First chemical materials removed from Syria by ship: UN-OPCW

DAMASCUS (AFP) - A first shipment of chemical material has been removed from Syria under a deal to rid the country of its chemical arsenal, the joint mission overseeing the disarmament said on Tuesday.

"A first quantity of priority chemical materials was moved from two sites to the port of Latakia for verification and was then loaded onto a Danish commercial vessel today," the mission said in a statement, adding that the boat had sailed for international waters.

It added that the boat had sailed for international waters.

"This movement initiates the process of transfer of chemical materials from the Syrian Arab Republic to locations outside its territory for destruction," the statement said.

Maritime security is being provided by naval escorts from China, Denmark, Norway and Russia, it added.

The removal had been scheduled to take place before Dec 31, but Syria's worsening civil war, logistical problems and bad weather had delayed the operation.

The year-end deadline for the removal of key weapons components was the first major milestone under a UN Security Council-backed deal arranged by Russia and the United States that aims to eliminate all of Syria's chemical arms by the middle of this year.

Under the plan, the chemicals will be taken from Latakia to a port in Italy where they will be transferred to a US Navy vessel fitted with equipment to destroy them at sea.

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