THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) – In an unprecedented vote on Wednesday, member states of the World Chemical Weapons Monitoring Group suspended Syria’s vote on the organization as punishment for Damascus’ repeated use of toxic gas.
The vote, which required a two-thirds majority, means it is the first time a member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has been hit by such a sanction.
The group of 46 nations called for the move at the organisation’s annual meeting on Tuesday. Out-of-bounds diplomatic efforts to reach a consensus on the proposal failed, leading to a vote on Wednesday in which 87 countries voted in favor of suspending Syria and 15 against. 34 abstained.
The British delegation to the meeting tweeted that the decision was “a vital step in maintaining the credibility of the Chemical Weapons Convention.”
Syria did not immediately respond to the Hague meeting.
French Ambassador Luis Vassi on Tuesday introduced the proposed suspension, saying the use of banned chemical weapons by Syria was “undeniable”.
Vassin tweeted that Wednesday’s vote was “a good day for pluralism.”
Syria, which joined the group in 2013 in carrying out air strikes in response to a chemical attack on the outskirts of the capital, condemned the move as a “propaganda tool” and denied the use of chemical weapons.
The investigative mechanism set up by the OPEC has twice accused Syrian government forces of carrying out chemical attacks. It said last week that it had found “reasonable grounds to believe” that a Syrian military helicopter dropped a chlorine cylinder on a Syrian city in 2018, injuring 12 people.
Last year, the team found reasonable grounds to believe that the Syrian Arab Air Force was responsible for the March 2017 attacks on a mountain of chlorine in the city of Latamne.
The investigative team was set up after Russia blocked the extension of the joint investigation mechanism set up by the UN Security Council in 2015. The mechanism blamed Syria for chemical weapons attacks, including unleashing a mountain in an airstrike on the city of Khan Sheikhun in April. 2017, which killed about 100 people.