States suspend Syria's OPCW rights over chemical attacks

FILE - This Friday May 5, 2017 file photo shows the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), The Hague, Netherlands. An investigation by the global chemical weapons watchdog found reasonable grounds to believe that a Syrian air force military helicopter dropped a chlorine cylinder on a Syrian town in 2018, sickening 12 people, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Monday, April 12, 2021.(AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)
FILE - This Friday May 5, 2017 file photo shows the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), The Hague, Netherlands. An investigation by the global chemical weapons watchdog found reasonable grounds to believe that a Syrian air force military helicopter dropped a chlorine cylinder on a Syrian town in 2018, sickening 12 people, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Monday, April 12, 2021.(AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

THE HAGUE – In an unprecedented vote Wednesday, member states of the global chemical weapons watchdog suspended Syria's voting rights at the organization as a punishment for the repeated use of toxic gas by Damascus.

The vote, which required a two-thirds majority to pass, marked the first time a member state of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has been hit with such a sanction.

A group of 46 nations called for the step on Tuesday at the organization's annual meeting of member states. Behind the scenes diplomatic efforts to reach consensus on the proposal failed, leading to a vote Wednesday at which 87 nations voted in favor of suspending Syria's rights and 15 voted against. There were 34 abstentions.

In a tweet, the British delegation to the meeting called the decision a “Vital step to maintain credibility of Chemical Weapons Convention.”

Syria didn't immediately react at the meeting in The Hague.

France's ambassador, Luis Vassy, introduced the proposed suspension on Tuesday, saying that Syria’s use of prohibited chemical weapons was “irrefutable.”

Vassy tweeted that Wednesday's vote was a “good day for multilateralism.”

In Damascus, Syria’s Foreign Ministry strongly denounced the decision, saying Western countries exercised the “worst form of extortion, threat, thuggery and pressure” to pass an anti-Syria decision that sets a “dangerous precedent.”