The Syrian Foreign Ministry [official website, in Arabic] on Wednesday entered into agreements with the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) [official website] to dispose of chemical weapons within the country. The announcement of the agreement came from Russian officials and was also announced on Syrian television and radio stations. It comes only a week after the Obama administration criticized Syria's delay in disposing of its chemical weapon supply. Only 4 percent of Syria's most dangerous chemical weapons have been disposed of [UPI report] at this point, although all of these weapons were supposed to have been disposed of by December 31 of last year, according to prior agreements. The OPCW reported [press release] that two shipments of Syria's chemical weapons have been made within the month of January, however, that the disposal process must be completed faster. It is expected that the disposal process will be completed by March 1.
The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has persisted for almost three years. The conflict has been highlighted by countless human rights violations and use of chemical weaponry, which has created mounting pressure among the international community to find an end to the conflict. The UN released a report [JURIST report] earlier this week to the Security Council, which highlights the severe suffering faced by children in Syria during the period between March 2011 and November 2013. The report states that the Syrian government and military allies have killed and tortured extensive numbers of children, while opposition forces have recruited children to aid in combat and have summarily executed children as well. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] last week that Syrian authorities had deliberately demolished residential neighborhoods with explosives and bulldozers in Damascus and Hama over the last year. The main opposition group within Syria, the Syrian National Coalition [official website], recently agreed to attend the Geneva II conference after an invitation to Iran was rescinded by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Following Iran's original invitation to Geneva II, the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition announced [JURIST report] that it would refuse to attend the peace talks if Iran was in attendance. Iran is the primary international supporter of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and the current regime.