The Norwegian government has decided that Norway lacks the technical facilities needed to take in and destroy chemical weapons from Syria, but has promised to assist in the destruction “in other ways,” Foreign Minister Børge Brende announced on Friday. Brende said it simply wasn’t appropriate for Norway to take on the job of actual destruction.
Brende also pointed to deadlines set to carry out the job, and to judicial questions around the acceptance of such instruments of war. “We have agreed with the US, which had come with the question, that Norway can better contribute (to the eventual destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons) in other areas,” Brende said.
Brende told foreign correspondents in Oslo earlier this week that the US had first posed the question to his predecessor, former Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, during meetings tied to the UN General Assembly in New York in late September. Since Eide’s Labour Party-led government lost the recent parliamentary election, the question landed on Brende’s desk when he took over the foreign minister’s post last week.
The issue of whether Norway should take on responsibility for destroying at least part of Syria’s chemical arsenal has been controversial, and Brende has said that an expert panel had been appointed to examine the question. On Friday morning he said the Norwegian government had concluded “in consultation with the US during the past few days” that there were no grounds to continue the evaluation.
Instead, he said, Norway will “contribute economically” and with more humanitarian aid in addition to that which already has been approved. “We will see if we can provide more personnel and if we can send more observers,” Brende said. The Norwegian government also wants to contribute directly to the work involved with the weapons destruction, through other forms of technical expertise, information or equipment.
Syria’s large quantities of chemical weapons involving mustard gas and sarin will now need to be destroyed elsewhere. Belgium and Albania are also among countries asked to take in and destroy the weapons to stop the Syrian government from using them against their own people.