MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia may donate $2 million (1 million pounds) toward eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons and is ready to offer expert help to the body tasked with the mission, a senior official said on Wednesday.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which won the Nobel Peace Prize last month, has raised about 10 million euros ($13.5 million) to inspect Syrian chemical arms sites under a U.S.-Russian agreement reached in September.
But it needs more funds to destroy more than 1,000 tonnes of chemical weapons declared by Syria.
“Russia, in principle, is ready to offer technical assistance, experts and perhaps financial assistance. This issue is being discussed, but the amount is somewhere around $2 million,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov was quoted by the state-run RIA news agency as saying.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said the total cost of the operation could be $1 billion. Experts believe it is likely to be less but will still run into tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, depending on where and how the arms are destroyed.
The United States has been the biggest contributor to the OPCW’s fund for the Syria mission, with Britain, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland also contributing.
Washington has provided $6 million in equipment, training and cash, split between funds with the OPCW and the United Nations, an OPCW document seen by Reuters showed. Britain has pledged $3 million.
Under the Russian-American proposal, Syria agreed in September to destroy its entire chemical weapons programme by mid-2014. The deal averted missile strikes threatened by Washington following an August 21 sarin gas attack in the outskirts of Damascus that killed hundreds of people.
Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Alistair Lyon