The global chemical arms watchdog Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced Friday that it has approved a plan to destroy Syria's arsenal by mid-2014, as foreseen in a US-Russia deal in September that turned into a workable United Nations Security Council resolution. A statement posted on OPCW's website said "most critical" chemicals would leave Syria by the end of 2013, with the rest transported for destruction by February 5 next year. The statement does not clarify where they will go. Protesters took to the streets in Albania on Friday for a second day of rallies over allegations that their country might act as a safe destination for the chemical material. OPCW says 60 percent of unfilled warheads and bombs in Syria have so far been destroyed on the ground, a process planned to be over by January 31. In the current plan, the destruction of priority chemical weapons is scheduled to be completed by the end of March, and the entire arsenal three months later at the end of June. "I welcome the decision reached today by the Executive Council,” the statement quotes OPCW Director General Ahmet Uzumcu, a Turkish career diplomat. “The plan provides a clear roadmap. It sets ambitious milestones to be met by the Government of Syria." Uzumcu noted that the next phase would "require the existence of a secure environment for the verification and transport of chemical weapons," a place that as of now remains unclear.
"Continuing international support and assistance for this endeavour will remain crucial," Uzumcu added.
Last month, OPCW was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work in Syria, where a deadly chemical weapons attack in August killed 1,500 people just outside capital Damascus.
The attack led to an international uproar and brought together a host of world powers, led by the US, which had till then appeared reluctant to act in the face of a long drawn out civil war, which the chemical weapons initiative is expected to do little to end.
OPCW is almost universally recognized in its effort to rid the world of chemical weapons. Syria became a member in October and signed the Chemical Weapons Convention that the organization polices.
Only six countries refuse to be bound by the convention: Israel, Myanmar (which have signed but not ratified it), Angola, Egypt, North Korea, and South Sudan.