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Syria has handed over the last of its declared chemical weapons

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Henry Patton / Flickr

Syria's chemical weapons stockpile may finally be a thing of the past. After months of careful diplomacy, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is reporting that the last hundred tons of Syria's stockpile has been loaded onto ships to be shipped to a European site for destruction. In a statement to the press, OPCW hailed the successful elimination of the stockpile as a watershed moment in international relations. "The mission to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons programme has been a major undertaking marked by an extraordinary international cooperation," said Ahmet Üzümcü, Director-General of the OPCW. "Never before has an entire arsenal of a category of weapons of mass destruction been removed from a country experiencing a state of internal armed conflict."

President Assad had described the final cache of weapons as inaccessible for months because of fighting with rebels, but the security situation was now improved enough to retrieve the weapons and deliver them to international inspectors. It will take weeks for the chemicals to be properly neutralized, which means Syria will narrowly miss the June 30th deadline agreed to last year for destruction of the stockpile. While OPCW counts this as a victory, the group's work is far from over. Government troops have come under fire in recent weeks for chlorine gas attacks against rebel forces, using chemicals outside the scope of the initial agreement.