OSLO – The Nobel Peace Prize has turned the global spotlight back on the conflict in Syria.
The prize committee in Oslo, Norway, awarded it today to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international chemical weapons watchdog helping to eliminate the Syrian army’s stockpiles of poison gas.
Its inspectors have just begun working in the active war zone, and the Norwegian Nobel Committee said it hopes the award offers “strong support” to them as they face arduous and life-threatening tasks.
But the OPCW did not receive the prize primarily because of its work in Syria, committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland said. “It is because of its long-standing efforts to eliminate chemical weapons and that we are now about to reach the goal and do away with a whole category of weapons of mass destruction. That would be a great event in history, if we can achieve that.”
Nevertheless, OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu said he wants the prize to inspire everyone to reach for peace in Syria.
“I truly hope that this award . . . will help broader efforts to achieve peace in that country and [ease] the suffering of its people,” Uzumcu said told reporters Friday afternoon.
Uzumcu, saying he was “pleasantly surprised” by the award and acknowledging it was a great honor, added that “events in Syria have been a tragic reminder that there remains much work yet to be done.”
He wants the award “to spur us to untiring effort, even stronger commitment and greater dedication,” he said.
Protocol requires those awarding any Nobel Prize not to inform recipients beforehand, but instead to get in touch with them as the award is announced t o the public.
A team from the OPCW and the United Nations has been in Syria since October 1, and it oversaw the first destruction of chemical weapons equipment this week.
On Sunday, Syrian personnel used “cutting torches and angle grinders to destroy or disable a range of items,” the OPCW said. “This included missile warheads, aerial bombs and mixing and filling equipment.” (CNN)