U.S. Envoy: Syria Lacks ‘Moral Authority’ to Chair UN Disarmament Conference

A video image provided by the Syrian Civil Defense, an aid group, of toddlers after a suspected chemical attack in the rebel-held Syrian suburb of Douma on Sunday. Credit Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, via Associated Press
Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, via Associated Press

TEL AVIV – The U.S. envoy to the  slammed the decision to have Syria preside over its coming session, saying the Assad regime does not have the “credibility or moral authority” for such a role. 

The news that the Syrian envoy Hussam Edin Aala will assume the presidency of the Conference on Disarmament sparked outrage, with one NGO comparing it to “putting a serial rapist in charge of a women’s shelter.”

The CD drafted the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1992, which the U.S., Israel and Western democracies are accusing Syria of violating several times, including, most recently, last Saturday with a toxic gas attack in Douma that saw 42 people killed and scores more struggling to breathe and foaming at the mouth.

“Syria has neither the international credibility nor the moral authority to assume its presidency,” the U.S. Ambassador to the CD Robert Wood said.

“We are examining how we will deal with the issue of Syria’s presidency.”

In addition to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the 65-nation CD also negotiated the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as well as the convention against biological weapons.

Geneva-based NGO UN Watch slammed the move, with its executive director Hillel Neuer saying, “Having the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad preside over global chemical and nuclear weapons disarmament will be like putting a serial rapist in charge of a women’s shelter.”

He called the decision “obscene” and added that it “cast a shadow on the reputation of the UN as a whole.”

An independent monitoring group called on UN chief Antonio Guterres to protest and for the ambassadors of European nations and the U.S. to walk out of the conference during the four weeks of Aala’s presidency.

Neuer’s organization further urged the UN “to understand that at a time when Syria is gassing its own men, women and children to death, to see Syria heading the world body that is supposed to protect these victims will simply shock the conscience of humanity.”

“The Assad regime’s documented use of chemical weapons remains the most serious violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention in the treaty’s 20-year history,” Neuer said.

Neuer added that Syria’s presidency would likely be “exploited by Syrian propaganda, as they have done after other UN elections, to legitimize Assad’s cruel regime.”

“Syria’s use of deadly chemical weapons and its illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons, in breach of its disarmament obligations, run counter to the objectives and fundamental principles of the Conference on Disarmament itself. Syria’s chairmanship will only undermine the integrity of both the disarmament framework and of the United Nations, and no country should support that,” Neuer stated.

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