Member states of the global chemical watchdog voted to suspend rights and privileges of Syria’s Bashar al Assad regime, including the right to vote at the organisation.
Syria has been stripped of its voting rights by member states at the global chemical weapons watchdog after its forces were found to have repeatedly used poison gas during the civil war.
A majority of nations voting at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on Wednesday supported a decision to immediately revoke Syria's privileges at the agency.
The proposal was initiated by 46 out of 193 member countries on the OPCW's governing Conference of States Parties, including Britain, France and the United States.
It passed by 87 votes in favour to 15 against, meeting the required two-thirds majority of votes.
There were 34 abstentions out of 136 countries taking part.
Iran, Russia and Syria were among those to vote against.
READ MORE: Chemical weapons watchdog considers suspending Syria membership
📹 The 25th Session of the Conference of the States Parties - Part 2 is scheduled to resume this morning at 11:00 CET. Follow the live webcast:https://t.co/o8NTqrvbbW#OPCW #CSP25 pic.twitter.com/8JmYT7XKor— OPCW (@OPCW) April 21, 2021
Chemicals on the battlefield
Although largely symbolic, the move sends a political signal to Syria that breaches of the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits all use of chemicals on the battlefield, will not be accepted.
It gave "a clear no against continued use and possession of chemical weapons," the representative of the Netherlands at the OPCW Tweeted.
Repeated investigations by the United Nations and the OPCW's special Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) concluded that Syrian government forces used the nerve agent sarin and chlorine barrel bombs in attacks between 2015 and 2018 that investigators said killed or injured thousands.
Syria and its military ally Russia have repeatedly denied using chemical weapons during the war, which has turned the once-technical agency into a flashpoint between rival political forces and deadlocked the UN Security Council.
READ MORE: OPCW probe: Syrian regime used chemical weapons in 2018 Saraqeb attack
The Conference of State Parties of the @OPCW just adopted an important decision on Syria. Use of chemical weapons must always be condemned @NorwayTheHague @NorwayMFA pic.twitter.com/lSl614oIgq— Bård Ivar Svendsen (@NorwayAmbNL) April 21, 2021
Heaviest sanction by the OPCW
The UK delegation to the OPCW said on Twitter that the decision on Syria was approved with 87 votes in favour at the 25th session of the Conference of the States Parties.
“Now up to #Syria to come back into compliance. Vital step to maintain credibility of Chemical Weapons Convention,” the delegation added.
Delegations from Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, France, Czechia, Estonia, Slovenia also made statements on Twitter supporting the decision.
The decision stands out as the heaviest sanction the OPCW has ever imposed on a member state.
The OPCW, the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), with its 193-member states, oversees the global endeavour to permanently eliminate chemical weapons.
The Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons was previously confirmed by UN investigators as well as the OPCW.
The regime’s use of chlorine as a chemical weapon is a violation of its obligations under the CWC, to which it is a party, as well as UN Security Council Resolution 2118.
READ MORE: UN accuses Syria of war crimes, but plans to elect it to human rights post