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John Kerry: Syrian government deserves credit for so far complying with chemical weapons deal

US Secretary of State John Kerry has said Syrian government deserves credit for so far complying with a chemical weapons deal.

John Kerry was speaking after international monitors began the destruction of Syria’s stockpile.

The mission was established under a UN resolution, which was passed after a deal between Russia and the US.

The initiative followed international outrage at a chemical weapons attack near Damascus in August.

“The process has begun in record time and we are appreciative for the Russian co-operation and obviously for the Syrian compliance,” John Kerry said after talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit in Bali, Indonesia.

“I think it’s extremely significant that yesterday, Sunday, within a week of the (UN) resolution being passed, some chemical weapons were being destroyed.

“I think it’s a credit to the Assad regime, frankly. It’s a good beginning and we welcome a good beginning.”

John Kerry has said Syrian government deserves credit for so far complying with a chemical weapons deal

John Kerry has said Syrian government deserves credit for so far complying with a chemical weapons deal

The destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal is being overseen by a team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

An official on the joint OPCW-UN delegation said on Sunday: “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 actual 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 armory 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.

That arsenal is thought to include more than 1,000 tonnes of sarin and the blister agent sulphur mustard among other banned chemicals.

In an interim report earlier this year, UN chemical weapons inspectors confirmed that the nerve agent sarin had been used in the attack in Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21.

It was estimated to have killed hundreds of people and was blamed by the US and other Western powers on the regime of Bashar al-Assad. But he accuses Syrian rebels of being behind it.

Under the terms of the US-Russia deal, Syria’s chemical weapons capability should be removed by the middle of 2014.

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