BEIRUT // Syria has destroyed critical equipment for producing chemical weapons and poison gas munitions, the global chemical weapons watchdog said yesterday.
The announcement by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons came one day ahead of the November 1 deadline set by The Hague-based organisation for Damascus to destroy or “render inoperable” all chemical weapon production facilities and machinery for mixing chemicals into poison gas and filling munitions.
The completion of what is essentially the initial stage of destruction is a significant milestone in an ambitious timeline that aims to destroy all of Damascus’ chemical weapons by mid-2014.
Destruction of the equipment means that Syria can no longer produce new chemical weapons.
However, Damascus still has to start destroying existing weapons and stockpiles. The country is believed to have around 1,000 metric tons of chemicals and weapons including mustard gas and the nerve agent sarin.
A statement from the OPCW, which works closely with the United Nations, said its team was “now satisfied that it has verified — and seen destroyed — all of Syria’s declared critical production and mixing/filling equipment”. It added: “Nno further inspection activities are currently planned.”
Earlier this week, the inspectors said they had completed their first round of verification work, visiting 21 of 23 sites declared by Damascus. They were unable to visit two sites because of security concerns, the inspectors said. The OPCW said yesterday that the two locations were, according to Syria, “abandoned and ... the chemical weapons programme items they contained were moved to other declared sites, which were inspected”.