Syria punishment shows 'ethical commitment': arms watchdog

The UN chemical weapons watchdog could hand down this week and for the first time its maximum punishment available to Syria Jerry Lampen ANP/AFP/File

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SULAIMANI —The head of the global chemical weapons watchdog defended Thursday (April 22) the removal of Syria's voting rights, saying it showed the body's "ethical commitment" to eliminate toxic armaments.

Damascus and its ally Moscow both slammed Wednesday's vote by a majority of countries at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to punish Syria.

Russia and Syria said the decision, taken after an investigation found Syria had carried out three sarin and chlorine attacks in 2017, showed the Hague-based regulator was becoming politicised by the West.

But OPCW chief Fernando Arias said this week's conference of member states had "reaffirmed that the use of chemical weapons is the most serious breach of the (Chemical Weapons) Convention there can be, as people’s lives are taken or destroyed. 

"By deciding to address the possession and use of chemical weapons by a state party, the conference has reiterated the international community’s ethical commitment to uphold the norm against these weapons."

France introduced the motion on behalf of 46 countries including Britain and the United States to punish Syria after it failed to answer questions about the weapons used in the 2017 attacks on the village of Lataminah.

Eighty-seven countries voted in favour of the motion on Wednesday, 15 including Syria, Russia, China and Iran voted against, and 34 abstained.

Syria's rights will remain suspended until member states decide that Damascus has fully declared all of its chemical weapons and weapons-making facilities.

Syria says the Lataminah attacks were fabricated and that it gave up all its chemical weapons after joining the OPCW in 2013, following a suspected sarin attack that killed 1,400 people in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.

(NRT Digital Media/AFP)