Syria Chemical Weapons Team reports encouraging progress

An advance team of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations arrives in Damascus, Syria, four days after the OPCW Executive Council and the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed a plan to begin the process of overseeing the destruction of the country’s chemical weapons programme. The team, which includes 19 OPCW inspectors and 14 UN staff members, went into Syria over land from the Lebanese capital, Beirut. 01 October 2013The joint OPCW-UN team mandated to assist Syria with the elimination of its chemical weapons programme has made encouraging initial progress, following the first working day of meetings with the Syrian authorities. Documents handed over yesterday by the Syrian Government look promising, according to team members, but further analysis, particularly of technical diagrams, will be necessary and some more questions remain to be answered.

The team hopes to begin onsite inspections and the initial disabling of equipment within the next week, but this depends on the outcome of the technical groups established with the participation of Syrian experts yesterday. These groups are working on three areas which are key to the mission’s success: verification of the information handed over by the Syrian Government; the safety and security of the inspection teams; and practical arrangements for implementing the plan, under which Syria’s chemical weapons material and equipment are to be eliminated by mid-2014.