South Africa: Pretoria Set to Sit On the Fence When the West Punishes Syria for Chemical Weapons


South Africa is likely to abstain from an attempt by Western governments this week to suspend Syria's voting rights in the world's chemical weapons watchdog body.

France, supported by 45 other states, will probably table a resolution to punish Syria at the Conference of Parties of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) which starts on Tuesday at The Hague.

France and the supporters of the resolution accuse Syria of failing to explain apparent evidence of several instances of chemical weapons use or production.

Syria joined the OPCW in 2013, two years into a civil war, declaring its past chemical stockpiles and chemical weapons sites, but insisting that it had destroyed them all.

But in April 2020, OPCW investigators blamed three further chemical attacks in 2017 on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government. The OPCW Executive Council responded by demanding that Syria provide details.

It failed to do so, which prompted France to launch its resolution to suspend Syria's rights and privileges in the OPCW, including its right to vote. In a briefing to the UN Security Council this month, UN disarmament chief Izumi Nakamitsu said Damascus's declaration of its chemical stockpiles and chemical weapons production sites in 2013...

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