The Syrian government failed to meet a Dec. 31 deadline to transport the first shipment of the country’s chemical weapons arsenal to the port of Latakia for international supervision and destruction, reported The Guardian. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is overseeing the effort to rid Syria of chemical weapons, cited security, weather, and bureaucracy as reasons for the delay, according to The Guardian report. Under the terms of the US-Russian agreement, Syria agreed transport the “most critical” chemicals to Latakia by Dec. 31, with plans to destroy the country’s entire chemical weapons arsenal by June 2014. However, the chemicals still have not arrived and the Nordic ship tasked with transporting the materiel was forced to return to Cyprus empty-handed, reported The Guardian. The Obama Administration has stated the effort to remove and destroy the weapons remains on schedule. State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf, asked about the impending delay earlier this week, said the timeline set out by the US-Russian agreement is “ambitious,” but the US is still operating on a June 30, 2014, deadline for complete destruction. “We always knew this was going to be a complicated process,” she added.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.