In a difficult position!

By Jo Biddle — Russia on Friday criticised the world’s chemical weapons watchdog for not sending experts to the site of an alleged chemical attack in Syria, saying it was “unacceptable to analyse events from a distance”. But the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is in a difficult position, with its scientists and experts undertaking a dangerous mission in an ongoing war zone. Founded in 1997, the OPCW based in The Hague oversees the application of The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) aimed at ridding the world of toxic arms and preventing new ones being manufactured.
Chemical weapons, such as mustard gas, were first used in combat on the battlefields of World War I, and also in 1988 by late Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein against civilians in Halabja, Iraq. Other incidents include the 1995 subway sarin gas attack in Tokyo by a Japanese cult.
After almost 20 years of negotiations, the convention took effect on April 29, 1997.
The OPCW now has 192 member nations. In the past two decades, the OPCW has overseen the destruction of some 94 per cent of the world’s declared chemical weapons stockpiles.
It is planning a ceremony on April 26 to mark its 20th anniversary. Russia and the United States are on target to destroy their chemical arms stockpiles within the next seven years. Only four nations have not yet signed up to the convention — Egypt, Israel, North Korea and South Sudan.
After years of denials, the Syrian government caved to international pressure in September 2013 and agreed under a US-Russia deal to hand over its toxic stockpile to the OPCW for destruction, averting threatened US air strikes.
The admission came after a sarin gas attack in August 2013 on rebel-held areas near Damascus that was blamed by the West and the opposition on the government. An estimated 1,000 people died. The OPCW says 100 per cent of Syria’s declared chemical arms — a total of 1,300 metric tonnes — was handed over and destroyed by January 2016. However, amid continuing attacks there are fears Damascus did not declare everything. — Reuters

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