Damascus. The destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons has begun, international monitors have said.
The operation is being overseen by a team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The mission was established under a United Nations resolution, which was passed after agreement between Russia and the US.
The resolution followed international outrage at a chemical weapons attack near Damascus in August. In an interim report, UN chemical weapons inspectors confirmed that the nerve agent sarin had been used in the attack in Ghouta on the outskirts of the city on August 21.
It was estimated to have killed hundreds of people and was blamed by the United States and other Western powers on the regime of Bashar al-Assad. But he accuses Syrian rebels of being behind it.
It was not clear at which of the chemical weapons sites declared by the government, thought to number about 20, that Sunday’s operation took place.
An official on the joint OPCW-UN delegation later said: “The first day of destruction and disabling is over and missile warheads, aerial bombs, along with mobile and static mixing and filling units, were dealt with. Work continues tomorrow and in the next few days.”
The destruction of the stockpile, being carried out by the Syrians, is not expected to be straightforward, as some sites are in combat zones.
It is the first time the OPCW - based in The Hague - has been asked to oversee the destruction of a chemical weapons armoury during a conflict.
The Syrian government gave details of its chemical weapons arsenal last month to the OPCW under the Russia-US agreement which also provided for Damascus to join the Chemical Weapons Convention.