US welcomes Syria`s handing over of last chemical weapons
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Last Updated: Tuesday, June 24, 2014, 06:27
  
Washington: The US has welcomed Syria's decision to hand over its last declared chemical weapons to international monitors, adding it will soon begin the destruction of the stockpiles.

"The Syrian government's handover earlier today of the final tranche of its declared chemical stockpiles marks an important milestone in the effort to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons program," said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel yesterday.

Chemical weapons have been shipped from the war-torn country through the Cape Ray, a ship equipped to neutralize Syrian chemicals, and are en route for destruction at sea.

The US and it's international partners will now work to destroy these materials so they never again pose a threat to the Syrian people or America's allies in the region - an outcome that was hard to imagine a year ago, said Hagel.

International Maritime Task Force has completed its "extraordinary mission" of removing the final 8 per cent of declared chemical weapons precursors from Syria.

"We congratulate the UN OPCW Joint Mission and the entire international coalition for their unprecedented work in removing more than 1,000 tons of declared chemical weapons materials from Syria," Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.

"There is no starker reminder that for almost 100 years the international community has deemed the use of these weapons to be far beyond the bounds of acceptable conduct.

The removal of these materials sends a clear message that the use of these abhorrent weapons has consequences and will not be tolerated by the international community," he said.

"While our work is not finished to ensure the complete elimination of Syria's chemical weapons program, this is an important milestone in the international community's commitment to respond to the use of chemical weapons by removing the Syrian regime's stockpiles," he added.

"In addition to the removal of all declared chemicals, the OPCW has also verified the destruction of declared production, mixing and filling equipment," Earnest said.

"In the coming weeks, the United States will begin destruction of a large amount of Syria's chemical weapons precursors aboard the Cape Ray.

This will be done in the safest, most environmentally sound manner. It's an unprecedented mission deploying unique American capabilities to destroy the most dangerous elements of the Syrian arsenal," he said.

"We continue to strongly oppose the Assad regime's appalling violations of human rights and will continue to work with our friends and partners, including the moderate opposition in Syria, to support efforts to assist the Syrian people and bring about a transition to a government that is responsive to their aspirations," Earnest said.

At the same time, the White House expressed concern about the situation in Syria.

"What's notable about this announcement today is that for a long time, the Assad regime in Syria was one of the more conspicuous violators of the widely-accepted notion across the globe that chemical weapons have no place, particularly when they're being used against civilians, as they were last August," he said.

The deal was reached after a poisonous gas attack near Damascus killed around 1,400 people.

Syria agreed to hand over its chemical arsenal after the US had threatened airstrikes against President Bashar al-Assad's regime in response.

"The fact that Syria has now declared that they have chemical weapons, signed the treaty and has cooperated with the international community to dispose of those declared chemical weapons is an important step," he said.

"There was some justified skepticism by people in this room and by other close observers of the situation about whether or not Syria would actually follow through.

And they did, thanks primarily, again, to the work of the international community to hold them to account to follow through on this mission," Earnest said. 

PTI

First Published: Tuesday, June 24, 2014, 06:27


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