OPCW hopes Nobel will convince nations to ban chemical weapons

A general view taken on Aug 31, 2013, shows the headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, The Netherlands. The world chemical watchdog said on Friday, Oct 11, 2013, that it hoped its Nobel Peac
A general view taken on Aug 31, 2013, shows the headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, The Netherlands. The world chemical watchdog said on Friday, Oct 11, 2013, that it hoped its Nobel Peace Prize win would convince countries to ban chemical weapons. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

OSLO (AFP) - The world chemical watchdog said on Friday that it hoped its Nobel Peace Prize win would convince countries to ban chemical weapons.

"I know that the Nobel Peace Prize will help us in fact to promote the universality of the (Chemical Weapons) Convention in the next months. Hopefully we will be able to achieve it soon," OPCW head Ahmet Uzumcu told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, in the organisation's first reaction to the surprise announcement that it had won the prestigious award.

The Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an obscure body recently thrust into the spotlight by the Syria crisis, won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for its work to rid the world of chemical arms.

United Nations secretary general  Ban Ki Moon said on Friday that OPCW's win was proof of the threat from the banned arms.

"This recognition occurs nearly 100 years after the first chemical attack - and 50 days after the appalling use of chemical weapons in Syria. Far from being a relic of the past, chemical weapons remain a clear and present danger," Mr Ban said.

The OPCW and the United Nations were “born from a fundamental abhorrence at the atrocities of war,” he said. “From the battlefields to the laboratories to the negotiating table, the United Nations is honoured to work hand-in-hand with the OPCW to eliminate the threat posed by chemical weapons for all people and for all time.

“Together, we must ensure that the fog of war will never again be composed of poison gas,” he added.

Mr Ban said that on top of eliminating chemical weapons around the world, the OPCW has “a broad mission to prove that the inhumanity of war can give rise to the humanity of solidarity and international cooperation”.

The UN leader congratulated the OPCW for its Nobel win and praised its role in strengthening “the rule of law in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation”. Its success in eradicating an estimated 80per cent of declared chemical weapons stockpiles should “inspire other parts of the global disarmament machinery to live up to the expectations of the international community.”

Mr Ban added that the Nobel award should also be accompanied by a new push to get all countries to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention.

French President Francois Hollande said on Friday that the OPCW's win was also a "vindication" of international efforts to destroy Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.

"The Nobel prize is a vindication of all that France, and not just France, committed in the last few weeks to denouncing the use of chemical weapons and to eliminating them in the near future," Mr Hollande told journalists during a visit to the Paris suburbs.

In a separate statement, Mr Hollande promised France's full support for the OPCW's operations in Syria.

"France fully supports the OPCW in its essential mission to destroy Syria's (chemical) arsenal," Mr Hollande said.

"I hope that this award strengthens its mission for the complete and definitive elimination of chemical weapons throughout the world," Hollande said.

"These weapons of terror were used once again on August 21, 2013 by the Syrian regime against civilians: such acts of barbarism must never be able to be repeated," he said.