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The Director-General of the OPCW welcomed delivery of a further consignment of chemicals to the port of Latakia by the Syrian government today. The chemicals were immediately boarded onto cargo ships upon arrival at the port and removed from the country.
This raises the overall portion of chemicals removed from Syria to 86.5% of the total, including 88.7 % of all Priority 1 chemicals. Today’s consignment was the 17th to date and the sixth consignment since 4 April, marking a significant acceleration in the pace of deliveries to Latakia this month.
“This latest consignment is encouraging," the Director-General said. “We hope that the remaining two or three consignments are delivered quickly to permit destruction operations to get underway in time to meet the mid-year deadline for destroying Syria’s chemical weapons."
Chlorine gas attacks in Syria this month, if proven, expose a major loophole in an international deal which promised to remove chemical weapons from Syria and suggest chemical warfare could persist after the removal operation has finished.
President Bashar al-Assad agreed with the United States and Russia to dispose of his chemical weapons - an arsenal which Damascus had never previously formally acknowledged - after hundreds of people were killed in a sarin gas attack on the outskirts of the capital last August.
Washington and its Western allies said it was Assad's forces who unleashed the nerve agent, in the world's worst chemical attack in a quarter-century. The government blamed the rebel side in Syria's civil war, which is now in its fourth year.
Syria has vowed to hand over or destroy its entire arsenal by the end of this week, but still has roughly 20 percent of the chemicals it declared to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
In addition, chlorine gas that was never included on the list submitted to the OPCW is now allegedly being used on the battlefield, leading some countries to consider requesting an investigation, possibly through the United Nations.
Attacks this month in several areas of the country share characteristics that have led analysts to believe that there is a coordinated chlorine campaign, with growing evidence that it is the government side dropping the bombs.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday that Washington had indications that chlorine was probably used by government forces in Syria.
"We are examining allegations that the government was responsible," she said. "Obviously there needs to be an investigation of what's happened here."
“The allegations that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have again used chemical weapons against the Syrian people in recent attacks are deeply disturbing, but not surprising. It is essential that the Obama Administration work with the international community to fully and immediately investigate these reports. If substantiated, it is clear that such attacks violate the spirit of the U.S. agreement with Russia for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons and the Assad regime must finally be held accountable for it actions.
“Assad’s forces have systematically committed gross violations of the Syrian people’s basic human rights. Whether by chemical weapons attacks or other barbaric means including barrel bombing and starvation campaigns, the Assad regime continues to carry out war crimes in its slaughter of innocent men, women, and children. Its breach of the chemical weapons agreement should surprise no one, and unless the Obama Administration is willing to force a price for such behavior, we should only expect more atrocities to come.”