Chemical weapons watchdog wins Nobel Peace Prize

Experts from global agency aim to help destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) director general Ahmet Uzumcu speaking  in The Hague earlier this week. Photograph: Toussaint Kluiters/Reuters

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) director general Ahmet Uzumcu speaking in The Hague earlier this week. Photograph: Toussaint Kluiters/Reuters

Fri, Oct 11, 2013, 10:10

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemicals weapon arsenal, has today won the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

Set up in 1997 to eliminate all chemicals weapons worldwide, its mission gained critical importance this year after a sarin gas strike in the suburbs of Damascus killed more than 1,400 people in August.

Washington blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the attack, a charge he denied, instead blaming rebels. Facing the threat of a US military strike, eventually he agreed to destroy Syria’s sizeable chemical weapons programme and allow in OPCW inspectors.

The $1.25 million (€920,000) prize was announced at 10am Irish time. It will be presented in Oslo on December 10th, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the awards in his 1895 will.

The OPCW, based in the Hague in the Netherlands, has about 500 staff and an annual budget of under $100 million.

The watchdog, which has 189 member states, said Syria was co-operating with its investigations and that it could eliminate the strife-riven country’s chemical weapons by mid-2014, provided they received support from all sides in the civil war.

Chemical weapons experts believe Syria has roughly 1,000 tonnes of sarin, mustard and VX nerve gas, some of it stored as bulk raw chemicals and some of it already loaded onto missiles, warheads or rockets.

Under a Russian-U.S. deal struck last month, Syria must render useless all production facilities and weapons-filling equipment by November, a process begun over the past several weeks.

Reuters