MOSCOW, December 26 (RIA Novosti) – The first stage of the destruction of the Syrian government’s chemical arsenal has been completed, the head of the Russian Security Council said Thursday.
“Critical parts of equipment to produce chemical weapons, mix their components and fill ammunition [with toxic agents] have been destroyed,” Nikolai Patrushev told the Russian government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta.
He said the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had praised the Syrian authorities for their help in the destruction process.
Patrushev said a detailed plan to completely eliminate the Syrian government’s chemical weapons should now be developed.
The operation to destroy the Syrian government’s arsenal of more than 1,000 metric tons of weapons-grade chemicals is taking place in two stages. The most dangerous weapons were to be removed from Syria by the end of December and destroyed at sea by April, whereas the rest has been slated for destruction by mid-2014.
Russia is among many countries assisting the disarmament effort. Last week, Moscow deployed 75 vehicles in Syria to transport the dangerous cargo. Russia will also donate up to $2 million to finance the international operation. The money is to be transferred to UN accounts soon.
According to a plan outlined by the OPCW, Danish and Norwegian vessels will take the chemicals from the Syrian port of Latakia to a port in Italy. They will then be loaded on to a US Navy ship and transported into international waters before being destroyed through hydrolysis in a specially built titanium tank on board.
The disarmament process, which prevented a US military strike on Syria, was launched after an August 21 chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb that killed hundreds of civilians. The US and its allies have accused the Syrian government of responsibility for that attack, but Damascus blamed rebel groups fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
More than 100,000 people have been killed and 9 million people displaced since fighting broke out in Syria in 2011, according to the United Nations. Russia has supported the Syrian government during the civil war, while America has backed some groups within the opposition.