Syrian chemical removal deadline will not be met

The deadline to remove the most critical chemical weapons material from Syria for destruction will not be met, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-U.N. Joint Mission said on Saturday.

The mission cited technical difficulties for the delay and said preparations continue in an effort to ready the transportation of the materials.

"However, at this stage, transportation of the most critical chemical material before December 31 is unlikely," the mission said.

Syria's government destroyed critical chemical weapons production equipment by the end of October, meeting a deadline set by the OPCW Executive Council to destroy the equipment by November 1. The Tuesday deadline for the removal of the most critical chemical weapons material from Syria was the OPCW's first intermediate milestone.

"A number of external factors have impacted upon timelines, not least the continuing volatility in overall security conditions, which have constrained planned movements," the mission said.

The process to remove chemical agents from Syria involves transporting the chemical to Latakia. The agents will then be shipped on commercial vessels provided by Member States before being loaded onto a U.S. ship to be destroyed at sea using hydrolysis.

"Despite this delay, the joint mission continues to work closely and intensively with the government of the Syrian Arab Republic and the assisting States Parties to begin safe and secure removal and transportation operations as soon as possible," Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, said.

Ban praised Sigrid Kaag, the special coordinator for the mission, and her team for their steadfast work in difficult circumstances.