Syria crisis: Chemical weapons watchdog OPCW urges truce


Ahmet Uzumcu wants a "permissible environment" for his inspectors

The global chemical weapons watchdog has called for a ceasefire in Syria to enable it to destroy the stockpiles.

The organisation's chief, Ahmet Uzumcu, said the deadline for destroying equipment was "extremely tight", but was possible if truces were agreed.

Some early work of the inspectors was disrupted when they came under fire.

Under a UN resolution, Syria's chemical weapons production equipment must be destroyed by 1 November and stockpiles must be disposed of by mid-2014.

"If some temporary ceasefires can be established, I think those targets could be reached," said Mr Uzumcu, head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

He told reporters in The Hague that Syrian authorities had so far been co-operative.

He said the inspectors had 20 sites to visit in the coming weeks and had so far completed inspections at one facility.

An inspections team came under sniper fire on 26 August, but there have been no reported attacks on inspectors since.

Syria's chemical weapons

  • Syria believed to possess 1,000 tonnes of chemical agents including sarin and more potent nerve agent VX
  • US believes arsenal can be "delivered by aircraft, ballistic missile, and artillery rockets"
  • Syria acceded to Chemical Weapons Convention on 14 September; it signed Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in 1972 but never ratified it

The OPCW, mandated under the UN resolution, earlier said it would send a second team to Syria to help meet the deadlines.

Meanwhile, the conflict in Syria continues to rage:

  • Activists say they have taken over a border post on the frontier with Jordan, and a gun-battle in the northern city of Aleppo left at least 10 soldiers dead
  • Two Israeli soldiers in the Golan Heights suffered "light injuries" from mortar shells fired from Syria, the Israeli army says
  • France breaks a news blackout to reveal that two journalists have been held in Syria since June, bringing the total number of French reporters held to four.

Some 100,000 people have been killed since the start of the two-year conflict, in which armed opposition groups are seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

Chemical weapons are responsible for a comparatively small number of those deaths, and rebels have warned that destroying the weapons will not end the war.

An image grab taken from Syrian television shows an inspector at work at an undisclosed location in Syria on 8 October Syrian state TV has shown images of weapons inspectors at work

On Sunday, members of the joint OPCW-UN mission observed Syrian staff using cutting torches and angle-grinders to destroy missile warheads, aerial bombs, and mixing equipment.

Dismantling work is continuing at undisclosed locations all week.

The diplomacy that led to the disarmament deal was sparked by a poison-gas attack on 21 August in which hundreds were killed.

Western nations blamed forces loyal to President Assad, but he blamed rebel fighters.

The UN estimates that by the end of 2014 more than eight million Syrians could have been forced from their homes, and the number of refugees outside Syria could hit 5.2 million.


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  • Comment number 104.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Quite strange that the beeb didn't open up a comment section on the Americans congratulating the Syrian government for their efforts in removing chemical weapons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    The truth is the rebels have no interest in any truce or negotiations. What they want is Assad out and they will resist any attempt to derail that goal. The last thing they want is peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Ah, Syria. Not much news now, is there?

    I assume that means that Assad is winning?

    And how is Libya these days? The BBC has stopped reporting on that one, too.

    How curious.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Paul Fisher

    Do what to ourselves?

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    We are told that hundreds of UK jihadist have left to fight in Syria on the side of the rebels & some may return radicalised. No doubt hardened to death & terrorism.

    When is our gov't going to start changing Human Rights laws so that these people can be dispossessed of their UK citizenship & refused entry? Instead they will be observed at great cost leaving the population sitting ducks, again!

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    35 Minutes ago
    Someone quite important was quite worried about syrians over here and what they might do, the Guardian seem quite happy to help them along with its sister broadcaster"

    Fox News?

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    #89 Gerhard,

    You're right. How do you plait fog?

    To draw a parallel with the UK's treatment of dissenters of any description seems to be a bit trite. Given that Britain instigated 'concentration camps' in SA.This does not mean that this is acceptable, or solved anything.

    Why do it to yourselves?

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Thing with Islam, it fights among itself for extremsist theological dictate & one way or another it ensures muslims are maintained in a backward nation, either by extreme dictator & corrupt government, or bombing it back to dark ages.
    Prosperous muslims in muslim countrys are mainly corrupt dictator government & royal familys, they do not share wealth, it is no different to Capitalist elite

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Nobody should forget that our Government almost led us into another dead end war, for what reason we will never know, it certainly wasn't humanitarian concern.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    There will be no intervention in Syria and no war in Iran. Poor old Saudi Arabia. Its strange version of Islam that makes women dress in Niqabs, forces men to grow beards and persecutes anyone who does not follow its bizzare ideology will no longer be spread via beheadings, stonings, shootings and forced conversion. Perhaps the BBC would like to tell the real story in Syria.

  • Comment number 93.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Agree - Attacking Libya was a war crime, a sad indictment of western values in the 21st century. Libya was the most developed country in Africa - with highest living standards & highest education Now it is run by wild gangs - Educations levels are like the feral gangs of UK-USA. Some badge of 'honour' for Messrs Hague, Cameron, Fox, Obama & Madam Clinton

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Please do not give the Americans any excuse to attack in Syria - they still think they are the "good" guys when in fact they are patently NOT.

    Why attack Libya - on a whim to "prove" their manhood?

  • Comment number 90.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Syria has no chance of a political solution other than splitting the country into its factional bits. As soon as Assad is gone the factions will continue to fight on. Whichever faction wins will be much worse than Assad as it tries to suppress the others. it is a bit like the UK, each group wants to be in control of its own destiny; we have just learned to do it through negotiation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Someone quite important was quite worried about syrians over here and what they might do, the Guardian seem quite happy to help them along with its sister broadcaster.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Ahmet Uzumcu might want to have a chat with the Saudis seeing as they are forging a new alliance of Islamist rebels with thousands of fighters in Syria under a pro-Saudi warlord.

    Why hasn't an Arab Spring started in Saudi seeing as they are just as despotic as the Taliban when it comes to women's rights, democracy and justice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    So OPCW wants a ceasefire while they add up their numbers?

    I thought people within Syria hated each other, which is why they are killing their compatriots.

    For the OPCW to call for this strife to stop while they assess their scientific census seems rather naive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    It would be great if there can be a truce in Syria's civil war and even greater if it could be extended indefinitely. The problem is as long as the West continues to aid and abet these so-called "rebels", these people will fight on, no matter how many die in this conflict.


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