The mission to remove chemical weapons from Syria will miss its latest deadline due to technical difficulties as well as weather and security concerns. While the joint mission between the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons did meet its November 1 deadline to destroy equipment crucial to production, transporting the actual chemicals out of the country is still a priority.
A statement from the mission announced that the missed deadline to get chemicals out of Syria by December 31 and stated that, "A number of external factors have impacted upon timelines, not least the continuing volatility in overall security conditions, which have constrained planned movements."
The current plan is still to transport the most dangerous chemicals—including sarin, mustard gas, and VX—to the port city of Latakia, where they will then be carried out to a United States vessel and destroyed at sea by hydrolysis. As of Sunday, trucks supplied by Russia for transporting the 500 tons of chemicals had not begun to be loaded.
The mission still hopes to complete its efforts by its original ultimate deadline, the end of June. A spokesperson for the State Department told reporters, "It was always an ambitious timeline, but we are still operating on the June 30th timeline for the complete destruction."
The OPCW's executive board is expected to reassess the timeline at a meeting on January 8.