Obama: Syria's Chemical Stockpile Has Been Eliminated
U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Monday that Syria's declared chemical weapons stockpile was eliminated, declaring this an important achievement against the spread of dangerous weapons of mass destruction.
According to The Associated Press (AP), Obama also warned that Syria's government now must follow through on pledges to destroy its remaining weapons production facilities.
Obama also said concerns about omissions and discrepancies in Syria's declaration to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the group that oversaw destruction of the weapons, must be addressed.
"Today we mark an important achievement in our ongoing effort to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction by eliminating Syria's declared chemical weapons stockpile," Obama said in a written statement issued in Washington after he broke from his summer vacation in Massachusetts to spend two days at the White House.
Syria signed up to an international plan to destroy its chemical stockpile after the outcry that followed chemical attacks by the Damascus regime in August last year that may have killed as many as 1,400 people.
Obama said destroying the weapons advances the goal of ensuring that President Bashar Al-Assad cannot use his chemical arsenal against the Syrian people. He said it also "sends a clear message that the use of these abhorrent weapons has consequences and will not be tolerated by the international community."
Obama said the U.S. would continue to work with the OPCW and international partners to resolve "open issues" while continuing to press Assad to stop committing atrocities against the Syrian people.
Syria agreed to give up its chemical arsenal after Obama threatened missile strikes in retaliation for the chemical attack.
The weapons that were removed from Syria were destroyed aboard the U.S. cargo vessel MV Cape Ray in international waters.
Even as the operation to destroy the chemical weapons was going on, there have been reports by local activists that President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime had used chlorine weapons against civilians.
Syria has emphatically denied that it had carried out chlorine gas attacks against civilians, but U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that he had seen “raw data” indicating that the Syrian government has indeed done so.