Protests against Syrian chemicals may hurt tourism, Venizelos tells Cretans

A few days after thousands of Cretans protested against the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons off the coast of their island, Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos has written to local authorities to suggest that their protests could damage tourism.

“It would be wrong for us to create a negative discussion [about this] in the international tourism market when other Mediterranean states are not making an issue of this,” Venizelos said in his letter.

Several thousand people gathered at Crete’s Arkadi Monastery on Sunday to protest efforts by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to destroy Syrian chemical weapons in the Mediterranean.

The toxic substances will be placed on a ship with systems that can carry out the process of hydrolysis that will convert the chemicals into less dangerous substances. It is expected that some 20 tons of mustard gas and neurotoxic agents will be destroyed.

Venizelos insisted in his letter, which was sent to church leaders as well as local officials, that Greece has received assurances that the operation, which will take place off the tiny island of Gavdos, is safe and will not cause pollution.