Syria's chemical weapon destruction may be delayed if OPCW does not receive more funding
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international body responsible for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons, told reporters that its funding for the mission will finish by the end of this month, according to Reuters.
The chemical watchdog has already raised 10 million euros ($13.5 million) for the mission as stipulated under the US-Russian agreement that was announced in September, but OPCW leadership says that this amount is still not enough to finish the project in the given timeline-and is not even enough to just cover staff costs until the end of this month.
According to an October 25th OPCW document seen by Reuters, the chemical watchdog leadership stated that “its existing personnel resources are sufficient for operations to be conducted in October and November 2013." The document also referenced the OPCW's limited funding in its Syrian work account, which totaled around 4 million euros at the time the document was issued.
Syria's president Bashar al-Assad estimates that the total cost of destroying all the chemical weapons could cost $1 billion, though experts suggest that the cost will likely range in the millions, depending upon the location and strategies used to destroy the weapons.
The United States, the biggest contributor to OPCW for the Syria operation, has provided $6 million in equipment, training and cash, with the cash funds split between the OPCW and the UN. Britain, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland have also been major contributors to the mission, with some countries supplying air transport for OPCW members to Syria (Germany, Italy and the Netherlands), and others providing armored vehicles for OPCW's groundwork (United States and Canada).
OPCW's personnel costs in the past have largely been covered by the organization's regular budget which is usually less than $100 million annually. Only a fraction of the costs, however, are able to be covered in this manner.
Britain has already pledged $3 million and Russia, France and China have stated that they will provide experts and technical staff for the destruction process.
The shipping of the raw chemicals out of Syria also constitutes an additional cost that OPCW and donors will need to account for in their future budget projections. Discussions are in progress as to who will host the facilities to neutralize or incinerate the chemicals. Albania, Belgium and a possible third country from Scandinavia are potential candidates, according to Reuters' sources, and the United States, Germany and France are already vying for contracts to provide the destruction facilities.
A Syrian delegation arrived at The Hague on Tuesday to finalize plans for destroying the chemical stockpiles, according to the OPCW. The plan is due to be finalized by mid-November, and will include details on how and where to destroy the chemicals. Although Britain Russia, France and China have pledged their support to the OPCW going forward, the completion of a concrete plan of action will further guide the chemical watchdog's funding appeals.
The OPCW has already inspected 21 out of the 23 chemical weapons sites in Syria before the designated deadline. Syria has also declared that it has 30 production, filling and storage facilities, eight mobile filling units, and three chemical weapons facilities. On Tuesday, Syria reported that it had destroy 99 unfilled munitions of warheads at one site and 55 more were due to be destroyed at a second site. According to the government, similar destruction work is underway at an additional 5 sites. Collectively, the facilities have contained up to 1,000 tons of chemical weapons, 290 tons of loaded munition, and 1,230 unfilled munitions.
Prior to September, Syria was not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention. However, now as a signatory, the UN is required to assist in the safe destruction of the huge stockpiles of poisons in the country-in the midst of the country's civil war. Since the establishment of the convention in 1997, the OPCW has overseen the destruction of more than 50,000 tons of chemical weapons, representing approximately 80 percent of the world's declared stockpile.