The Cape Ray, a U.S. government container ship, is preparing to destroy hundreds of tons of chemical weaponry from Syria, Associated Press reported Wednesday.
The chemical weapons will be handed over to the Cape Ray by Danish freighter MV Ark Futura on Wednesday at the Italian port of Gioia Tauro, the report said. And the process of transferring the weapons from the Ark Futura to the Cape Ray could take two to three days, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a release. After the handover, it would take at least 60 days to neutralize the weapons, following which the process of destroying them would begin, according to the Pentagon.
“The mission to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons program has been a major undertaking marked by an extraordinary international cooperation,” Ahmet Uzumcu, the director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW, which is one of the organizations supervising the transfer said, according to the Pentagon release, adding: “Never before has an entire arsenal of a category of weapons of mass destruction been removed from a country experiencing a state of internal armed conflict.”
While the Cape Ray will destroy about half of the 1,300 metric tons of weapons it receives from the Danish vessel, the remainder will be destroyed at government facilities in the U.S and Europe. The residual waste, which is said to be hazardous but cannot be used to manufacture weapons, will be further processed at units in Finland and Germany.
“This is a unique mission, and the whole process has been an excellent example of international collaboration under the joint UN-OPCW mission,” the Pentagon release said, citing a defense official.
The unrest in Syria, which began in 2011 after citizens began demanding that President Bashar Assad step down from power, has claimed the lives of thousands of people and led to widespread condemnation of the country's government after reports emerged that it had used chemical weapons to counter rebel forces. Assad's government agreed to dismantle its chemical weapons arsenal after U.N. inspectors confirmed the use of poisonous gas in the conflict.