Syria has started moving chemical weapons materials out of the country in the most crucial phase of an internationally backed disarmament programme that has been delayed by war and technical problems.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on Tuesday that "priority chemical materials" were transported to the port of Latakia and onto a Danish vessel which was now sailing towards international waters.
War, bad weather, bureaucracy and technical issues meant a Dec. 31 deadline for the removal of the most deadly toxins from Syria was missed.
The OPCW did not disclose what percentage of Syria's toxic arsenal - which totals 1,300 tones in all - had been removed but said nine containers of the most dangerous chemical materials were on the Danish cargo vessel.
Astatement said "the vessel has been accompanied by naval escorts provided by Denmark and Norway, as well as the Syrian Arab Republic", adding "it will remain at sea awaiting the arrival of additional priority chemical materials at the port".
Maritime security was being provided by Chinese, Danish, Norwegian and Russian ships.