Syria’s chemical weapons that should be destroyed outside the country could be removed by April 13, a Russian Foreign Ministry official has said, adding there was no need to adjust the timeframe.
“If there are no difficulties then in a month, on April 13, the removal will be practically finished,” Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the Foreign Ministry’s security and disarmament department, was quoted as saying by RIA news agency on Friday.
Ulyanov added that Syria would present the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons with a new plan to destroy its chemical weapons production facilities at the end of March, accoridng to the Reuters news agency.
Syria declared 12 production facilities to the OPCW and had until March 15 to destroy them under the deal. Damascus has already missed several deadlines laid out in the agreement.
The US-Russia deal was aimed at heading off US military strikes against President Bashar al-Assad’s government after hundreds of people were killed last August in a chemical weapons attack outside Damascus.
Damascus agreed last year to destroy all chemical weapons facilities and surrender 1,300 metric tonnes of toxic agents to a joint OPCW/United Nations mission. It has until June 30 to eliminate its chemical weapons programme completely.
The process of removing chemical weapons began in January, with t he OPCW turning to the US military for assistance after no country volunteered to destroy the chemical weapons on its soil, despite an international consensus that the weapons be neutralised outside Syria.
Also on Friday, the UN described the Syria conflict as “unconscionable”, stating that it had forced more than nine million people from their homes.
“It is unconscionable that a humanitarian catastrophe of this scale is unfolding before our eyes with no meaningful progress to stop the bloodshed,” UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres said in a statement, according to AFP news agency.
With more than 2.5 million Syrians currently registered or awaiting registration as refugees in neighbouring countries, Syrians are expected to soon overtake Afghans as the world’s largest refugee population.
In addition, more than 6.5 million people have been displaced inside the country.
The total number of people who have fled their homes in Syria now exceeds 40 percent of the war-ravaged nation’s pre-conflict population, UNHCR said, stressing that at least half of all those displaced are children.