SOUDA BAY, Crete – Angry Residents, unionists and members of nongovernmental organizations blocked the road to the NATO naval base here on July 19th to protest the ongoing destruction of Syrian chemical weapons on board a ship anchored off the island.
Groups demonstrating against the process, which is being overseen by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said they would picket the naval base for three days.
“We believe that this experiment entails tremendous dangers for the marine environment and the economic model for the Mediterranean shoreline,” said Sfakia Mayor Pavlos Pollakis. “Imagine what impact a chemical leak in the sea or the air would have for the Mediterranean.”
The protest came as the Pentagon said that 15 percent of the chemicals on board the Cape Ray had been destroyed so far.
“As of this morning, the crew has neutralized just over 15 percent of the DF (methylphosphonyl difluoride,), which is a sarin precursor,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said on July 18th.
The crew is working first to neutralize the raw material for sarin nerve gas, which makes up 581 metric tons of the chemical material on the ship.
Mustard gas accounts for the remaining 19 metric tons of chemical material on the Cape Ray. The Pentagon has said it could take up to 60 days, depending on the weather and sea conditions, to destroy all the chemical toxins loaded on the ship.
The Cape Ray left Italy in early July and moved into international waters to begin the neutralization of the chemicals. Syria promised to rid its arsenal of chemical weapons and is not being prosecuted for the massive chemical poisoning that killed hundreds of its own citizens after U.S. President Barack Obama backed away from a promise to hold it accountable.