EU grants $16 million to U.N. chemical watchdog for Syrian arms destruction
The European Union gave around $16. million (12 million euros) to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on Monday to assist in the financing of destroying Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.
The funds had been pledged to OPCW in December by EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton to help cover the $35-million to 40-million cost of dismantling Syria’s chemical materials, Agence France-Presse reported.
Last week, the bloc’s foreign policy 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 has angered Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s regime.
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.”
Last year, Damascus agreed to hand over its chemical weapons stockpile, faced with White House threats of military action in response to a deadly chemical attack outside Damascus in August.
Assad’s regime denied responsibility for the attack, which reportedly killed hundreds of people.
Local and international authorities have struggled to meet deadlines for shipping the arms out of the country.
Last week, the OPCW told CNN that Damascus had shipped out 11% of its chemical weapons stockpile - falling far short of the Feb. 5 deadline.