Chemical weapons watchdog strips Syria of its voting rights

The move follows OPCW investigation that found the Syrian air force used sarin and chlorine gas in three attacks.

Elad Benari ,

Chemical warfare in Syria
Chemical warfare in Syria

The global chemical weapons watchdog agreed on Wednesday to strip Syria of its voting rights in an unprecedented punishment after a probe blamed Damascus for poison gas attacks, AFP reports.

Syria will also be banned from holding any offices at the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) over its repeated use of toxic arms against civilians.

A two-thirds majority of the OPCW's member states voted in favor of the sanctions, the first time they have been meted out to any country in the agency's quarter-century history.

The measures are in response to an OPCW investigation last year that found the Syrian air force had used the nerve agent sarin and chlorine gas in three attacks on the village of Lataminah in 2017, according to AFP.

The OPCW also recently said that an investigation found that the Syrian air force used the chemical weapon chlorine in an attack on Saraqib on February 4, 2018.

Syria, which repeatedly denies having any connection to chemical weapons attacks in Syria, rejected the OPCW investigation and said it was “fabricated”.

France introduced Wednesday’s motion on behalf of 46 countries, including Britain and the United States to deprive Syria of "rights and privileges" over the 2017 attacks and its failure to declare its chemical weapons.

87 countries voted in favor of the motion, 15 voted against, including Syria, Russia, China and Iran, and 34 abstained, OPCW officials said.

The OPCW has several times released reports finding that chemical weapons were used on civilians in Syria. However, it did not explicitly say those attacks were carried out by the Assad regime until a report released in April of 2020.

In March of 2019, a report issued by a fact-finding mission from the watchdog that found “reasonable grounds” that chlorine was used in a deadly attack on the eastern Damascus suburb of Douma in 2017.

Assad later claimed that the OPCW faked and falsified the report “just because the Americans wanted them to do so.”