Both outgoing and incoming government officials in Norway are evaluating a request by the US and Russia, via the UN, to help with the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. International weapons experts, meanwhile, already started destroying some of Syria’s chemical weapons and their production facilities over the weekend.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported on Saturday that both Russian and American authorities had asked the Norwegian government to destroy parts of the Syrian chemical weapon arsenal on Norwegian soil. Norway, reported NRK, was asked to help because it’s viewed as a politically stable country, has the water resources needed for such destruction, the highly educated people able to be trained to carry out such destruction and the money to help finance it.
Outgoing Prime Minster Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that Norway was “in dialogue” with the United Nations about the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria, after NRK reported that Russia and the US had specifically asked Norway to be involved. Stoltenberg stressed, however, that it was too early to say whether Norway would take part in the destruction.
Any decision would be up to the incoming Conservatives-led government that won the September 9 election. Prime Minister-elect Erna Solberg, currently immersed in negotiations with the Progress Party to form a new non-socialist coalition government, said during the weekend that “we’re not negative to something the UN believes is important.” Her government will need to make a decision by November 15.
Both Solberg’s party and the Progress Party are strong supporters of the US, viewed as Noway’s most important ally, and likely would find it difficult to reject any requests for help. With Russia as a mighty neighbour to the east, the new Norwegian government would also likely be inclined to acknowledge its call for help as well.
It was a deal finally struck between Russia and US that led to a UN resolution declaring that Syria won’t have chemical weapon capacity after June 30, 2014. That means that between now and then, Syria’s highly controversial arsenal believed to have been used to kill Syria’s own citizens will be destroyed.
Norwegian officials candidly admit they have no experience in destruction of such weapons. “We’ve never been involved in this type of operation,” Lt Col Per Inger Ohrstrand of the Norwegian military told newspaper Aftenposten. “If this is going to be a reality, we must first get some answers about what the operation would involve.”
Jørn Siljeholm, a former Norwegian weapons inspector in Iraq with a doctorate in chemical risk analysis who’s worked for many years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told NRK on Sunday that he thinks Norway must take part in the efforts to disarm Syria’s chemical arsenal. “Norway has the money, the stability and the competence to do this,” Siljeholm told NRK. “We absolutely must agree to take in the chemical weapons from Syria.”
He received support from a former colleague and environmental activist Frederic Hauge of Bellona, who also thinks Norway should help get rid of Syria’s chemical arsenal. “Despite the transportation challenges, it will be much more environmentally friendly to destroy these weapons in a responsible manner in Norway,” Hauge told NRK.