NATO ready to destroy Syria’s chemical arsenal
Young boys, covered with dust, make their way through the rubble of destroyed buildings following reported air strikes by government forces in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on February 2, 2014. [AFP]
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Elements of NATO are ready to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, after the United States expressed concern over the Syrian government’s slow efforts to transport the toxic arms to its Mediterranean port, U.S. European Command chief Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove told Al Arabiya News Channel in an interview aired Sunday.
“The international community, elements of NATO and the United States are prepared to destroy the chemical weapons,” Ge. Breedlove, who is the 17th Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO Allied Command Operations, said.
“We have the existence requirements to address this issue in place, so we encourage Syria to be on schedule and on time to deliver the weapons, so we can get the task accomplished,” he added.
Under a timeline drawn up last year, the most toxic chemicals in Syria's 1,300-metric-ton stockpile were to be removed from the country by Dec. 31. The deadline was missed due to poor security in war-torn Syria, among other factors.
So far, just two small consignments of chemicals have been shipped out.
The general urged for “less time” to “spend moving these weapons around,” to minimize their “threat” by reducing its “exposure.”
“So we encourage rapid, encourage prompt, encourage safe delivery of these weapons.”
The NATO’s statement came after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned on Friday Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that he could face consequences for failing to live up to international agreements on removing his chemical weapons stockpile.
“We now know that the Assad regime is not moving as rapidly as it promised to move the chemical weapons out of Syria,” Agence France-Presse quoted Kerry as telling reporters.
He added: “I would remind Bashar al-Assad that the agreement that we reached in New York with the (U.N.) Security Council makes it clear that if there are issues of non-compliance, they will be referred to the Security Council for Chapter 7 compliance purposes.”
The United States and Russia agreed last September to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons.
Around 700 tonnes of chemicals were supposed to have left Syria by the end of December, putting the ambitious disarmament project weeks behind schedule.
A senior U.S. State Department official said Kerry pressed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to put more pressure on Damascus to make real progress on destroying its chemical weapons arsenal and repeated his concerns about the humanitarian situation.