THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced Tuesday that all 600 metric tons of Category 1 chemicals removed from Syria and transferred to a specially-outfitted U.S. ship have been successfully destroyed.
OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü hailed the destruction of the 581 tons of sarin precursor chemicals and 19.8 metric tons of sulfur mustard as "an unprecedented undertaking" that "ends a crucial stage in the complex international maritime operation to remove and destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile."
U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed the news, underscoring that "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."
News of the chemical weapons destruction, completed weeks ahead of schedule, also comes ahead of the one-year anniversary of a chemical weapons attack launched by the Assad regime on its own civilians that killed more than 1,000 Syrians.
"These two milestones, one born out of the other, more than just dates on the calendar, are also moments to take stock of the road ahead. In record time, even amid a civil war, we removed and have now destroyed the most dangerous chemicals in the regime's declared stockpiles," said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, adding, "But much more work must be done."
OPCW inspectors were on board the U.S. government container ship, the Cape Ray, to monitor and verify the destruction operations. Now that all of the chemical weapons aboard have been neutralized, the Cape Ray will transport the low-level waste to Finland and Germany for disposal at land-based facilities.
U.N. Security Council Resolution 2118 for the "Scheduled Destruction of Syria's Chemical Weapons" was adopted on September 27, 2013.