A 20-strong international team of engineers, chemists and paramedics leave the Netherlands for Syria on Monday to embark on the most hazardous mission in the history of disarmament: to dismantle one of the world’s biggest chemical weapons arsenals, during a civil war, under extreme deadline pressure.
In 35C heat inspectors from the international Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will, at times, wear body armour and helmets over their chemical protection suits, sometimes carrying air tanks on their backs, in their efforts to abide by a UN security council resolution to destroy about 1,000 tonnes of nerve agents such as sarin and other poisonous gases such as sulphur mustard.
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad vowed to co-operate with the mission in an interview with Italy’s RAI News 24 TV. “Of course we have to comply [with the UN resolution]. This is our history to comply with every treaty we sign,” he said.
The inspectors are due to arrive in Damascus on Tuesday. They will need to work quickly to meet the tight deadlines agreed by the security council on Friday."