Green Cross: Turn Syria crisis into opportunity to rid world of chemical weapons

Geneva/Washington DC: The threat of an escalated Syrian conflict, and the specter of chemical arms use, requires immediate and joint international action to both curb the bloodshed, and bring deadly poisonous weapons under control in Syria and other possessor States around the world.

Alexander Likhotal“The crisis in Syria must be contained and transformed into an opportunity that can put chemical weapons under international control in that country, as well as stockpiles in other holdout States,” said Dr Alexander Likhotal, President of Green Cross International.

Syria’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and readiness to dispose of its chemical weapons, offers such an opportunity. For it to succeed, this effort must be decoupled from domestic political calculations of key stakeholder countries.

“It is regretful that it has taken the threat of foreign military intervention to prompt Syria to state it is willing to sign up to the CWC, but when it comes to chemical weapons dismantlement, it is better late than never,” said Dr Paul Walker, Director of GCI’s Environmental Security and Sustainability programme. “The Syrian government must follow through on this and, not only join the convention immediately, but take the essential next steps, including to declare all of its chemical stockpiles and production facilities, and allow inspectors full and secure access to all chemical munitions-related sites.”

Green Cross regards the practical collaboration between the United States and Russia being undertaken in Geneva as a very positive sign for re-establishing the consensus needed for long-term international stability, and urges all sides to look for a broader compromise that could stop the two-year-long civil conflict, rather than seek any “geopolitically ideal” solutions.

“Bad peace is better than a good war. The Syrian conflict has gone on too long and cost too many lives. A fundamental reason for this has been the breakdown of the multilateral system to bring the crisis under control through using peaceful means,” said Dr Likhotal. “Let us hope that the focus brought about by Syria’s chemical weapons can become the catalyst for a broader cessation of the conflict and a return to peace for the Syrian people.”

Syria is one of only seven countries that have not yet joined the CWC. The others are Angola, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, North Korea, and South Sudan.

Dr. Walker added, “Syria’s suffering, and the indiscriminate and inhumane consequences of chemical weapons, only underscore the need for chemical weapons to be consigned to the garbage heap of history. Countries that are in possession of such weapons, including the United States and Russia, and those that have not yet committed to the CWC, including Syria’s regional neighbours Israel and Egypt, need only to look at the scars visible in Syria to understand that their relationship with such arms must come to an end.”

GCI was founded in 1993 and is an independent non-profit and nongovernmental organization working to address the inter-connected global challenges of security, poverty eradication and environmental degradation through advocacy and local projects. GCI is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and has a network of national organizations in around 30 countries.

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Paul Garwood
Director of Communications
Green Cross International
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