U.S. says mission in Syria still on pace for June 30 deadline

While the mission to rid Syria of its chemical weapons missed a key deadline, the mission remains on pace to destroy the arsenal by June 30, the U.S. State Department said on Monday.

Marie Harf, the deputy spokesperson for the State Department, made the remarks on Monday during her daily press briefing. Harf responded to a question about recent reports that Syria would be unable to meet an end of the year deadline to transport chemicals to a port for their removal from the country. She said it was more important for the mission to make forward progress than to meet target milestones.

"We always knew this was going to be a complicated process," Harf said. "What we've always said is that these are target dates, or milestones, as you said, and as long as we see forward progress, that's what's most important here. And we have."

Harf pointed out that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the U.N. confirmed the functional disablement of all Syria's declared production, mixing and filling equipment, which will keep the country from weaponizing the deadly chemicals. She said the mission is still on pace to completely destroy all of Syria's chemical arsenal by June 30.

"So we continue to make progress, which has been the important part here," Harf said. "They're milestones for a reason. It was always an ambitious timeline, but we are still operating on the June 30 timeline for the complete destruction and are actively supporting the OPCW and the U.N. as we work towards that goal."

Harf said the OPCW and the U.N. Joint Mission in Syria cited security and weather concerns as reason for missing the end of the year deadline.