International weapons inspectors announced Monday that Syria has handed over the last of its declared chemical weapons stockpile for removal and destruction, even as U.S. officials voiced concern about the Damascus government’s alleged use of other toxic substances.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which was charged last year with overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons under an agreement between the United States and Russia, took control of the “last consignment” of the deadly chemicals, which were loaded onto a ship at the Syrian port of Latakia, the agency’s director general, Ahmet Uzumcu, said in a statement.
“A major landmark in this mission has been reached today,” Uzumcu said Monday. “The last of the remaining chemicals identified for removal from Syria were loaded this afternoon aboard the Danish ship Ark Futura.”
He said the next step involves delivering the chemicals “for destruction at the assigned facility on board the U.S. vessel Cape Ray and at commercial facilities” in the United States, Britain, Finland and Germany.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry hailed the OPCW’s announcement, but he also pointed to what he called alarming evidence that the Syrian government has begun using chlorine gas in rudimentary bombs dropped from aircraft on opposition residential areas.
“It’s very important, however, even as we mark this moment of removing 100 percent of the declared weapons, that we understand that our work is not finished,” Kerry told reporters during a diplomatic visit to Iraq.