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Closer attention Switzerland tightens controls on chemical exports to Syria

Investigators in Syria take samples from sand near a part of a missile that was suspected of carrying chemical agents.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced in May 2014 that Syria had destroyed its stock of 120 metric tons of isopropanol. However, six months after the elimination of the stock, a Swiss firm was able to export five metric tons of isopropanol to Syria without any opposition from the Swiss authorities.

(Keystone)

Switzerland is making the export of chemicals to Syria  — where the government has allegedly used chemical weapons against its people multiple times — subject to a licensing requirement.

The Swiss government announced the decision on Friday, only weeks after a report by Swiss public television, RTS, revealed that Switzerland had authorised the export to Syria of five metric tons of chemical isopropanol in 2014. 

  + Swiss authorities allowed isopropanol exports to Syria

The chemical can be used to make sarin gas, a deadly nerve agent.

The Federal Council now wants all deliveries of goods to Syria that could be diverted from their legitimate use to manufacture chemical warfare agents to be subject to authorisation. The European Union already restricts exports of this type.

The sale, delivery, export and transit of certain chemical products (including isopropanol), materials and other goods destined for Syria or intended for use in Syria must now be authorised by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).external link

SECO may give the green light only after consulting the foreign affairs ministryexternal link and the defence ministry. Services related to such goods, including financing, are also subject to authorisation.

In the wake of a chemical attack near Damascus in August 2013 that killed hundreds of people, the United States came close to launching military strikes against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Instead a deal was made to destroy the country's stockpile by mid-2014. 

There are concerns that Syria did not declareexternal link all of its arsenal.

ats-swissinfo.ch/dsg


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