Russia and the United States have argued at the UN over an upcoming vote this month that could strip Syria of its voting rights in the international organization for the oversight of chemical weapons.
Moscow accused the West of trying to “blacken Damascus”, and the US demanded to send a powerful signal to the Syrian government that the use of chemical weapons is not without consequences.
The conflict took place at the monthly meeting of the UN Security Council on chemical weapons in Syria, during which the UN High Representative for Disarmament Izumi Nakamitsu said that Damascus’s declaration on chemical weapons stockpiles and production sites, made almost eight years ago, remains incomplete. and 19 questions remain unresolved.
In April 2020, investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons accused the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of three chemical attacks in 2017.
Thereafter, the OPCW Executive Council demanded that Syria provide detailed information. When this did not happen, France, on behalf of 46 countries, submitted a draft decision in November to strip Syria of “rights and privileges” to the OPCW.
This issue will be considered at a meeting of the 193 member states of the OPCW, which opens on April 20 at the headquarters of the organization in The Hague.
Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bassam Sabbag and Deputy Russian Ambassador Dmitry Polyansky reiterated Damascus’s position that he is strongly opposed to the use of chemical weapons and does not possess them.
Polyansky accused the OPCW of violating the principle of consensus and creating an “illegitimate Investigation and Identification Group” that made many mistakes when it accused Syria of using chemical weapons.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that the upcoming vote on Syria “is at stake in the credibility of the Chemical Weapons Convention” and the Security Council itself.
She accused Assad of trying to “escape responsibility by obstructing independent investigations” and refusing to cooperate with the OPCW.
She stated that Russia “is spreading misinformation, encroaching on the integrity and professional work of the OPCW,” and obstructing efforts to hold Syria accountable.
Thomas-Greenfield noted that the OPCW team evaluating the Syrian declaration recently “discovered nerve-related activities at another site where the regime has never produced or dealt with chemical weapons.”
According to her, member states should vote to suspend Syria’s membership and “send a strong signal to the Assad regime that the use of chemical weapons is simply unacceptable and entails serious consequences.”
French Deputy Ambassador to the UN Natalie Broadhurst called for the suspension of Syria’s voting rights “to confirm that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable and that repeated violations of the convention cannot go unanswered.”