Kerry Warns Assad: Don’t Delay Destruction of Chemical Weapons

January 31, 2014  

The United States on Friday issued warnings to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in the wake of the delay in removing his chemical weapons stockpile.

AFP reported that Secretary of State John Kerry warned Assad he could face consequences for failing to live up to international agreements on the issue.

Speaking to reporters ahead of talks in Berlin with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Kerry said that Damascus was not complying with a U.S.-Russian agreed timetable for shipping out the arsenal.

“We now know that the Assad regime is not moving as rapidly as it promised to move the chemical weapons out of Syria,” he said.

“I would remind Bashar Al-Assad that the agreement that we reached in New York with the (UN) Security Council makes it clear that if there are issues of non-compliance, they will be referred to the Security Council for Chapter 7 compliance purposes,”  added Kerry, according to AFP.

The White House also referred to the issue and said it was working with partners to ratchet up pressure on Syria to accelerate removal of its chemical weapons.

“Syria must immediately take the necessary actions to comply with its obligations,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters in Washington.

“We all know that the Syrian regime has the capability to move these weapons. We’re going to continue to work with our partners on this to keep up the pressure on the Assad regime,” he added.

An international operation to destroy Syria’s stockpile of deadly chemicals is currently underway, and is a joint Russian-U.S. plan that was endorsed by the UN Security Council in September.

The resolution was a last-minute measure to prevent an American strike on Syria in retaliation for the regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons in an attack on a Damascus suburb in August that left hundreds dead.

War, bad weather, bureaucracy and technical issues delayed a December 31 deadline for the removal of the most deadly toxins from Syria.

Despite the delays, the first batch of chemical weapon materials was moved out of the country earlier this month, and a second shipment was removed earlier this week. However, the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said this week that Damascus had handed over less than five percent of the most dangerous chemicals in its possession.

“Our hope is that Syria will move rapidly to live up to its obligations,” Kerry said, according to AFP, adding the civil war in the country was “destabilizing the entire region.”

“The world is witnessing human catastrophe unfolding in front of our eyes every single day,” he said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. intelligence chief warned senators this week that while the Syrian regime has agreed to dismantle its arsenal of chemical agents, it may now have the ability to produce biological weapons.

British experts have already warned that there is a “clear and present danger” of Al-Qaeda gaining possession of the Assad regime’s stockpile of biological weapons, claiming to have substantial evidence that Al Qaeda-linked groups may already have possession of toxic agents.

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