The first batch of Syrian chemical weapons have been moved out of the war-ravaged country in order to be destroyed, United Nations officials announced on Tuesday.
The Syrian weapons will be destroyed at sea onboard the U.S. government-owned vessel MV Cape Ray (T-AKR-9679).
“A first quantity of priority chemical materials was moved from two sites to the port of Lattakia [Syria] for verification and was then loaded onto a Danish commercial vessel today,” U.N. special coordinator Sigrid Kaag said in statement.
“The vessel has been accompanied by naval escorts provided by Denmark and Norway, as well as the Syrian Arab Republic. This movement initiates the process of transfer of chemical materials from the Syrian Arab Republic to locations outside its territory for destruction.”
According to Kaag, the Danish cargo vessel has left the Syria for international waters where it will await the arrival of more chemical weapons. Kaag stated that warships from Denmark, Norway, China and Russia are escorting the weapon-laden cargo ship.
Eventually, the chemical weapons will be transferred onto Cape Ray, which has been specifically equipped with Field Deployable Hydrolysis Systems designed to dispose of such materials.
“We expect to deal with about 700 tons on the ship. And we have the capacity to deal with that,” Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told reporters last week.
“The total amount of time we’re allowing for the actual destruction operations is about 90 days.”
Cape Ray is the U.S. contribution to the effort to dispose of the Syria regime’s chemical weapons. Syria is required to give up its chemical weapons under U.N. Security Council resolution 2118. The resolution was imposed after the Syrian government appeared to have used nerve gas on rebel forces in 2013 during the country’s ongoing civil war.