KONFRONTASI-Britain, which has condemned Russia over the nerve agent poisoning of an ex-spy, is pushing to give more teeth to the global chemical weapons watchdog so that it can identify those responsible for attacks with banned toxic substances.
The 20-year-old Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which oversees a 1997 treaty banning the use of toxins as weapons, is a technical, scientific body which determines whether chemical weapons were used.
But it does not have the authority to identify perpetrators.
A British-led proposal, which is backed by Western powers including France, Germany and the United States, but opposed by Russia, Iran and Syria, was to be debated at a special session of the OPCW starting on Tuesday. The proposal would give the world body greater powers to assign responsibility for violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
“Attribution goes beyond the mandate of the OPCW,” the Russian delegation said on Twitter. “The decision to create such a mechanism within the OPCW cannot be made at the special session” being held in The Hague.
The meeting was stalled for nearly three hours by procedural bickering, with Russia and its allies questioning the rules on voting rights until the United States forced a vote to have the agenda adopted. It passed by a wide majority.
The draft proposal circulated by Britain, a copy of which has been seen by Reuters, would thrust the OPCW to the forefront of the diplomatic confrontation between the West and Moscow which has seen relations deteriorate to their lowest point since the Cold War.
Russia and Indonesia submitted rival proposals, but Western diplomats said they were not believed to have strong political backing.