Syria met a key deadline on Sunday to file its formal declaration for the chemical weapons it possess, along with its plan for the weapons’ removal.
The declaration is a crucial first step in the international agreement to remove and destroy the Middle Eastern nation’s chemical weapons stockpiles.
Michael Luhan, a spokesman for watchdog Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, announced that Syria’s government has been cooperative so far, reports USA Today. OPCW is overseeing inspections of the country’s chemical weapons.
Syria has until the middle of next year to complete the destruction or removal of the weapons, or it could face harsh consequences.
However, the nation is in the middle of a civil war, which could complicate matters and drag out the process. Most of the chemicals are in areas controlled by the government, but the Syrian government is still facing several rebel groups whose actions can’t be predicted.
While it is likely the United States and other countries want to see the declaration filed by Syria on Sunday, OPCW stated that declarations are confidential, so it won’t disclose or discuss its contents, notes The New York Times.
Despite this, American officials still have a rough idea of how many chemical weapons Syria has, and how many sites contain them. They also suggested that Syria’s preliminary declaration wasn’t complete. A senior State Department official commented earlier this month, “It is of the greatest importance that the document be complete.”
The effort to rid Syria of chemical weapons began in August when rebels reported a chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb. The United States and its allies blamed the attack on the Syrian government and threatened to attack with cruise missiles. To prevent the attack, Syria agreed to a disarmament plan with the help of Russia and the US.
As Syria filed the declaration to meet its Sunday deadline, inspectors announced they visited 19 of the 23 sites initially disclosed by the Middle Eastern nation. They also destroyed equipment needed for mixing chemical agents and loading chemical weapons at the sites.
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