OPCW strips Syria of voting rights over chemical weapons use​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Syria loses rights and privileges at watchdog in unprecedented rebuke

The global chemical weapons watchdog imposed an unprecedented punishment on Syria on Wednesday in response to the Assad regime’s toxic gas attacks over the past decade.

The move to strip Syria of its “rights and privileges” was backed by 87 member states of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The rebuke means Syria loses its voting rights at the watchdog, to stand for election in its executive council, or to hold any office in the agency. It's the first time a OPCW member has been hit with such a sanction.

France initially put forward the proposal -- with support from another 45 countries -- to condemn Syria, with Paris’s envoy telling the OPCW “we owe this to the Syrian people”.

Iran and Russia were among the 15 countries to vote against the motion.

"The member states of the OPCW have sent a strong message: repeated use of chemical weapons by Syria is unacceptable for the international community," the French delegation to the watchdog said.

The motion says that Damascus will be suspended until member states decide that it has fully declared all of its chemical weapons and facilities.

An OPCW investigation last year found there were reasonable grounds to believe the Syrian military assaulted the town of Latamneh with sarin and chlorine gas attacks in 2017.

Syrian authorities then missed a 90-day deadline to declare the weapons used in the attacks and comply with OPCW inspections. Damascus has rejected accusations it used chemical weapons during the Syrian civil war.

Fernando Arias, director general of the OPCW, said Syria’s responses to inquiries about its chemical weapons still "cannot be considered accurate and complete" despite many years of inspections.

Syria joined the watchdog in 2013 after a gas attack that killed 1,400 people in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, which was blamed on the Syrian government.