In an historic vote, the United States and 45 co-sponsors at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW, Conference of State Parties succeeded in condemning the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria for its continued use and possession of chemical weapons. Such weapons constitute a violation of Syria’s obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, or CWC.
The decision was adopted with 87 countries voting in favor of it and only 15 against. In addition to condemning Syria’s use of chemical weapons, it suspends certain of Syria’s rights and privileges it holds under the Convention – most notably its right to vote. This right will only be returned when the OPCW director-general reports that Syria has completed certain measures. For example, said State Department spokesperson Ned Price, “Syria must resolve all outstanding issues regarding the initial declaration of its chemical weapons stockpile and program.”
The vote followed the release of two OPCW Investigation and Identification Team reports in the past year that officially linked the Syrian government to chemical weapons attacks in 2017 and 2018. Those reports concluded that Syria continued to use poison gas years after the Assad regime renounced their use o and surrendered the Regime’s declared stockpile for destruction. The United States itself assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons at least 50 times since acceding to the CWC in 2013.
This is the first time such an action has been taken against a country at the OPCW. “The United States welcomes the OPCW’s decision and applauds the international community’s continued commitment to upholding the international norm against the use of chemical weapons,” said spokesperson Price.
“The use of chemical weapons by any state presents an unacceptable security threat to all.”