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A team of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague began on Sunday the process of destroying Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile and the equipment used to produce them.
However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently stated that the chemical held by all sides in Syria should be destroyed, hinting that the rebels also possess chemical weapons.
The team currently in Syria, assisted by United Nations personnel, arrived in Damascus on Tuesday and left their hotel for an unknown location early Sunday, according to witnesses cited by Reuters.
The mission is expected to continue into next year. The team faces the “tightest deadline in the watchdog group’s history and must simultaneously navigate Syria’s bloody civil war,” the Associated Press reports.
The U.N. resolution on the U.S.-Russian agreement to destroy the Syrian weapons states that the facilities and stockpile must be destroyed by mid-2014.
An official at the joint OPCW-U.N. mission said that Sunday was the fifth day that some 20 inspectors have been in Syria, but the first day that they actually began disabling and destroying weapons and equipment.
“Today is the first day of destruction, in which heavy vehicles are going to run over and thus destroy missile warheads, aerial chemical bombs and mobile and static mixing and filling units,” an anonymous source said to AFP.
Individuals with the Syrian government are reportedly responsible for physically destroying the materials while OPCW inspectors monitor and verify the destruction.
Earlier this week, an OPCW official told AFP that they would use all “expedient methods” to ensure the destruction of weapons and facilities, including the use of explosives, sledgehammers, the pouring of concrete and even driving tanks over empty vats.
The second phase is more time consuming and expensive as it involves the incineration of weapons in sealed incinerators and the transformation or dilution of precursor chemicals.
The advance team of 20 inspectors is laying the foundations for the larger operation run by almost 100 inspectors, according to the Associated Press.
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This article first appeared at End the Lie.