The White House Monday confirmed all of Syria's chemical weapons have been destroyed several weeks ahead of schedule. The destruction was completed by U.S. military and civilian experts aboard the M/V Cape Ray.
Calling it a "major milestone," President Obama said in a statement the international effort to rid Syria of chemical weapons "further advances our collective goal to ensure that the Assad 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."
Last year, the United States and its allies threatened intervention in Syria's civil war following proof that Assad's forces had used chemical weapons against rebel-held areas near Damascus and elsewhere. More than 300 people were reported killed in an attack Aug. 21, 2013. To stave off any action, Assad accepted an off-hand proposal by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to allow an international team to remove the weapons and destroy them, and also agreed to eliminate the regime's ability to produce more.
Obama thanked the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for spearheading the effort.
"Going forward, we will watch closely to see that Syria fulfills its commitment to destroy its remaining declared chemical weapons production facilities," Obama said, adding allegations about continued use will need to be investigated. He also urged Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime "to end the horrific atrocities it continues to commit against its people."