Syria warned by chemical warfare watchdog over sarin attacks

Member countries of the global toxic arms watchdog warn Syria they could take action after a probe explicitly blamed Damascus for nerve gas attacks for the first time.

The executive council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) votes overwhelmingly to tell Syria it must declare all details about the facilities used to produce the sarin and chlorine used in the 2017 attacks.

The move comes after the OPCW’s new investigations team said in its first report in April that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s air force had used the two chemicals on the village of Lataminah in March 2017.

Only Russia, China and Iran voted against Thursday’s decision at the OPCW’s executive council, which includes 41 of the UN-affiliated body’s 193 member states.

“It’s a good result for international security and the fight against impunity,” French ambassador Luis Vassy, whose country introduced the motion, tells AFP after the vote.

“It’s a success for this organization, which is fulfilling its mandate.”

Syria could have its own voting rights suspended under the maximum punishment allowed by the Hague-based organisation if it fails to take action within 90 days, diplomats told AFP.

In extreme cases the OPCW can also refer countries to the UN Security Council for breaching the chemical weapons convention.

British ambassador Peter Wilson tweets that it was a “resounding majority” — 29 votes for, nine abstentions and three against — and that countries had voted to “take action on the IIT (Investigation and Identification Team) report.”