December 10, 2013 - 10:19 AMT
Russia in talks to transport Syria chemical arms: official

Russia is in talks about providing safe transport of chemical weapons out of Syria, a deputy foreign minister said Monday, December 9, according to RIA Novosti.

Mikhail Bogdanov said that Moscow was examining possible options with the United States and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Asked whether Russia had offered help in transporting Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, he said: “We are discussing these issues with our American colleagues and via the OPCW in the Hague. I think an optimal solution will be found.”

He added that there was a “very high level of mutual understanding” between the parties in discussing which ships might be used to move the weapons as well as the question of military protection of vessels during transportation.

The OPCW finalized in November a roadmap for destroying Syria’s arsenal of more than 1,000 metric tons of weapons-grade chemicals by mid-2014. According to the roadmap, the most dangerous, or “priority”, weapons have to be removed from Syria by December 31 and destroyed by April 2014, while the rest is slated for detruction by mid-2014.

The disarmament process was launched after an August 21 chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb that killed hundreds of civilians. The US and Western allies accused the Syrian government of responsibility for that attack, but Damascus blamed rebel groups fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad.

The long-delayed Geneva-2 international peace conference, dedicated to ending the Syrian conflict, is expected to be held in Geneva on January 22. Russia has supported the Syrian government during the civil war, while America has backed some groups within the opposition.

More than 100,000 people have been killed and 9 million people displaced since fighting broke out in Syria in 2011, according to the United Nations.