OPCW ready for deployment to Syrian borders

A high-ranking official with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on Monday that international inspectors could be quickly sent to Syria’s borders if the country uses chemical weapons.

While there is no evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is preparing to use banned chemical weapons against rebel fighters, the staff for the OPCW is prepared to deploy if asked, Reuters reports.

“We have intensified our capacity,” Grace Asirwatham, the OPCW’s deputy director-general, said, according to Reuters. “We are in preparedness.”

Syria refused to sign the treaty that set up the 15-year-old OPCW, but the agency could send experts and protection equipment to Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey or Jordan if Syria’s neighbors feared Syrian chemical weapons.

While the OPCW has no authority in Syria, the country is bound by the Geneva Protocol of 1925 to not use chemical weapons.

“They cannot use chemical weapons,” Asirwatham said, according to Reuters. “It is not an option for them. We believe the Syrian government will respect their obligations towards the Geneva Protocol and the international community’s sentiment to get rid of chemical weapons.”

If any of the four OPCW member states next to Syria require assistance, the OPCW could send teams of 30 to 40 from its permanent staff of 150 inspectors. Before sending the aid, however, the request must be supported with valid evidence of a chemical weapon threat, Reuters reports.

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