Last updated: 13 September, 2013

Watchdog to mull Syria chemical treaty request next week

The UN’s chemical weapons watchdog said Friday it will meet next week to examine Syria’s request to join the international treaty banning the use of the lethal arms.

“The OPCW’s Executive Council will meet next week to consider Syria’s request,” said Michael Luhan, spokesman for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons which oversees the implementation of the treaty.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faizal Mekdad on Friday telephoned OPCW chief Ahmet Uzumcu “in the context of the decision and requested technical assistance from the OPCW,” he added.

Uzumcu told Mekdad the accession request has been forwarded to the treaty’s state members which would examine the application.

The Syrian regime’s “request for assistance is also likely to come under review by the states parties,” the Hague-based OPCW said in a statement.

“We do not know yet what type of technical assistance and we hope to know more by next week,” added Luhan.

Syria had been one of seven UN members that have refused to join the 1993 convention banning production and stockpiling of chemical arms.

But President Bashar al-Assad’s government announced it would sign up as part of a Russian plan to put his country’s chemical arsenal under international control.

The move came after the United States and other western nations accused Assad’s government of launching a sarin gas attack on August 21 near Damascus in which hundreds died and Washington has threatened a punitive military strike.

Damascus on Thursday filed documents at the United Nations seeking to join the treaty.