The joint team of United Nations and international inspectors overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons production facilities completed its first day of work in Damascus, a UN spokesperson announced today, adding that dismantling of the facilities will begin ‘soon.’
Briefing journalists in New York, Martin Nesirky said that chemical weapons inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the UN are part of the operation to eliminate the country’s chemical weapons programme by mid-2014.
The advance team, which arrived yesterday, has begun “securing the sites where the team will operate, especially in outlying areas,” Mr. Nesirky said.
“The team has also been considering the health and environmental hazards which they may have to confront,” he added.
In addition, “planning continues for one of the team’s immediate tasks, disabling Syria’s chemical weapons production facilities, which should begin soon.”
Discussions about the size of the stockpiles are also under way, as well as long-term planning, “so that deadlines unanimously imposed by the Executive Council of the OPCW and the UN Security Council are met.”
The 15-member Council unanimously adopted a resolution last Friday calling for the speedy implementation of procedures drawn up by the OPCW “for the expeditious destruction of the Syrian Arab Republic’s chemical weapons programme and stringent verification thereof.”
In the text, the Council underscored “that no party in Syria should use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain, or transfer chemical weapons.”
In a joint press release, OPCW and the UN said that in discussion with authorities, the team was keen “to stress that the onus was on the Syrian Government to meet the verification and distribution deadlines.”
The team reiterated, however, that the joint mission would provide the necessary technical support to meet those obligations.
Meanwhile, a separate team, led by Swedish scientist Åke Sellström, had been tasked with probing allegations of chemical use in Syria.
That team left the country after completing its six-day mission, Mr. Martin had said on Monday, and will now move to finalize its report, which the team hopes will be ready by late October.