Libya marks destruction of last chemical arms - watchdog

OPCW Director General Ahmet Uzumcu looks on in this file photo. He said that the destruction of the chemical arms “heralds the end of Libya's chemical demilitarisation process”. (Reuters)
Updated 11 January 2018

Libya marks destruction of last chemical arms - watchdog

THE HAGUE: Libya marked the destruction of its last toxic arms Thursday, hailed by the world's chemical weapons watchdog as a "historic occasion" to make the world a safer place.
The final destruction of some 500 metric tonnes of chemical products at a facility based in Munster in western Germany, was a "historic occasion for disarmament and security," the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said.
"It heralds the end of Libya's chemical demilitarisation process and another step towards fulfilling the core goal of the Chemical Weapons Convention - the complete and permanent eradication of all chemical weapons," director-general Ahmet Uzumcu said in a statement.
The stocks, including 23 tanks of chemicals, were shipped out on a Danish vessel on August 30, 2016, from the Libyan port of Misrata, under the supervision of the United Nations.
The chemical weapons reached the highly specialised facility operated by GEKA, Germany's state-owned company for disposing of chemical weapons, in September 2016.
The OPCW verified the complete destruction of the materials at GEKA on November 23 last year, the OPCW said Thursday at a ceremony held in Munster.
The removal of the dangerous weapons precursors greatly eased fears that extremists like so-called Islamic State terrorists could gain access to the weapons in Libya, which has been wracked by upheaval since the 2011 overthrow of its longtime leader Moamer Kadhafi.
Uzumcu said the "extraordinary" operation to destroy the chemicals "necessitated agility, creativity and above all, close international cooperation."
Libya joined the UN convention banning chemical weapons in 2004 as part of Kadhafi's ultimately abortive efforts to shake off the country's pariah status and mend ties with the West.
At the time Libya joined the convention, it declared 24.7 tonnes of sulphur mustard, 1,390 tonnes of precursor chemicals and more than 3,500 aerial bombs containing chemical weapons.
"The destruction of Libya's remaining Category 2 chemical weapons in the GEKA facility brought the total amount of the Libyan category 2 chemical weapons destroyed to 100 percent," the OPCW said.
"Libya had previously destroyed all of its category 1 and 3 chemical weapons," it added.
More than 96 percent of the world's declared chemical stockpiles have now been destroyed under verification by the OPCW - which received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize for its work.


Thousands return to government-seized areas in northwest Syria: state media

Updated 19 min 6 sec ago

Thousands return to government-seized areas in northwest Syria: state media

  • The Syrian Observatory reported “around 3,000 people” going home from other areas under regime control
  • The Idlib region is one of the last holdouts of opposition forces

DAMASCUS: Thousands have returned to their hometowns in northwest Syria after military advances by government loyalist against militants and allied rebels, state media said Sunday.
“Thousands of citizens return to their villages and towns of the northern Hama countryside and the southern Idlib countryside,” state news agency SANA said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, reported “around 3,000 people” going home from other areas under regime control.
Since August 31, a cease-fire announced by regime backer Russia has largely held in northwestern Syria, though the Observatory has reported sporadic bombardment.
SANA said the returns came amid “government efforts to return the displaced to their towns and villages.”
The Idlib region of around three million people, many of them dispaced by fighting in other areas, is one of the last holdouts of opposition to forces backing Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Moscow announced the cease-fire late last month after four months of deadly violence that displaced 400,000 people, most of whom fled north within the jihadist-run bastion, according to the United Nations.
Regime forces had chipped away at the southern edges of the jihadist-run stronghold throughout August, retaking towns and villages in the north of Hama province and the south of Idlib province.
Syria’s civil war has killed more than 370,000 people since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.
Assad’s regime now controls more than 60 percent of the country after notching up a series of victories against rebels and jihadists with key Russian backing since 2015.
But a large chunk of Idlib, fully administered by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate since January, as well as a Kurdish-held swathe of the oil-rich northeast, remain beyond its reach.