Announcing a major milestone in the international operation to verifiably eliminate Libya’s remaining chemical weapons stocks, the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, confirmed that the chemicals have been successfully removed from Libya on 27 August 2016.
The operation — facilitated and coordinated by the OPCW — responds to Libya’s request for assistance in meeting its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention. The request was approved by the OPCW Executive Council and endorsed by the United Nations Security Council in July 2016. Removal of these chemicals is the first stage of an ongoing operation to verifiably eliminate the remnants of Libya’s now-defunct chemical weapon programme.
The UK provided RFA Mounts Bay to support the Danish-led maritime operation, escorting a Danish transport ship through the Mediterranean as it carried the chemicals, the Defence Secretary and Foreign Secretary have announced.
Libya’s chemical weapons stockpile was destroyed under international supervision in 2014. However, a quantity of chemicals which could be made into chemical weapons remained in the country. Earlier this year, the Libyan Government of National Accord requested support from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the international community in removing the remaining chemicals from Libya and destroying them safely in a third country.
Following the Libyan request, the UK took up a major role alongside international partners as part of a wider programme of UK support to the OPCW in ensuring these chemicals are safely destroyed and can’t be obtained by terrorists.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
RFA Mounts Bay will help ensure chemical weapons precursors do not fall into the hands of extremist groups, including Daesh. This contribution underlines our support to the Libyan Government of National Accord.
The deployment of RFA Mounts Bay is the latest demonstration of the UK’s support for the programme to remove materials which could be used in the manufacture of chemical weapons from Libya. In July this year during his first visit to the UN since taking up the role the Foreign Secretary voted personally to adopt a UK drafted UN Security Council Resolution supporting the Libyan Government’s operation. In addition the UK conducted intensive diplomatic negotiations including in New York and The Hague to support the Resolution and the wider operation. The UK also contributed around £500K to the overall destruction effort, and conducted expert analysis of samples of the Libyan chemicals at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, (Porton Down).
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said:
The UK, in close cooperation with our international partners, is taking practical and effective action to eliminate chemical weapon risks in Libya.
The chemicals will be taken to a specialised facility, where they will be destroyed in an environmentally safe and secure way.
Separately, samples of the chemicals have been flown to the UK for analysis by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down – the MOD’s science arm.
As an OPCW Designated Laboratory DSTL has a capability that is respected worldwide for the quality of its work in the defence and security field.
The UK has experience of working with the Danes when dealing with chemical weapons – both countries played a key role in the removal of Syria’s chemical weapons in 2013 and 2014. The UK worked closely with a range of international partners in dealing with these chemicals from Libya, including the USA and Germany as well as the OPCW.