GENEVA: The United States led a protest Tuesday against Syria taking over the Conference on Disarmament, calling it “a travesty” at a time when Damascus is widely accused of using chemical weapons.
The US ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), Robert Wood, briefly walked out of the room in protest when the Syrian representative took the floor.
“Syria’s presence here is a travesty,” he told AFP just before the session began.
“This regime has committed countless crimes against its own people through the use of chemical weapons, and it is just unacceptable for them to be leading this body,” he insisted.
Syria’s ambassador Hussam Edin Aala meanwhile slammed the protest as “sensational propaganda” and “characterized by double-standards.”
Syria on Monday took over the rotating presidency of the CD, according to a decades-old practice among the body’s 65 members following the alphabetical order of country names in English.
But despite the mechanical nature of Syria’s arrival at the helm of the CD, following Switzerland and Sweden, a number of country representatives voiced their outrage that a representative of Damascus was presiding over the body that negotiated the chemical weapons ban.
More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria’s civil war began in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
After hundreds of people died in chemical attacks near Damascus in 2013, a deal with Russia was struck to rid Syria of chemical weapons, staving off US air strikes.
But the United Nations and Western countries have accused Damascus of carrying out a number of chemical attacks since then.
A suspected chlorine and sarin attack in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7 this year triggered punitive missile strikes against alleged chemical weapons sites in Syria by the US, Britain and France.