US boycotts world disarmament body as Syria takes helm

US boycotts world disarmament body as Syria takes helm
The US protested after Syria's turn to chair the Conference on Disarmament came around, saying its presidency "normalises" the regime and its "dangerous behaviour".
2 min read
05 June, 2018
The Syria regime has been held responsible for chemical attacks against its own people [Getty]

The United States said it would boycott Tuesday's session of the Conference on Disarmament to protest Syria last week ascending to the helm of the body.

"Based on Syria's repeated attempts last week to use its presidency of the Conference on Disarmament to normalise the regime and its unacceptable and dangerous behaviour, we are not participating in today's session," Robert Wood, the US ambassador to the Geneva-based body, said in a statement.

Syria began its four-week presidency on May 28, with Wood calling it "one of the darkest days" for the CD conference.

Britain also protested against the move, "given the regime's consistent and flagrant disregard of international non-proliferation and disarmament norms", ambassador Matthew Rowland said.

The CD chair rotates alphabetically every four weeks and Syria's turn came round last Monday, with the full session meeting on Tuesday (June 5).

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.

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.

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, who put his own disarmament proposals to the CD last week, said he had "no power" over the rotation system.

He said he hoped Syria's presidency would not have a "negative impact" on the important work of the conference.

The CD is a multilateral disarmament forum that meets in three sessions a year in Geneva. It negotiates arms control and disarmament accords and focuses on the cessation of the nuclear arms race.