UK, US join countries opposing Russia’s plan to expand ban on deadly chemicals

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo taken on April 4, 2018 in The Hague shows the headquarters of Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). (Photo by AFP)

Britain, the United States and 18 other members of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have voted down a proposal by Russia to add a broad array of deadly agents to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) arms control treaty.

The British delegation to the OPCW announced in a tweet on Monday that it was joining a 20-nation group opposed to the move, shortly before the OPCW Executive Council members reconvene for a meeting in The Hague.

The OPCW meeting rejected Russia’s proposal in a 20-9 vote while 10 nations abstained from voting.

According to Netherland’s delegation, Russia had called for the inclusion of five chemical families on the list.

The British delegation noted that the OPCW Technical Secretariat "has been clear some elements of proposal don’t meet criteria for inclusion."

Yet the group said London "fully supports Canada, Netherlands and US proposal to add two families of Novichok chemicals, including the substance used in Salisbury, to CWC control lists."

"This demonstrates resolve of the international community to address a very real threat posed by new types of chemical weapons," it said in another tweet.

Novichok, a deadly nerve agent, took the headlines last April, when unknown assailants used it to attack Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter outside a mall in Salisbury, their city of residence.

British prosecutors ruled that Moscow was directly involved in the apparent assassination attempt, arguing that Novichok, as the name suggested, was only in Russia’s possession.

Moscow dismissed the allegations, arguing that Novichok was a Soviet-era chemical that many countries, including the US and the UK, had experienced with.

Last November, when tensions between the two sides reached their peak, Moscow said it was planning to hand over its evidence on Novichok-related research to the OPCW.

Viktor Kholstov, director of the Russian Industry and Trade Ministry’s department on implementation of convention liabilities, said then that Russia had also listed hundreds more chemical agents that the US and other countries had patented long before the CWC was signed in late 1990s and were therefore excluded from it.

"The Americans held back those chemicals, despite the fact that they already knew that those were highly toxic substances," Kholstov said.

"There are about 400 such toxic agents," Kholstov said, adding that Russia had identified 600 more agents that needed to be added to the CWC. "About 1,000 toxic agents are to be added to the Convention’s lists."

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