U.S. ship destroys Syrian chemical weapons

RRF vessel Cape Ray RRF vessel Cape Ray

AUGUST 19, 2014—The White House confirmed yesterday that the specially outfitted U.S. Ready Reserve Force vessel M/V Cape Ray (T-AKR 9679) destroyed the "most lethal declared chemical weapons possessed by the Syrian regime"at sea during its mission for the joint Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons/United Nations.

In a statement, the White House called it an "important achievement in our ongoing effort to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction by eliminating Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile. The most lethal declared chemical weapons possessed by the Syrian regime were destroyed by dedicated U.S. civilian and military professionals using a unique American capability aboard the M/V Cape Ray – and they did so aboard that U.S. vessel several weeks ahead of schedule.  This is a major milestone in the international community’s efforts under the leadership of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to rid the Syrian regime of its chemical weapons.  It further advances our collective goal to ensure that the Asad regime cannot use its chemical arsenal against the Syrian people and sends a clear message that the use of these abhorrent weapons has consequences and will not be tolerated by the international community."

As we reported on July 2, the Cape Ray was underway to the Port of Gioia Tauro in Calabria, Italy, to load 530 tons of chemical weapons from Syria for destruction at sea. The weapons had been stored aboard the 13,500 dwt Danish ship M/V Ark Futura in the port.

The White House added that the U.S. was "grateful to the United Nations-OPCW Joint Mission and the entire international coalition for their unprecedented achievements.  In particular, we appreciate the dedication of Joint Mission Special Coordinator Sigrid Kaag, OPCW Director General Uzumcu, and their teams for their vital work.  We also thank our close allies and partners – Denmark, Norway, Italy, Finland, Germany,  and the United Kingdom – for their key contributions to this mission, and we appreciate the assistance of Russia and China. Going forward, we will watch closely to see that Syria fulfills its commitment to destroy its remaining declared chemical weapons production facilities. In addition, serious questions remain with respect to the omissions and discrepancies in Syria’s declaration to the OPCW and about continued allegations of use. These concerns must be addressed, and we will work closely with the OPCW and the international community to seek resolution of these open issues, even as we broadly press the Asad regime to end the horrific atrocities it continues to commit against its people."