US Navy Ship To Play Role in Destruction of Syria's Chemical Weapons


Credit: Nikodem Nijaki/wikimedia

According to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), some of the "neutralisation operations" relating to Syria's chemical weapons will be carried out aboard a U.S Navy ship.

From the BBC:

The US naval vessel on which neutralisation will take place has not been officially named but is believed to be the MV Cape Ray. It is undergoing modifications to support the operations.

These should be completed by 31 December, the OPCW said.

The announcement is another strong sign that the timetable given to destroy all Syria's chemical weapons arsenal and capabilities by the middle of next year could be achieved, despite its many apparent difficulties, says the BBC's Middle East editor Sebastian Usher.

The news comes after officials in Norway, Albania, and Belgium said that they did not want their country to host the destruction of the Assad regime's chemical weapons arsenal.

I highlighted the fact that the OPCW was open to having chemical weapons destroyed at sea last month. In that post, I mentioned comments made by chemical weapons disarmament consultant Ralf Trapp, who told the AP that dealing with chemical weapons at sea comes with some challenges:

Trapp told the AP that using a sea-based facility would have numerous advantages, including the ability to position it far from populated areas.

But he said there were many problems to be addressed beforehand, including restrictions in the U.N. Convention on the Law of Sea intended to protect the marine environment, and how to transport the highly toxic cargo so it presents a minimal risk for sailors, other maritime traffic and the oceans in general.

United Nations diplomat Sigrid Kaag outlined the logistical details of getting the chemical weapons put on the American ship.

From the AP:

The international organization's director general, Ahmet Uzumcu, said in The Hague that the U.S. government will contribute "a destruction technology, full operational support and financing to neutralize" the weapons, most likely on a ship in the Mediterranean Sea. The weapons are to be removed from Syria by Dec. 31.

The weapons and chemicals "will not be [destroyed] in Syrian territorial waters," Kaag said at a news conference in Damascus.

Separately, Sigrid Kaag, appointed as the go-between for the United Nations and the OPCW on destroying Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, laid out some logistical details. Importantly, the weapons will first be packaged and transported from multiple sites within Syria to the country's largest port, Latakia. Then they will be loaded onto ships owned by other OPCW members before a second handoff to U.S. vessels.

More from Reason.com on Syria here