WASHINGTON: EU member states condemned the Syrian government for using chemical weapons against its own citizens during the 11-year civil war in the country, and demanded that the regime of President Bashar Assad complies with international conventions on such weapons of mass destruction.
France delivered a statement on behalf of its fellow EU members during the four-day 27th Session of the Conference of the States Parties of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which concluded at the World Forum the Hague in the Netherlands on Friday.
The CSP oversees the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, promotes its objectives and reviews compliance with the treaty.
The EU statement called on the Syrian regime to destroy its chemical weapon stockpiles. It also reaffirmed the bloc’s commitment to preventing the use of such weapons anywhere in the world, citing several examples in recent decades.
“We condemn the use of all chemical weapons by state and non-state actors during the last 25 years, including in Iraq, Malaysia, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and, on multiple occasions, in the Syrian Arab Republic,” it said.
The OPCW, of which 193 states are members, oversees the global objective to permanently rid the world of chemical weapons. According to the CSP, tens of thousands of these weapons, amounting to about 99 percent of declared global stockpiles, have already been verifiably destroyed.
OPCW investigations have concluded that the Syrian regime used deadly chemical weapons against its own citizens on several occasions during the civil war, killing and injuring thousands of innocent civilians.
Syrian representatives responded to the statement by France by describing it as “false accusations” and said the EU was using the OPCW as a “tool for political manipulation”.
“It is natural for France to lead this campaign along with some Western countries, particularly those that launched repeated aggressions on Syrian territory in 2017 and 2018 under the pretext of the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons, even before those incidents were investigated,” the Syrian delegation said.
Ambassador Joseph Manso, the US permanent representative to OPCW noted during a press briefing attended by Arab News that Syria, which is a member of the organization, was stripped of its voting rights and other privileges in 2021.
He said that efforts continue to get the Syrian government to comply with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and to hold accountable those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Manso said the US has destroyed 98 percent of its own stockpiles of chemical weapons and is on track to destroy the remainder in the next year.
Applauding the global consensus on the elimination of chemical weapons, he said: “The good news here is that this has been a highly effective treaty that has gone a long way toward eliminating an entire category of weapons of mass destruction, and the vast majority of the world’s states support this.”
Manso criticized Russia for its continuing support for the Assad regime in Syria.
He also said the US government is working with the OPCW to provide the Ukrainian government with training and equipment to help it detect chemical weapon attacks and protect civilians.
“What we’re working to do is to ensure that the Ukrainians have the necessary defensive equipment to promptly detect such an attack, to protect themselves and civilian populations (and) to have trained first responders to respond in the case of such an attack,” he said.
“We want to make sure that Ukraine is prepared in the eventuality that the Russians were to use chemical weapons.”