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29th May 2022

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Chemical-weapons vote reveals 'friends of Syria' axis

  • OPCW: Iran and Russia's Cold-War style bloc leapt to Syria's defence - while the Vatican abstained (Photo: opcw.org)

Voting on Syria at the world's chemical-weapons watchdog has shed light on its friends and the geopolitics of its 10-year old conflict.

Iran was the first to vote 'no' to sanctions on Syria at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Hague on Wednesday (20 April).

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Russia, which is fighting on the Syrian regime's side in its civil war, also led a Cold-War type bloc of no-voters, which included Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, diplomatic sources told EUobserver.

China lent its weight to the no-side, in the name of non-intervention in other states' affairs.

Palestine and Pakistan also joined the 'no' camp.

Nicaragua, Bolivia, Myanmar, and Zimbabwe also said Syria should keep its full voting rights at the OPCW, despite massacring its own people with chemical weapons for years.

But all the EU countries represented in Wednesday's meeting voted in concord and the motion - to strip Syria of those rights - sailed through by 87 against 15, with 34 abstentions.

It was the first move of its type in the OPCW's 24-year history.

France, the former colonial power in Syria, had spearheaded the initiative, and called the OPCW sanctions "a good day for multilateralism".

The UK called it "vital" for the OPCW's "credibility'.

The Holy See was the only European country which attended the meeting, but declared abstention, in line with its tradition of not taking sides.

Syria used chlorine gas against civilians in 2018 and chlorine and sarin gas in 2017, the OPCW has previously found.

The Syrian regime also massacred several hundred civilians using sarin gas in Ghouta, in the suburbs of Damascus, in 2013, before the OPCW began to investigate its crimes.

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