Chemical weapons experts in Syria
Chemical weapons experts in SyriaReuters

The destruction of Syria's chemical weapons is to be completed by mid-2014.

Syria's declared equipment for producing, mixing and filling chemical weapons has been destroyed, according to the international watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The declaration was made one day before the deadline set by the OPCW for meeting this goal.

The weapons have been placed under seal, an OPCW spokesman said.

Destruction of the facilities and equipment used for mixing agents and filling munitions was the first task of the inspectors, according to a BBC report. Production facilities will be closely monitored to ensure that there are no efforts to repair them.

The next deadline set by the OPCW is mid-November, by which time it expects Syria to have agreed on a detailed plan to destroy its chemical weapons stockpile, which is believed to include more than 1,000 tons of the nerve gas sarin, mustard gas and other banned chemicals, stored at dozens of sites. these are all to be completely destroyed by mid-2014, if matters proceed as planned.

Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told the BBC that it had not been difficult for Syria's government to meet its obligations, as some had initially feared.

"I hope those who have always thought of us negatively will change their minds and understand that Syria was, is, and will be always a constructive partner," Mekdad said.

OPCW head of field operations Jerry Smith told the BBC that his team had "personally observed all the destruction activities".

"They are not now in a position to conduct any further production or mixing of chemical weapons," he said.

In a statement, the OPCW said its teams had inspected 21 of the 23 chemical weapons sites in Syria.

The other two were too dangerous to visit but the equipment had already been moved to some of the other sites, it said.

According to the US, more than 1,400 people were killed when Syrian government forces used nerve gas to attack a neighborhood on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21. The international outrage over the attack, the horrific results of which were recorded on video, prompted the United States to threaten military action against Syria.

This threat – although criticized by many as unconvincing – appears to have convinced Syria and its patron, Russia, to agree to destroy the chemical facilities. This happened despite the fact that US President Barack Obama decided at the last minute to ask Congress for approval of a strike on Syria, and Congress was not expected to approve such a move.