Watchdog: Syria’s Chemical Arsenal Almost Gone, but Israel and Egypt Retain Stockpiles

Israel, Egypt among six countries not to have ratified Chemical Weapons Convention.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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A member of the UN's investigation team taking samples of sands near a part of a missile in Damascus countryside of Ain Terma, Syria, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013.
A member of the UN's investigation team taking samples of sands near a part of a missile in Damascus countryside of Ain Terma, Syria, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013. Credit: AP
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Syria has almost eliminated its declared chemical weapons, but Israel and Egypt retain chemical stockpiles, according to an official in the intergovernmental Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Briefing journalists in The Hague this week, the official source said Egypt has thousands of tons of chemical weapons but declined to say how much or what kind Israel possesses.

The source said the global chemical weapons watchdog was interested in Israel’s ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention, in view of Syria’s elimination of them. The convention’s 190 signatories include 80 countries that have declared they produce chemical weapons. Only 20 have reported they have stockpiles of chemical weapons. Israel has been a signatory of the convention since 1993 but has never ratified it. Egypt never signed the treaty.

So far, only six countries have not signed and ratified the convention – Angola, Myanmar, South Sudan, North Korea, Egypt and Israel. Angola and Myanmar are in various stages of signing it.

An organization official told the journalists that ratifying the convention would benefit Israel by turning it into part of the family of nations. He said Israel would have to accept certain restrictions on its weapon stockpiles, but would be able to advance economic interests related to the chemical industry and gain access to information about chemical weapons’ proliferation.

“Israel must consider ratifying the convention favorably,” the source said. “Israel’s close allies should exert more pressure on it to join the convention.”

The organization is supervising the process of eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons. Syria declared it had 1,300 tons of chemical weapons, 1,040 of them of category 1 – the most lethal kinds like Sarin, VX and mustard gas. Syria has also reported 27 chemical weapon-production facilities, 13 of which have already been destroyed. The remaining ones are to be torn down during the coming year.

The weapons elimination process consisted of taking all the chemical substances out of the country and destroying about 98 percent of them, mainly Sarin, VX and mustard gas. Now the organization’s team is focusing on destroying the manufacturing facilities and checking up on Syria’s initial declaration regarding its chemical weapons arsenal.

The source said the threat to launch chemical warfare against Israel has diminished, but not disappeared. “I cannot promise 100 percent that Syria has no chemical weapons left, deliberately or not, because in the current crisis, it’s possible something was forgotten here and there, as it was in Iraq,” he said.

The source said there is no evidence that Syria has handed over chemical weapons or chemical substances to any terror groups, and questioned the Assad regime’s interest in doing so.

“I don’t know of any chemical weapons passing from Syria to Hezbollah or to Lebanon in general,” he said.

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