resolution was a last-minute measure to prevent an American strike on Syria in retaliation for the regime's alleged use of chemical weapons in an attack on a Damascus suburb in August that left hundreds dead.

A report by UN inspectors released last week said that chemical weapons have been used at least five times during the Syrian conflict and in some cases children and civilians have been slaughtered.

The report cited "credible evidence" and "evidence consistent with the probable use of chemical weapons" in the Syrian districts of Ghouta, Khan Al Asal, Jobar, Saraqueb and Ashrafieh Sahnaya.

However, the report did not attribute blame for the attacks, as this was not part of the mandate given to the team by the UN Security Council.