Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime has pledged to finish sending its chemical arms to a coastal pickup point within two months, Reuters reports.
A revised timeline calls on Damascus to transfer most of its warfare chemicals to the city of Latakia by April 13, envoys told the wire service on Wednesday. The government would have until April 27 to move the contents of two vulnerable storage locations to the seaport, where foreign vessels are expected to carry the materials to overseas neutralization sites, the insiders said.
The development came as Assad’s regime sent a load of mustard blister agent out of the city on Wednesday. The shipment marked the fourth batch of warfare chemicals to leave Syria in an international disarmament push launched last year, according to a news release from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
“The removal of this sulfur mustard is an encouraging and positive development,” OPCW Director General Ahmet Üzümcü said in released comments. “Much work nonetheless remains to be done, and we look to the Syrian government to accelerate its efforts to transfer the remaining chemicals in regular, predictable and systematic movements.”
The newly established two-month shipping plan appeared to establish a middle ground between Western demands for Damascus to finish moving its chemical stockpile out of the conflict-torn nation by March — as planned under an international schedule developed last year — and a recent regime proposal to stretch the process into late May or early June, according to Reuters. Assad’s government admitted the arsenal’s existence and agreed to help dismantle it weeks after sarin nerve agent killed hundreds of people in an outlying Damascus neighborhood controlled by regime opponents.
Diplomatic sources said at least one additional chemical cache appeared set to depart from Latakia by Sunday in international custody.
“There’s likely to be some movements in the next few days,” one Western insider said. “This is something on which the Russians are continuing to keep up the pressure on the regime.”
“This process is going forward, it hasn’t been completely derailed,” the source added.