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U.S. Walks Out as Syria Assumes Presidency of UN Disarmament Panel

Syria's Ambassador Houssam-Eddin Ala, president of the Conference on Disarmament, opens the session of the Conference on Disarmament at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva on May 29, 2018. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

The U.S. delegation staged a walkout today in protest of Syria assuming the rotating presidency of the Conference on Disarmament at the United Nations in Geneva.

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations said in a statement today that they would have tried to block Syria from holding the leadership role but were unable to do so because of the conference rules requiring unanimous consent. Instead, over the next four weeks of Syria’s presidency, the U.S. delegation “will limit participation in informal sessions convened by the presidency and will continue to highlight the hypocrisy of Syria holding this position in spite of its continued use of chemical weapons and disregard for its other disarmament obligations.”

Tweeted Robert Wood, a career State Department official who serves as U.S. ambassador to the conference: “I informed CD members that throughout Syria’s four-week presidency, the US would not attend any subsidiary body mtgs. or any informal sessions convened by the presidency. Syria’s presidency cannot be business as usual. I will, however, call out the regime’s crimes in plenaries.”

“It is shameful that a regime that continues to use chemical weapons to murder its own people has the audacity to accept the presidency of the very organization that established the Chemical Weapons Convention,” Ambassador Nikki Haley said. “The Assad regime does not have the moral authority to chair an organization that helped establish the global norms for ending the use of these heinous weapons.”

“It should immediately relinquish the presidency, and every country that supports accountability for the use of weapons of mass destruction should share our outrage and join us in opposing Syria’s presidency,” she added.

The monthlong presidency rotates alphabetically among the 65 conference members. Last up was Switzerland; next up will be Tunisia.

State Department press secretary Heather Nauert told reporters today “it will not be business as usual while Syria presides over this body.”

“I’m not going to get ahead of what that exactly is going to look like,” she said. “But we remain very concerned about this issue.”