LONDON – The head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, said the honor would provide a welcome boost to the group’s aim of ridding the world of chemical arms.
Ahmet Uzumcu, the OPCW’s director-general, also expressed hope that the award could help bring an end to the deadly civil war in Syria, where his organization’s inspectors are trying to destroy the government’s arsenal of chemical weapons even as fighting rages.
“The recognition that the peace prize brings will spur us to untiring effort, even stronger commitment and greater dedication,” said Uzumcu, a former Turkish diplomat. “I truly hope that this award and the OPCW’s ongoing mission together with the United Nations in Syria will help broader efforts to achieve peace in that country and end the suffering of its people.”
He said he had no idea that his organization was about to be awarded the prize when he spoke to the OPCW’s staff on the ground in Syria on Friday morning.
At an afternoon news conference at the organization’s headquarters in the Hague, Uzumcu paid tribute to his staff’s knowledge and expertise, which he said were invaluable in trying to disarm Syria according to the tight schedule outlined by the United Nations. The U.N. has called for Syria’s entire chemical arsenal to be destroyed by the middle of next year.
“Never in the history of our organization have we been called on to verify a destruction program within such short time frames and in an ongoing conflict,” Uzumcu said. “We are conscious of the enormous trust that the international community has bestowed on us.”
Congratulations poured in from around the globe, including from European Union President Herman Van Rompuy. The EU was last year’s winner.
“The work currently conducted by the OPCW in Syria is of paramount importance,” Van Rompuy said. “This will hopefully set a new standard for the international community in responding to threats posed by weapons of mass destruction.”