Syria Lacking Progress: Chemical Weapon Disposal Behind Schedule

Syria may miss an important deadline for relinquishing chemical weapons when they recently had delays. Though the government had begun the process of handing over the weapons, this set back could lead to them missing the agreed upon June 30 deadline. Weapons, including mustard and sarin, were being stockpiled and used on citizens of Syria by the government, led by Bashar al-Assad. On October 31, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (or, OPCW) announced that it was “confident that no additional chemical agents or munitions [could] be produced in Syria,” according to a White House blog post, written by Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European Affairs Elizabeth Sherwood Randall.

Now, the OPCW, the U.S., and other nations have begun aiding efforts for the removal and elimination of the chemical weapons stockpile. When asked whether or not the missed deadline was a concern, White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, said that the U.S. had been clear on what expectations they have for Assad’s actions in regards to chemical weapons. “I would note that Russia has said it expects the Assad regime to deliver a substantial portion of its chemical weapons stockpile in the relatively near future, and we obviously believe that’s very important.Russia has a lot at stake here,” he said.

“Those governments and nations that were instrumental in bringing about the agreement by the Syrian regime to give up its weapons for destruction need to fulfill their obligations,” meaning that again, Russia will be under a lot of pressure — especially with eyes on it from the Winter Olympics — to aid in the success of the removal. “Russia played an important role with the United States in helping bring about the agreement, and all of our partners on this matter are going to continue to insist that the Assad regime fulfill its obligations.”
The chemical weapon destruction schedule is but one of a number of concerns, with recent reports released from the Human Rights Watch examining the government’s destruction of civilian neighborhoods in Hama and Damascus, claiming the activity is against opposition forces. The report lists the actions as in violation of international humanitarian law, stating that it lacks concrete military purpose and that it “appeared intended to punish the civilian population,” and that, “they caused disproportionate harm to civilians.”

The United Nation’s released a report of their own, focusing on the abuse of children in Syria from both opposition and government forces, including the recruitment of children for militant uses, the injury and death inflicted during conflicts, and the sexual abuse, torture, and violence against children, especially when kept in detainment under suspicion of militant sympathies.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “I sincerely hope that the second round of negotiations will begin as planned on 10 February,” adding that the hopes that the Syrian delegations will both attend the second round and go into them “with greater seriousness and urgency.” Previous talks at Geneva II were criticized by some as less than productive, encountering a number of major stumbling blocks.

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