Chemical watchdog condemns both Syria and ISIS

Executive body of global chemical arms watchdog condemns both Syria and ISIS for using toxic weapons.

Arutz Sheva North America Staff ,

UN chemical weapons experts in Syria
UN chemical weapons experts in Syria

The executive body of the global chemical arms watchdog on Friday took the unprecedented step Friday of condemning both Syria and Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists for using toxic weapons and called for stepped up inspections.

It is the first time the watchdog has found a state member to have violated the Chemical Weapons Convention, and came during a rare vote by its 41-member executive council, sources who attended the closed session told the AFP news agency.

A four-page resolution put forward by Spain voiced "grave concern" over the findings of a one-year investigation by a joint panel of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), according to a copy seen by AFP.

It "condemns in the strongest possible terms" the use of chemical weapons in Syria and calls on "all parties identified" in the report to "immediately desist from any further use".

A joint UN-OPCW panel recently concluded that government forces carried out three chemical attacks on villages in 2014 and 2015.

The UN-OPCW panel also found that the ISIS in Syria used mustard gas as a weapon in August 2015, one of several past assessments that ISIS had used chemical weapons in both Syria and Iraq.

The government in Damascus argues that claims that it used chemical weapons against civilians are only meant to "serve political agendas", and has accused rebels of using chemical weapons.

The OPCW resolution pointedly "demands" that Syria "comply fully with its obligations under the convention," and mandated the watchdog as soon as safely possible to carry out inspections at the site of the attacks.

Based in The Hague, the OPCW usually works by consensus, but after weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations on the text it became impossible to reach unanimity, mainly due to Russian objections, one source who attended the session told AFP.

When it was clear that "an overwhelming majority" supported the resolution it was decided to put it to a vote, the source said.

A total of 28 countries including Britain, France and the United States voted in favor of condemning Syria and ISIS, gathering the two-thirds needed to pass, the sources said.

Four countries voted against -- China, Iran, Russia and Sudan -- while nine countries abstained.

Syria officially joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in October 2013, vowing under the terms of the pact to hand over its stockpile of toxic arms for destruction and undertaking never to use chemical weapons.

After years of denying it possessed any chemical weapons, Syria was pushed into the convention under a deal brokered by the United States and Russia, averting a threatened U.S. air strike on its facilities.

All its declared stock of chemical weapons have now been destroyed by the OPCW, but attacks have continued and in July the body's head Ahmet Uzumcu said Damascus had "not yet adequately explained the presence of indicators of four chemical warfare agents".

International inspectors last year reportedly found traces of sarin and VX nerve agent at a military research site in Syria that had not been declared to the OPCW, leading diplomats to suggest that the Syrians “have been lying about what they did with sarin.”

The OPCW's resolution will now be submitted to the Security Council, and Syria will likely top the agenda at the annual conference of the watchdog's 192 member states which opens on November 28 in The Hague.

AFP contributed to this report.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)