UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- Despite several missed deadlines, blamed on lack of equipment and the dire security situation, the June 30 deadline should be met, the special coordinator for the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria said on Thursday.
Sigrid Kaag, who was mandated jointly by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), made the remarks after having delivered her monthly report to the UN Security Council behind closed doors.
"The deadline of June 30 can be met," Kaag said. "Intermediate milestones ideally should have been met. They have not been met. There are now delays," she told reporters.
Her team was working to ensure that a plan will be available where "further benchmarking can take place that allows for planning, preparation and swift implementation."
"We also know there is an acceleration of effort and there can be an intensification of effort," Kaag said of Damascus. "That is also what we state and what we work on with the Syrian authorities. There's a clear expectation."
"There is onward cooperation," she said. "There is implementation. There is an expectation and delays are not insurmountable. Delays have a reason. There is a rationale. There is a context at the moment."
The "context" refers to the security situation resulted from the nearly three-year-long conflict that has reportedly claimed more than 130,000 lives and displaced more than 6.2 million people.
Last September, Damascus told the Hague-based OPCW it wanted to join the Chemical Weapons Convention and surrender its chemical weapons, development and manufacturing plants and storage areas.
According to a timeline approved by the OPCW, the most toxic chemical substances will be transported out of Syria by the end of 2013 and destroyed on a special vessel at sea. The rest will be shipped out for destruction no later than June 30, 2014. The operation has been observed by the UN and OPCW.
Chemical weapons are to be taken to a port in southern Italy, Gioia Tauro, for trans-shipment. Some will be rendered harmless by commercial firms while the most toxic weapons are to be taken to a U.S. naval ship, the MV Cape Ray, to be stationed shortly in international waters where the chemicals will be treated by hydrolysis.
Danish and Norwegian vessels are transporting the chemicals and chemical weapons from the Syrian port of Latakia. They are escorted by ships of China, Russia and Britain.
Many countries are contributing additional equipment to assist Syria.
"My briefing referred obviously to the importance of having timely, volume based and predictable movements when it comes to the removal operation of chemical materials out of Syria through the port of Latakia," Kaag said, recalling the joint operation "recognized consistently the constructive cooperation" of Syria and the international community.
"There is an expectation of swift (chemical weapons) movement, safe and secure, naturally, noting the security conditions in-country that are volatile and precarious," Kaag said, referring to transportation from 12 sites in Syria to the port of Latakia.
"I will look forward to an ongoing dialogue with counterparts and to work with the team to insure that everything is done from verification, inspection and that in-country based destruction also continues because, at the end of the day, the overall objective of the elimination and deconstruction of Syria's chemical weapons program is the whole package."
"Removal is a big and important part of that," the Dutch diplomat added.
Syria recently claimed it needed additional equipment before it could transport some of the chemicals.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, who was the only country representative to emerge from the closed-door council session to talk with reporters after Kaag, accused the Syrian government of foot-dragging.
"It is time for the (Bashar al) Assad government to stop its foot-dragging, establish a transportation plan, and stick to it," she said. "We urge all member states with influence over the regime to persuade it to move forward with the transportation phase."
However, when Kaag was asked if Syria was stalling, she replied, "No. I don't think so."
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