Syria chemical weapons may be destroyed at sea

Updated 27 November 2013

Syria chemical weapons may be destroyed at sea

THE HAGUE: Syria’s over 1,000 tons of chemical weapons could be destroyed at sea if no country agrees to dispose of them on its soil, the world’s chemical watchdog said Wednesday.
“This possibility has been looked at for some time already,” Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) spokesman Christian Chartier told AFP of destroying the chemicals at sea.
“It’s still being looked at and is one of several solutions envisaged by member states and as long as a decision has not been taken, it remains a possibility,” Chartier said.
“This possibility doesn’t exclude the fact that member states continue to think about the possibility of destroying them on land,” Chartier added.
The world is in agreement about destroying Syria’s chemical weapons as part of a US-Russia deal aimed at heading off strikes on the Damascus regime after deadly chemical attacks in August.
But despite consensus on destroying the chemicals outside war-wracked Syria, no country has yet been found ready to have them destroyed on its soil.
Syria is cooperating with the disarmament operation and has already said it had approximately 1,290 tons of chemical weapons and precursors, or ingredients, as well as over 1,000 unfilled chemical munitions, meaning shells, rockets or mortars.
Expert Jean-Pascal Zanders said that chemical weapons were incinerated on ships after the Second World War, but “I’m not sure these incinerator ships still exist.”
“One of the concerns with such incinerators is the production of toxic stuff that then gets into the sea, the food chain, including dioxins and so forth,” Zanders told AFP.
The OPCW’s Executive Council on Friday approved a final roadmap for ridding Syria of its arsenal by mid-2014, with a plan on how to destroy them out of the country, on land or at sea, to be approved by Dec. 17.
A team of UN-OPCW inspectors has been on the ground since October checking Syria’s weapons and facilities.
Destruction of declared chemical weapons production facilities was completed last month and all chemicals and precursors placed under seal, the OPCW said last month ahead of a November 1 deadline backed by a UN Security Council resolution.
Some chemical weapons are destroyed through a process known as hydrolysis, in which agents, like detergents, are used to neutralize blistering chemicals such as mustard gas and sulphur.
Nerve gases such as sarin are often better destroyed through incineration. Disarmament expert Zanders said that the dumping of chemical-filled munitions at sea was “routine” before the 1980 Oslo Treaty prohibited it.


Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

Updated 7 min 48 sec ago

Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

  • Several European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey

ANKARA: With an increasing number of European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey over its ongoing operation in northeastern Syria, Ankara’s existing inventory of weapons and military capabilities are under the spotlight.

More punitive measures on a wider scale are expected during a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Oct. 17.

It could further strain already deteriorating relations between Ankara and the bloc.

However, a EU-wide arms embargo would require an unanimous decision by all the leaders.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned last week of a possible refugee flow if Turkey “opened the doors” for 3.6 million Syrian refugees to go to Europe — putting into question the clauses of the 2016 migration deal between Ankara and Brussels.

“The impact of EU member states’ arms sanctions on Turkey depends on the level of Turkey’s stockpiles,” Caglar Kurc, a researcher on defense and armed forces, told Arab News.

Kurc thinks Turkey has foreseen the possible arms sanctions and stockpiled enough spare parts to maintain the military during the operation.

“As long as Turkey can maintain its military, sanctions would not have any effect on the operation. Therefore, Turkey will not change its decisions,” he said.

So far, Germany, France, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway have announced they have stopped weapons shipments to fellow NATO member Turkey, condemning the offensive.

“Against the backdrop of the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria, the federal government will not issue new permits for all armaments that could be used by Turkey in Syria,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Following Germany’s move, the French government announced: “France has decided to suspend all export projects of armaments to Turkey that could be deployed as part of the offensive in Syria. This decision takes effect immediately.”

While not referring to any arms embargo, the UK urged Turkey to end the operation and enter into dialogue.

Turkey received one-third of Germany’s arms exports of €771 million ($850.8 million) in 2018. 

According to Kurc, if sanctions extend beyond weapons that could be used in Syria, there could be a negative impact on the overall defense industry.

“However, in such a case, Turkey would shift to alternative suppliers: Russia and China would be more likely candidates,” he said.

According to Sinan Ulgen, the chairman of the Istanbul-based EDAM think tank and a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, the arms embargo would not have a long-term impact essentially because most of the sanctions are caveated and limited to materials that can be used by Turkey in its cross-border operation.

“So the arms embargo does not cover all aspects of the arms trade between Turkey and the EU. These measures look essentially like they are intended to demonstrate to their own critical publics that their governments are doing something about what they see as a negative aspect of Turkey’s behavior,” he told Arab News.

Turkey, however, insists that the Syria operation, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” is undeterred by any bans or embargoes.

“No matter what anyone does, no matter if it’s an arms embargo or anything else, it just strengthens us,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told German radio station Deutsche Welle.