CBRNE & EOD Defence

US says 'serious questions' remain over Syrian CW

22 August 2014
Cape Ray had finished destroying Syrian chemical weapons. Source: US Navy

The United States has made the strongest indication to date that Syria may have withheld some of its chemical weapons on 18 August, when it said there are still "serious questions" about its declaration to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The White House released a statement on 18 August announcing the specially equipped US Military Sealift command ship MV Cape Ray had finished neutralising chemical weapons (CW) that were declared by Syria and removed from that country earlier this year.

However, it added that: "serious questions remain with respect to the omissions and discrepancies in Syria's declaration to the OPCW and about continued allegations of use". It also called on Syria to destroy its remaining CW production facilities: a process that should have been completed in 2013.

OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü noted in June that his organisation was seeking clarifications from Syria about some of the quantities of chemicals included in its declaration, as well as historical aspects of the programme, but suggested the situation was not serious as the 1,300 tonnes that it had declared matched its estimated inventory.

Some omissions were revealed in a report the OPCW released in July. It said Syria had submitted on 14 July an amendment to its initial declaration that declared a ricin production facility that is currently in rebel-controlled territory, two chemical weapons-related research and development facilities and unfilled chemical munitions.

The amendment stated that all the ricin made at the inaccessible production facility was disposed of before Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in September 2013.

The US statement indicated it believes there are further omissions in the Syrian declaration and that several production facilities have yet to be destroyed. The latter could be a reference to aircraft hangars and underground structures at 12 production facilities, which the OPCW has said still need to be destroyed.

The US reference to allegations of chemical weapons continuing to be used in Syria relate to reports of improvised chlorine bombs being dropped from helicopters on rebel-controlled areas. Over a dozen such incidents were reported in April, but few suspected chlorine attacks have occurred since then.

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