France urges rebuke for Syria over chemical weapons use

FILE - This Friday May 5, 2017 file photo shows the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), The Hague, Netherlands. An investigation by the global chemical weapons watchdog found reasonable grounds to believe that a Syrian air force military helicopter dropped a chlorine cylinder on a Syrian town in 2018, sickening 12 people, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Monday, April 12, 2021.(AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)
FILE - This Friday May 5, 2017 file photo shows the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), The Hague, Netherlands. An investigation by the global chemical weapons watchdog found reasonable grounds to believe that a Syrian air force military helicopter dropped a chlorine cylinder on a Syrian town in 2018, sickening 12 people, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Monday, April 12, 2021.(AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

THE HAGUE – A group of 46 nations called Tuesday on member states of the global chemical weapons watchdog to diplomatically rebuke Syria for using toxic gas and nerve agents in the country's decade-long civil war.

French Ambassador Luis Vassy proposed stripping Syria of its voting rights at the annual meeting of members of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

“We owe this to the Syrian people,” Vassy said.

The proposal, which has support from countries that include the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia, is expected to be put to a vote Wednesday morning.

Vassy said Syria's use of prohibited chemical weapons was “irrefutable,” and he urged OPCW member states to back his attempt to strip Damascus of its rights, saying “we cannot let indifference win.”

Syria, which joined the organization in 2013 after being threatened with airstrikes in response to a chemical attack on the outskirts of the country's capital, denounced the move as a “propaganda tool” and denied using chemical weapons.

Damascus' staunch ally, Russia, also condemned the proposal, with Ambassador Alexander Shulgin saying it violated the Chemical Weapons Convention and turns the OPCW into “an instrument of political pressure on behalf of the U.S. and their allies against those states that are disagreeable to them.”

The U.S. permanent representative to the OPCW, Joseph Manso, rejected that claim, saying Damascus “is facing accountability because Syria has clearly and repeatedly violated its obligations under the convention.”