The government of Syria has agreed to submit its chemical weapons information to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a watchdog group located in the Hague, Netherlands.
While the U.S. has demanded that Syria turn over information about its chemical weapons by this Saturday, the Syrian government has just begun submitting data to OPCW today, according to a OPCW press release.
The OPCW is the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), established in 1997. The Chemical Weapons Convention includes four main aims: destroying existing chemical weapons, keeping track of the chemical industry to prevent new weapons from being developed, working to protect the 189 Member States from chemical threats, and nurturing international cooperation to promote “the peaceful use of chemistry.”
Syria has recently decided to join the Chemical Weapons Convention, and it will be the 190th nation to do so.
After the United Nations Secretary General confirmed that chemical weapons were indeed used on Aug. 21, OPCW Director-General, Ahmet Üzümcü, called it “a tragic development that I condemn strongly.” He continued, “This clearly makes it all the more important to ensure that the program for chemical demilitarisation in Syria succeeds.”
Syria agreed to disclose an inventory of its chemical weapons and production facilities to the OPCW as a result of an agreement made between the U.S. and Russia. On September 14, following talks in Geneva between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, Syria agreed to abide by the Chemical Weapons Convention and hand over its chemical weapons.
Kerry remarked that the U.S. would choose to avoid military strikes if Syrian President Assad were to “turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community next week.”
The U.S. still threatens use of force if Syria doesn’t meet the deadlines for submitting the data, handing over all chemical weapons, and destroying them. The deal plans to have inspectors go into Syria by November, and chemical weapons destroyed by 2014.
Jean Pascal Zanders, widely recognized as one of the top experts on chemical weapons, wrote on his website: “In the end, this international effort would strengthen the norm and international agreements against [chemical weapons] and their use in armed conflict much more than any military strike might be able to achieve."
Zanders was a former Research Fellow at the European Union Institute for Security Studies.