The Syrian regime has begun its four-week presidency of the UN Conference on Disarmament – an appointment described as “one of the darkest days in the history” of the panel.
Bashar al Assad’s government will preside over the forum from 28 May until 24 June, following after Switzerland because the presidency rotates among members on an alphabetical basis.
Despite this, many have criticised the appointment following a series of allegations that Assad’s government used chemical weapons to target the civilians in the country.
US ambassador to the forum, Robert Wood, said it marked “one of the darkest days in the history of the Conference on Disarmament”.
He added: “The Damascus regime has neither the credibility nor moral authority to preside over the CD. The international community must not be silent.”
A statement from Britain’s Foreign Office declared: “The UK deplores the fact that Syria will assume the presidency of the Conference on Disarmament, given the regime’s consistent and flagrant disregard of international non-proliferation and disarmament norms and agreements.”
Despite this, the British government recognised that the presidency rotated among CD members and that there was no way to refuse to recognise Syria’s presidency unless Syria itself chose to step down.
Israeli politician Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, described the UN’s appointment of Syria to the presidency as “one of its most absurd decisions yet”.
He added: “How is anyone expected to take the UN seriously when a dictator who murders half a million people leads the effort on disarmament?”
Following widespread allegations that Assad was responsible for chemical weapons attacks against civilians in Syria, the Russian government accused the UK of “staging” the attacks.
Monday, May 28 will be one of the darkest days in the history of the Conference on Disarmament with Syria beginning its four-week presidency. The Damascus regime has neither the credibility nor moral authority to preside over the CD. The int. community must not be silent. pic.twitter.com/6tk32NJjO6
— Robert Wood (@USAmbCD) May 25, 2018
The @UN with one of its most absurd decisions yet – #Syria will lead the Conference on Disarmament. How is anyone expected to take the UN seriously when a dictator who murders half a million people leads the effort on disarmament? The @UNODAGENEVA must cancel the appointment!
— יאיר לפיד Yair Lapid (@yairlapid) May 28, 2018
At least 70 people were reported to have died and more than 500 injured in the suspected attack in April on Douma, the last rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus.
The Kremlin turned the tables on the UK after Theresa May, Donald Trump and several European leaders accused the Syrian government, supported by Russia and Iran, of carrying out the suspected attack.
Russia’s defence ministry claimed the whole attack was faked and it has proof that Britain participated in staging it.
“We have evidence that proves Britain was directly involved in organising this provocation,” defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said at the time.
The alleged evidence has never been made public.