February 12th, 2014
06:48 PM ET

OPCW: Only 11% of chemical weapons removed from Syria

By Salma Abdelaziz and Jim Sciutto

Syria has shipped out 11% of its chemical weapons stockpile - falling far short of the February 5 deadline to have all such arms removed from the country, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told CNN Wednesday.

The slow pace of removal prompted U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to warn last month that all options remain available to force compliance.

The OPCW is now in touch with senior Syrian officials to discuss a new schedule going forward.

Meanwhile, groups of civilians were evacuating a besieged city Wednesday as opposition leaders unveiled a diplomatic road map they hope will lead their country out of a brutal civil war.

At least 200 people had registered to evacuate the Old City of Homs on Wednesday, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society said in a Twitter post.

Rasmus Tantholdt, a TV2 Denmark reporter inside the ancient quarter, told CNN he saw two buses packed with civilians arrive at a government-controlled transit point there.

While some got ready to leave the quarter where they have been trapped as violence surges, a shipment of humanitarian assistance was delivered to those who decided to stay, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

Elsewhere, nearly two dozen airstrikes were carried out on the Yabroud area of the Damascus suburbs, opposition activists said. Subsequent clashes left 11 regime forces dead, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Syrian state media made no mention of the deaths, but said the strikes targeted terrorist hide-outs.

Both sides continue to meet for peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland, where opposition leaders presented their proposal for a transitional government, Syrian National Coalition spokesman Louay Safi told reporters.

Key steps for the proposed government would include: ending violence, releasing prisoners of conscience, maintaining law and order, bringing justice to those responsible for violence and protecting human rights.

"This transitional body is the hope for the Syrian people," Safi said.

But Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces have regained momentum against a now-fractured opposition, has said he's not looking at the talks as a way to transition out of power.

Bouthaina Shaaban, al-Assad's media adviser, said "not much progress" had been made in the peace talks.

"We have been discussing trying to reach a joint agenda with the other side. Unfortunately, they came this morning and started talking about the transitional government body," she said. "The first item on the agenda should be combating terrorism, so our delegation did not discuss the transitional government."

Stopping terrorism, she said, is the Syrian people's top priority.

"We want the other side to put this as a primary objective in the agenda," she said, "and unfortunately, so far, we have not succeeded."

The U.N. envoy leading Geneva talks met together with opposition and government representatives Wednesday, the United Nations said. Earlier in the day, he met with Gennady Gatilov, Russia's deputy minister of foreign affairs, the United Nations said.

Meanwhile, British investigators from the South East Counter Terrorism Unit searched a home Wednesday in Crawley, Sussex, in connection with last week's suicide bombing in Syria's Aleppo Prison. British public broadcaster BBC reported that the bombing suspect was from Crawley. British authorities declined to comment.

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