Chemical arms watchdog meets amid tension

November 17, 2018

THE HAGUE -- Global powers are set to clash next week as the world's chemical arms watchdog meets for the first time since it was rocked by allegations of Russian spying.

The Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons in The Hague faces difficult talks over a new investigative team that will start work next year to apportion blame for attacks in Syria.

Moscow has warned the OPCW risks becoming a "sinking Titanic" over new powers which would also allow it to probe incidents like the Salisbury nerve agent attack on a Russian double agent.

But the darkest shadow over the meeting will be the expulsion of four Russians accused by Dutch authorities in October of trying to hack into the watchdog's computer system.

New OPCW director-general Fernando Arias admitted in an interview with AFP on Monday that the watchdog was "going through a difficult moment" given recent events.

Key member states including Russia, the United States, Britain and France will all be able to have their say during the meeting, as will all 193 countries involved in the body.

Former Spanish diplomat Arias, who took over as chief earlier this year and will give the opening address at the meeting on Monday, insisted however that the toxic arms body was "more needed than ever."

Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013, the OPCW is responsible for upholding the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention to end the use of all toxic arms.