September 21, 2013 in Nation/World

Syria submits on time chemical weapons list


BERLIN – Syria met the first deadline of its pledge to surrender its chemical weapons arsenal on Friday, delivering its initial disclosure to the headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague, Netherlands, by the time limit that Russia and the United States had set last weekend.

In a statement on its website, the organization said it had received the filing but it revealed nothing else, except that the disclosure “is now being examined by the Technical Secretariat,” the group’s experts.

Reaction from the U.S. State Department, which has voiced skepticism that Syria would abide by the U.S.-Russia deal, was muted. When she was asked whether it was an encouraging sign that Syria had submitted the document on time, spokeswoman Marie Harf said she didn’t want “to get ahead of the process.”

“But you are right that there has been a document submitted,” she said, adding, “We’ve said all along that we need to see forward momentum within these timelines that we’ve set up in the framework.”

By the book, once Syria is accepted as a member of the organization, it would have 10 years to destroy its arsenal, with the chance of a five-year extension. In Syria’s case, the timeline is expected to be closer to a single year, a task that Ahmet Uzumcu, the head of the organization, said in a statement this week was an “onerous responsibility that the world is placing on our shoulders.”

Other experts said that while the timeline was too short for the task being undertaken, the beginning of the process was a good sign.

“The most important thing is that this job is started, and that progress is made,” said Ralf Trapp, a chemical weapons consultant who was an original member of the preparatory commission that became the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in 1997 and who worked for the body until 2006. “If you can’t be optimistic about this job in Syria now, you’ve lost before you begin. So I choose to believe.”

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