EU Gives OPCW Money to Destroy Syria's Chemicals

EU signs over 12 million euros to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Elad Benari ,

UN chemical inspectors in Syria
UN chemical inspectors in Syria

The European Union signed over 12 million euros to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on Monday, to help pay for the dismantling of Syria's chemical weapons program, AFP reports.

The funds had been pledged to the OPCW in December by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to help cover the 25-million to 30-million euro cost of destroying Syria's chemical materials.

They were signed over to the OPCW by the EU's Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, the European Commission said.

Last week, EU foreign ministers agreed to use Syrian funds frozen under the bloc's sanctions to help pay for the dismantling of Damascus's chemical weapons program, a move that angered authorities in Damascus.

The EU said the frozen funds of the Central Bank of Syria and of Syrian state-owned entities would be released "in order to make payments on behalf of the Syrian Arab Republic" to the OPCW "for activities related to the OPCW verification mission and the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons," according to AFP.

The international operation to destroy Syria’s stockpile of deadly chemicals is a joint Russian-U.S. 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.

War, bad weather, bureaucracy and technical issues delayed a December 31 deadline for the removal of the most deadly toxins from Syria.

Despite the delays, the first batch of chemical weapon materials was moved out of the country in early January, and a second shipment was removed several weeks later.

A third shipment was moved out of the country last week, but the OPCW said last week that Syria had only surrendered 11% of its chemical arsenal.

British Prime Minister David Cameron recently expressed concern about the lack of progress in the operation to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons, saying the operation was moving too slowly.

Cameron added that the UK would continue to apply pressure "on all parties" to make sure Syria's chemical weapons stocks were eliminated.

Cameron’s comments came after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad he could face consequences for failing to live up to international agreements on the destruction of his chemical arsenal.