The OPCW's director-general, Ahmet Uzumcu, at a press conference in The Hague in October 2013. For its role in helping remove chemical weapons from Syria, the OPCW was awarded last year's Nobel Peace Prize.Bas Czerwinski/AFP/Getty Images
Syria has started moving chemical weapons materials out of the country in a crucial phase of an internationally backed disarmament program that has been delayed by war and technical problems.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Tuesday that "priority chemical materials" were transported to the port of Latakia and onto a Danish vessel that is now sailing toward international waters.
Syria promised to abandon its chemical weapons by June under a deal proposed by Russia and agreed to by the United States after an Aug. 21 sarin gas attack that Western nations blamed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces. Damascus has blamed rebels for the attack.
War, bad weather, bureaucracy and technical issues meant a Dec. 31 deadline passed for the removal of the most deadly toxins from Syria.
The OPCW did not disclose what percentage of Syria's toxic arsenal — which totals 1,300 metric tons — had been removed but said nine containers of the most dangerous chemical materials were on the Danish cargo vessel.
"The vessel has been accompanied by naval escorts provided by Denmark and Norway as well as the Syrian Arab Republic," a statement said. "It will remain at sea awaiting the arrival of additional priority chemical materials at the port."
Maritime security was being provided by Chinese, Danish, Norwegian and Russian ships.