U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power expressed concerns that Syria may be hiding chemical weapons despite signing onto an agreement renouncing its chemical arms, the New York Times reports.
Power’s remarks were made at a private briefing of the U.N. Security Council. There are also concerns that Islamist militants, who control about half the country, could seize the hidden weapons.
Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons a year ago under an agreement brokered by Russia and the United States.
The U.N. official appointed last year to lead the purge of Syria’s declared chemical weapons, Sigrid Kaag, reported that 96 percent of Syria’s declared chemical weapons had been destroyed.
But Ms. Kaag told reporters after the briefing that Syria had yet to address what she described as "some discrepancies or questions" about whether it had accounted for all of the chemical weapons in its arsenal. She also said Syria had yet to destroy seven hangars and five tunnels used for mixing and storing the weapons — which is required under the chemical weapons treaty that Syria has signed. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Hague-based group that collaborated with the United Nations in overseeing the Syrian chemical disarmament, is now responsible for ensuring that Syria honors its promise.
"It’s a discussion that’s continuing in Damascus as well as The Hague," Ms. Kaag said.
She sounded more diplomatic than Ms. Power, who suggested in her remarks to reporters later that the Syrian government’s history regarding chemical weapons use raised skepticism about its commitment. She noted that Syria had repeatedly violated a timetable for the export and destruction of the chemicals, delaying the operation well past the June 30 target date.