Cyprus Stage for Syrian Arms Removal

NICOSIA – A spokesman for the joint Danish-Norwegian operation tasked with ferrying Syria’s chemical weapons out of the strife-torn country says warships from Russia and China will provide additional security on the transport leg of the operation.

Maj. Eystein Kvarving says the Russian missile cruiser Peter the Great and a Chinese frigate won’t be under Danish-Norwegian command, but will be coordinating closely with it.

Cyprus’ defense ministry identified the Chinese warship as the Yan Cheng.

Kvarving said two cargo ships and their warship escorts would sail out of  Cypriot port of Limassol to waters near Syria where they will wait for orders on when they can head to the Syrian port of Latakia to pick up more than 1,000 tons of chemical agents.

The Yancheng, a missile frigate, will accompany a Norwegian-Danish convoy which is in international waters off Syria, waiting for the go-ahead from international watchdogs overseeing the removal of the chemical arsenal.

The mission to ship chemicals from Syria has missed its Dec. 31 target date and Chinese and Cypriot officials said it was unclear exactly when it would begin.

“China supports the efforts of the international community to destroy the Syrian chemical weapons … we wish this operation a success,” said Liu Xinsheng, the Chinese ambassador to Cyprus, according to Reuters.

Photis Photiou, the defence minister of Cyprus, said after meeting Chinese officials that he expected the operation would start “any day now”.

Dozens of Chinese nationals in Cyprus converged on the quay of Limassol port, about 160 miles (250 kilometers) west of the Syrian port city of Latakia from where the chemicals will be shipped.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)