Friday, September 13, 2013

Chemical Weapons in Syria: Syria Agrees to Join the 1992 Convention on Chemical Weapons and their Destruction; Syria Also Employs an Elite Military Unit to Scatter Weapons

The Government of Syria submitted a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to inform him that Syrian President Bassar Al-Assad will sign and abide by the 20-year-old international treaty on banning chemical weapons.  A statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesman in New York confirmed that the UN chief received a letter from Damascus this week informing him that “President Al-Assad has signed the legislative decree providing for the accession of Syria to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction of 1992.”  The statement says that:  “In their letter, the Syrian authorities have expressed their commitment to observe the obligations entailed by the Convention even before its entry into force for Syria.”


The statement comes after United States Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met in Geneva earlier yesterday for further talks on Russia’s proposal for Damascus to surrender its chemical weapons and place them under international control. Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint UN –Arab League Envoy for Syria also met in Geneva with Mr. Kerry

Meanwhile, evidence collected by a UN team probing possible chemical weapons use in Syria on 21 August is being examined by laboratories in Europe. Mr. Ban has said that scientists are working “around the clock” to ensure a rapid result but one that also respects the highest professional standards and without compromising its integrity. Results of the analyses will be shared with Mr. Ban, who will then share them with the 15-member Security Council and all 193 Member States.

In other developments, the Wall Street Journal reported that a secretive Syrian military unit has been moving stocks of poison gas and munitions to as many as 50 sites to make them more difficult for the United States to track. (Elite Syrian Unit Scatters Chemical Weapons Stockpile, Wall St. J., Sept. 13, 2013, at A1.)  The article notes that U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies still believe that they know the locations of Syria's chemical weapons, but perhaps "with less confidence than six months ago."

(mew)(adapted from a UN press release and Wall Street Journal report)

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