International maritime operation to facilitate the removal and transport of Syrian chemical materials

مايو 16th, 2015

The final report of the exercise is available here.

Britain’s HMS Diamond escorts MV Ark Futura (top) transporting chemicals from Syria. Photo: UK Ministry of Defence.

In order to successfully achieve the objectives of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) on the elimination of the chemical weapons programme of the Syrian Arab Republic, close cooperation between the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was crucial. This cooperation was manifested in the establishment of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission for the Elimination of the Chemical Weapons Programme of the Syrian Arab Republic (“Joint Mission”) by the UN Secretary-General and the OPCW Director-General. Equally important was the cooperation of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic as well as the roles of the UN Security Council and the OPCW Executive Council.

While many factors contributed to the success of the Joint Mission, the most indispensable contribution to the safe, efficient and effective removal and elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme was the genuine and generous multilateralism exercised by States. Contributions to the Joint Mission’s work and other contributions in furtherance of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) including, in particular, the international maritime operation conducted to remove and transport the chemical materials, were diverse and plentiful from a large number of States and carried out within extremely limited timelines.

The international maritime operation to facilitate the removal and transport of Syrian chemical materials faced and overcame formidable challenges and demonstrated unprecedented achievement for the international community, OPCW and the UN. In view of the challenges faced and successes achieved, the objective of a lessons-learned workshop convened at OPCW Headquarters in The Hague from 9 through 11 March 2015 was to distil best practices as well as lessons learned from the international maritime operation from four particular standpoints—political/conceptual, legal, strategic and tactical operations—with a view to applying the lessons learned to any future multilateral undertaking of a similar characteristic or nature. The proposal to conduct a lessons-learned exercise was expressed and supported by several States that participated in the maritime operation.