Syrian Chemical-Arms Audit Could Start in Days

Global Security Newswire Staff

International inspectors could start auditing Syrian chemical-warfare assets early next week under a proposal scheduled for a Friday-evening vote by dozens of governments, Reuters reported.

The plan calls for specialists next Tuesday to begin in-person checks of the Syrian-government stockpile, which is estimated to include roughly 1,000 metric tons of sarin, mustard and VX agents in storage at scores of facilities. The materials are slated for destruction by the middle of next year with underwriting from state signatories to an international chemical-arms treaty.

The inspection blueprint would allow member countries to identify sites for potential audit by that pact's enforcement agency, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Associated Press reported.

To move forward, the proposal needs backing from just over half of the 41-nation OPCW Executive Council, according to Reuters. Countries typically do not vote against measures that the steering group ultimately adopts.

An undisclosed U.S.-Russian analysis suggests it would take roughly nine months to destroy the stockpile, which is comprised largely of "unweaponized" chemical-arms ingredients, the Washington Post reported on Thursday. Adhering to that timeline would require full cooperation from Damascus.

Moscow and Washington on Thursday compromised on a U.N. Security Council proposal for enforcing their plan to eliminate all chemical weapons controlled by Damascus, Reuters reported. The 15-nation body on Friday could formally take up the measure, which would require follow-on action to punish Bashar Assad's government for any noncompliance, the New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, a U.N. team on Friday said it was three days away from wrapping up an in-country investigation into seven claims of chemical strikes in Syria's civil war, Reuters reported. Their findings would inform an assessment scheduled for publication late next month.