Russia threatens to block chemical watchdog budget ahead of annual general meeting

Day two of the annual meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) begins today. The UN-backed

OPCW agm

Photo: Lex van Lieshout/ANP

Day two of the annual meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) begins today.

The UN-backed toxic arms watchdog last year approved the formation of a new team that has the prerogative to name culprits for the use of chemical weapons. Controversially, the group will name the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks in Syria. Moscow, which staunchly opposes the measure, is threatening to block next year’s budget at this week’s meeting, should it include funding for the new body. Regardless, the Western bloc—headed by the US, the UK and France—is likely to muster the support needed to pass the budget, officially green-lighting the team, whose preliminary findings can be expected in early 2020.

On a more cooperative note, Russia and US-led allies are likely to strike an agreement to expand the list of prohibited chemical weapons to include novichoks—Soviet-era nerve toxins used in the 2018 attacks in Salisbury, UK. Moscow is likely to agree to the inclusion of two new novichoks on the list if similar chemical weapons developed by Western countries are included, as expected. Though today’s steps are small, they set important, long-term precedents for the non-proliferation of chemical weapons.

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