Syria Asks To Extend Timeframe For Arms Removal

The Syrian government has asked to extend the timeframe for the export of its chemical weapons arsenal, potentially moving the deadline to mid-May. The announcement has sparked alarm that Syria’s pledge to eradicate the banned arsenal is fraying. The timetable already weeks behind schedule. Exporting the 1,200-ton stockpile of chemical arms should have been completed by Feb. 6. Government officials are also asking to delay the deadline to destroy the 12 facilities that once produced the chemical arms, which is looming in three weeks.

Angela Kane, the top disarmament official at the United Nations, released news of the Syrian government’s request for a further delay in exporting the weapons during a forum at the UN’s New York headquarters titled “The U.N. Role in the Chemical Weapons Issue in Syria: An Insider’s Perspective.” Ms. Kane said, “I understand that Syria has given a new deadline and a new way forward in terms of how to implement their obligations. That is something that is right now in the works.”

Last September, the United Nations Security Council passed a unanimous resolution requiring Syria to destroy its cache of chemical weapons by the middle of 2014. The United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons would have to approve the extension. The agencies have been have been overseeing the plan for ridding Syria of the weapons. Any further postponement in the timeline would force an extension of the deadline for the destruction of the banned weapons, which is scheduled for June 30. It is estimated to take around 90 days for some of the most dangerous components of the chemical weapons to be neutralized.

Irritation over the delays has been growing for Western diplomats, particularly for the United States and Britain. They have insisted on compliance with the June 30 deadline so far. The American representative to the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons strongly criticized Syria for the requested delay. American representative Robert P. Mikulak said in remarks posted on the State Department website, “Completion of removal and destruction by June 30, 2014, is indeed achievable if action is taken by Syria now.”

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