• Germany's news in English

Germany to destroy Syrian chemical weapons

AFP/The Local · 9 Jan 2014, 12:27

Published: 09 Jan 2014 12:27 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

"The government decided following a request by the UN-Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that Germany is prepared to make a substantial contribution to the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons," the foreign and defence ministries said in a joint statement.

"The government is willing and able to destroy in Germany remnants created in the course of irreversibly neutralizing chemical weapons from Syria and which resemble industrial waste."

Last summer the risk of the on-going Syrian civil war spilling over into a wider conflict spiked after the US accused President Assad of using banned chemical weapons in an attack on the capital Damascus in August in which hundreds were killed.

The escalation of hostilities between the US, Syria and its allies was narrowly avoided in September when the Assad regime unexpectedly jumped on a rhetorical suggestion by the US that it could avoid war by disposing of its chemical weapons stockpile.

Since then, UN weapons inspectors have been working on the dangerous and difficult task of locating and securing the chemicals in the middle of a war zone as well as destroying the equipment used to make them.

Germany is the latest country to volunteer to help destroy the toxic chemicals, the US, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Russia, China and Britain have also offered their help.

"After, contrary to the expectations of many, the Syrian chemical weapons were quickly identified, secured and cleared, the community of nations now has an obligation to deal with their disposal," said Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in an accompanying statement to Thursday's announcement.

"No [country] which takes its international responsibility seriously can ignore this," he added.

"Germany has safe and long experience with destruction of residues of chemical weapons," said Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen. "It makes sense that we bring this capability to the international community and thereby be able to make a valuable contribution to the peace process." 

Syria's most dangerous chemicals were meant to have been moved out of the country by December 31st. Under a UN-backed plan, all of Syria's declared 1,290 tonne arsenal should be destroyed by June 30th. But the country's worsening conflict has caused holdups.

Sigrid Kaag, the head of the OPCW, which is monitoring the operation,  said Wednesday that the June deadline could still be met despite delays moving the most dangerous chemicals. 

"Everything is ready, investment is made and the authorities have shown that first movements have started to happen," she added, describing the loading of the first chemicals onto a ship in the Syrian port of Latakia on Tuesday as "an important first step."

On top of battles between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and opposition rebels, a customs strike in neighbouring Lebanon and heavy snow in Syria had blocked the delivery of necessary equipment, Kaag said. Containers of Class A chemicals from Syria's arsenal were put on a Danish vessel in Latakia on Tuesday which is now being guarded at sea by an international fleet.

After more chemicals have been loaded, the consignment will be taken to Italy to be transferred to a US Navy vessel for destruction to start. Kaag said an international tender for companies to destroy lower level chemicals in the arsenal would be completed within weeks.

READ MORE: Syria arms inspectors trained in Bavaria

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German town, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd