October 31 marked a major milestone in our determined effort to get rid of Syria’s chemical weapons program. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced it is now confident that no additional chemical agents or munitions can be produced in Syria. Just a few months ago, Syria had one of the largest chemical weapons stockpiles in the world – including mustard and sarin – and Bashar al-Assad was using these awful weapons to kill his own people. In addition, given the situation on the ground in Syria, this dangerous arsenal was at risk of capture by or transfer into the hands of extremists.
In mid-September, we and Russia agreed to work together to ensure the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons program in the fastest and safest manner possible. Our joint commitment led to an historic United Nations (UN) Security Council resolution that legally bound Syria to destroy its chemical weapons stockpile under international supervision on a very fast timeline.
Work is being done around the clock to ensure that these deadly weapons are never used again against the Syrian people or against any other citizens in the region or beyond. Less than three months after the ghastly August 21 attack, we have finished the first phase of the elimination process by destroying Syria’s capacity to make chemical weapons. The OPCW’s central role in this ongoing effort was highlighted when it was honored with the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize last month. The people behind the scenes are brave and dedicated, and so we applaud the OPCW and UN personnel who have taken great personal risks to get the job done. They planned and conducted the inspection site visits, supervised the destruction process, and provided security and logistics to the inspectors.