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Chemical-Weapons Watchdog Chief Seeks Temporary Syria Cease-Fires

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu addresses a news conference in The Hague on October 9.
The head of the global chemical-weapons watchdog has called for temporary cease-fires in Syria's ongoing civil war.

Ahmet Uzumcu, the director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said some provisional truces in Syria would help his organization to reach its decommissioning targets for the country's chemical-weapons arsenal.

"I wouldn't say [the timeline is] unrealistic. Much depends also on the situation on the ground. The safety and security of our experts is, of course, an overriding concern. Uzumcu said in The Hague on October 9.

"Therefore, if we can assure some cooperation by all parties and if some temporary cease-fires could be established in order to permit our experts to work in a permissive environment, I think, the targets could be reached."

Uzumcu said that international experts were aiming to visit 20 sites in the near future.

"This is an extraordinary situation for the OPCW. It's unprecedented and we are at the beginning of a difficult process. There are significant challenges," Uzumcu said.

"Nevertheless, our organization is well equipped in terms of knowledge, expertise, and experience to fulfill this mandate."

Uzumcu added that the mission's goal of removing Syria's chemical weapons by the middle of next year was "realistic" if his organization received adequate international support.

"Timelines in the [OPCW] Executive Council decisions are tight. The initial declaration and a general plan for destruction [of Syria's chemical stockpile] have to be submitted by Syria by October 27," he said.

"First verification activities will have to be completed by the end of this month and also the production facilities, as well as mixing and filling facilities will have to be rendered unusable by that time."

The combined United Nations-OPCW mission began last week. It has already supervised the first stages of destruction of the country's chemical arsenal. A second team is being dispatched to reinforce the effort.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
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