US slams Syria for failing to meet chemical weapons commitments

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Syrian cities are still suffering government air strikes, such as here in Aleppo.
The United States has called on Syria to take immediate action to comply with a UN resolution to remove its chemical weapons materials, noting just four percent of Syria\’s declared chemical stock has been eliminated.
Efforts to remove these materials from Syria have "seriously languished and stalled", said ambassador Robert Mikulak in a statement to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on Thursday.
"Syria must immediately take the necessary actions to comply with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, Executive Council decisions, and UN Security Council Resolution 2118," said Mikulak, the US permanent representative to the OPCW.
Timelines adopted last year required that 100 percent of "priority one" chemicals be eliminated by December 31, 2013, while the deadline for removing "priority two" chemicals is Feburary 5. That deadline will also not be met.
The Syrian government has attributed the delays to "security concerns", saying it needs additional equipment to ensure their safe transportation – a claim Mikulak rejected.
"Syria\’s requests for equipment and open-ended delaying of the removal operation could ultimately jeopardise the carefully timed and coordinated multi-state removal and destruction effort," he said.
During a visit to Poland on Thursday, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel also criticised Syrian efforts, saying he has asked his Russian counterpart to put pressure on Damascus to comply with the deal. 
"I do not know what the Syrian government\’s motives are – if this is incompetence – or why they are behind in delivering these materials," Hagel told reporters in Warsaw, the capital. "They need to fix this."
The first round of peace talks involving Syria\’s government and opposition is set to wrap up Friday after making very little progress on key issues.
An agreement to meet again – likely in one week – is expected to be the only outcome of the seventh and final day of negotiations in Geneva.
U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said he hopes for more substantial talks at the next round, noting this is "only the beginning of the process."
The two sides have bickered over even what topics are up for discussion at the long-awaited talks.
The government wanted to start by addressing terrorism. On Thursday, it presented a resolution calling for an end to the funding of "terrorist acts."
The opposition rejected the communique as "one-sided," and said it is useless to discuss it without first forming a transitional government.
In response, the Damascus delegation suggested opposition delegates rejected the terrorism communique because they themselves are terrorists.
There has also been little progress on bringing aid to the hardest-hit areas of Syria\’s civil war, an issue where many thought common ground could be found.
Brahimi said he was "very, very disappointed," the U.N. has not been able to deliver aid to the besieged, rebel-held city of Homs, where many are said to be starving.
Syria\’s conflict began in March 2011 as peaceful protests against the government before spiraling into a civil war that the U.N. says has killed well over 100,000 people and forced nearly 9 million from their homes.
Source: Aljazeera, VOA and agencies

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