Russia says better to remove most chemical weapons from Syria

 Russia says better to remove most chemical weapons from Syria
# 02 November 2013 00:08 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Russia believes most of Syria's chemical arsenal should be removed from the country rather than destroyed there, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying on Friday, APA reports quoting Reuters.

Ryabkov spoke after meeting Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint United Nations-Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) mission to destroy Syria's chemical weapons.

"Much speaks in favor of the overwhelming portion of poisonous substances in Syria being removed beyond its borders," state-run news agency RIA quoted Ryabkov as saying. He did not explain the reasons for that view.

Russia has been Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's most powerful backer during the two-and-a-half-year-old conflict, blocking U.N. Security Council resolutions meant to pressure him and saying his exit cannot be a precondition for peace talks.

But under a deal brokered by Russia and the United States, Assad agreed to destroy all Syria's chemical weapons after Washington threatened to use force in response to a sarin gas attack that killed hundreds of people on August 21.

The OPCW said on Thursday Syria had met a major deadline in the process - which is supposed to be complete by June - by destroying or rendering inoperable 21 out of 23 of its declared chemical weapons production and mixing facilities.

The two remaining locations could not be reached due to the war with rebels trying to topple Assad, but state media and a monitoring group said on Friday that the army had captured Safira, a northern town near a chemical arms site.

A source briefed on OPCW operations in Syria said Safira, southeast of Aleppo, was one of the two sites its experts had been unable to inspect. The chemical weapons facility itself has been under government control but emptied of equipment because of fighting nearby, according to the OPCW.