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Syrian chemical weapons mission only has enough funding for one more month

February 11, 2014 at 9:32 am

The international body charged with the disposal of Syria’s chemical weapons has enough money to fund its mission only until the end of this month, and urgently needs more funds for the destruction of poison gas stocks next year.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which won the Nobel Peace Prize last month, is overseeing the destruction of Syria’s nerve gas stockpiles within the framework of a US-Russian agreement that was reached by the two countries in September. The organisation has so far raised about ten million euros ($13.5 million) for this mission.

A recent OPCW document found that, “It is the assessment of the Secretariat that its existing personnel resources are sufficient for operations to be conducted in October and November 2013.” At the time, the OPCW trust fund for its Syrian work held just 4 million euros.

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has said that the total cost of the operation could ultimately be $1 billion. Experts believe it is likely to be less, but will still run into the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, depending on where and how the chemical weapons are destroyed.

The US has been the biggest contributor to the OPCW’s fund for the Syria mission, with Britain, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland also contributing.

The organisation’s document said that Washington has contributed $6 million in equipment, training and cash, split between funds with the OPCW and the UN.

Among the expected expenses for next year is the high cost of shipping raw chemical materials outside of Syria to be destroyed safely away from the war zone. The sources said that discussions are underway with countries willing to host facilities for incinerating or chemically neutralizing the poisons, including Albania, Belgium and an unspecified Scandinavian country.

Sources said that companies in the US, Germany and France are competing for the contract to provide destruction facilities.