OPCW misses Syria deadline as Albania refuses to host chem weapons destruction
Published time: November 15, 2013 1
“It is impossible for Albania to get involved in this operation,” Rama said, following a heated debate in his country and discussions with several UN members, including the US.
Albania’s refusal coincides with the November-15 deadline for a detailed plan on chemical stockpile destruction to be agreed by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and Damascus. Syria needs to get rid of 1,300 tons of sarin, mustard and other nerve agents, which are too dangerous to eliminate amid the ongoing conflict in the country.
Albania was considering hosting a facility for dismantling the chemicals at the request of the United States, its close Western ally.
However, an OPCW source told Reuters, Albania may not be the only hope for the completion of the plan.
“There will be no host country in the decision this afternoon. But they [the US] have alternatives,” the OPCW source said.
While the ensuing UN investigation stopped short of naming any side of the Syrian conflict responsible for chemical weapons use, the international deal on destroying the stockpile of these weapons in Syria averted US military intervention. The strike also proved to be unpopular among many US allies, with the UK parliament giving the thumbs down on UK involvement in any such action. US Congress was also apparently divided on meddling in the Syrian civil war.
The joint Russian-US, UN-backed plan on Syrian chemical weapons destruction outlined a very tight schedule of procedures, stating that the initial on-site inspections and the elimination of related equipment should be finished by November, and all chemical materials must be completely destroyed in the first half of 2014.
Despite Albania’s refusal, the US remains “confident that we will complete elimination of the [weapons] program within the timeline agreed upon,” the US embassy in Tirana said in a statement quoted by Reuters.
Taking into account the situation on the ground, the OPCW said it plans to finish its mission by the end of June 2014.
“Given the context in which the joint mission is operating, we will aim to remain flexible and responsive to developments on the ground, continually working toward the June 30 deadline to complete our mandate,” Sigrid Kaag, Special Coordinator of the Joint UN-OPCW mission, said in a statement on Friday.