On Thursday, Britain confirmed that it has completed incineration of around 190 tonnes of Syrian chemical material, intended for use by Bashar al-Assad’s regime to manufacture nerve gas.
The destruction was carried out at Ellesmere Port.
The UK had agreed to destroy approximately 15% of the total declared Syrian chemical stockpile in commercial facilities.
The entire stockpile of one category of chemicals, known as “B precursors”, along with a smaller volume of hydrochloric acid also from the Syrian chemical weapons programme, arrived in Britain three weeks ago.
The chemicals were then transferred to the High Temperature Incinerator operated by Veolia at Ellesmere Port, where they have been destroyed, under the verification procedures of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Britain’s minister for the Middle East and North Africa, Tobias Ellwood said “By destroying these chemicals, the UK has played its part in the international effort to ensure that Assad’s chemical weapons can never again be used against the Syrian people. The removal, and now the destruction in four countries, of the declared Syrian chemical stockpile show what can be achieved when the international community, including Russia, agrees to work together for the common good.”
“Completing destruction of the declared stockpile does not mark the closure of the chemical weapons chapter. Gaps and inconsistencies in Syria’s declaration need to be resolved. There continue to be credible reports of attacks using industrial chemicals such as chlorine. The OPCW Fact Finding Mission’s interim conclusions stated that the available information lent credence to the view that these attacks were being systematically orchestrated. The Mission must leave no stone unturned in its investigation, and the perpetrators of such barbaric acts must be held accountable.”
The B precursors are two industrial grade chemicals which if combined with chemicals known as A precursors produce nerve agent. As a safety and security precaution, the type A and type B precursors were never transported by the OPCW together.
The UK offered in December to destroy the entire batch of B precursors on behalf of the OPCW, using an existing MOD contract with Veolia. Subsequently, the OPCW requested the UK destroy an additional 44 tonnes of hydrochloric acid and six tonnes of hydrogen fluoride.
The chemical stockpile declared by the Assad regime comprised 1300 tonnes. Part of the remainder is being destroyed at commercial facilities in Finland and the United States, whilst the chemicals posing the greatest concern are first being hydrolysed at sea aboard the US ship Cape Ray. The resulting less harmful effluent will then be destroyed in Germany and Finland.
The effort to remove the Syrian chemical stockpile has been led by the OPCW, with significant contributions from several nations. Denmark and Norway led the maritime task force which transported the chemicals out of Syria; Russia and China contributed naval escorts needed for security off the coast of Syria; the Royal Navy also provided naval protection in the eastern Mediterranean; Finland provided specialist technical expertise; Italy provided a port for transhipment of material; and the USA, Germany and Finland are all contributing to the subsequent safe handling and destruction of the chemicals.