June 5, 2018 / 4:23 PM / 17 days ago

Chemical weapons watchdog to hold emergency meeting on rising chemical attacks

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Members of the world’s chemical weapons watchdog see an alarming rise in the use of the banned weapons and will hold an emergency meeting this month on the subject, the body said on Tuesday.

“The international regime prohibiting chemical weapons is under unprecedented threat,” 11 countries wrote in their request for the emergency meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on June 26-27.

“Chemical weapons have been developed, produced and used by state and non-state actors in direct contravention of international law.”

The British delegation to the OPCW had earlier said it wanted to use the special conference “to call on all states to defend and strengthen the global ban on chemical weapons.”

French diplomats last month said 33 countries would use an emergency plenary session to seek support for a new mechanism to enable the OPCW to assign blame for attacks carried out with banned munitions.

The organisation, based in The Hague, currently only determines whether such attacks have taken place, not who carried them out.

The French proposal, however, looks set to meet resistance from Russia and Iran and might fail to gain the two-thirds of votes needed to pass.

The Chemical Weapons Convention has been violated repeatedly in Syria by the use of sarin, chlorine and sulphur mustard gas.

A fact-finding mission of the OPCW last month concluded that banned chlorine munitions were likely dropped in an attack on a Syrian neighbourhood in February.

Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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