The first chemical weapons have left the Syrian port Latakia aboard the Danish transport ship Ark Futura, the Foreign Ministry reported yesterday.
The ship has sailed toward international waters where it will wait to return to collect more chemical weapons as they become ready.
It is being escorted by the Danish warship Esbern Snare and ships belonging to Chinese, Norwegian and Russian fleets.
Defence minister satisfied
“I am very satisfied that the Danish-led maritime operation to transport chemical weapons away from Syria has begun,” Defence Minister Nicolaj Wammen (S) stated in a press release. “It is incredibly important that the chemical weapons are removed so that they are not used against Syrian civilians."
The operation was originally due to remove the most dangerous of Syria’s chemical weapons by December 31 under a plan agreed upon by the United Nations Security Council.
That deadline was missed, however, when poor weather conditions, road closures and moving battle lines made it difficult to transport the weapons to the port.
The removal and destruction of Syrian chemical weapons is the first step in a deal brokered by the US and Russia that called on the Syrian regime to hand over all of its chemical weapons by mid-2014.
The Guardian newspaper reports that the chemical weapons will be first transported to Italy, before being taken aboard the specially-equipped US vessel Cape Ray, which will neutralise them using a hydrolysis process.