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'A moral surge' against chemical weapons

Chemical weapons rank among the worst weapons of modern warfare. DW talked to Ralf Trapp, who co-founded the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which just received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

DW: Mr. Trapp, you helped found the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and were there until 2006. The OPCW just won the Nobel Peace Prize (11.10.2013). Are you proud?

Ralf Trapp: Yes, of course, you celebrate that like crazy. That's just a tremendous recognition of the organization's work. The OPCW made a very important contribution toward global disarmament and to the abolition of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction.

The process isn't over yet, but a number of important things have been accomplished over the last few years. In that respect, the prize is justified. But it is also a mortgage on the future and what comes next.

What do you mean by 'mortgage on the future'?

A man wearing a beige blazer sits at a podium and speaks into a microphone

Ralf Trapp wants no one on Earth to have to fear the effects of chemical weapons

We've disposed of 80 percent of declared chemical weapons from the Cold War. But another 20 percent still remains to be eliminated.

In addition, there's a whole list of countries that haven't signed on to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Some of those, potentially, have chemical munitions. Syria just recently signed on to the convention. We, therefore, have the next state with chemical weapons potential that is now obligated to destroy those weapons. In that sense, the process isn't at an end yet.

Could the prize lead to a surge in the fight against chemical weapons?

I'm assuming we'll see as much of a surge morally as politically. It will help the organization to carry out its tasks in Syria. I hope other states sign the convention, register their chemical weapons and destroy them. Israel, Egypt, or North Korea, for example.

Syria marks the first time that the OPCW has operated in a war zone. Can the OPCW inspectors really carry out their work there?

The round form of a building lit up at night contrasts against the black sky. Photo: Peter Dejong

The OPCW is located in The Hague, Netherlands

It will be tough. The beginning has gone well - the first inspections were carried out. Inspectors began checking Syria's declarations and to take care that such facilities are no longer operating. What is important now is to keep this momentum and organize support for this process in Syria.

It will, of course, be dependent upon the ready cooperation of the Syrian government and the opposition.

In that sense, the Nobel Peace Prize Is perhaps very helpful. It can help to organize relevant political support and to exert pressure on Syria from all sides.

Let's assume that either the Syrian government or opposition forces don't cooperate. How much power do inspectors have to carry on?

Inspectors can do what they're trained for. These are inspections. They only work, of course, when the other side cooperates. If there are difficulties there, then pressure has to be exerted on Syria from abroad. You need Russia for that. You need Iran for that. You need other countries in the region. And you, of course, need unity in the UN Security Council, so that those things can be pushed through. You can't just leave it to the inspectors on site. That's something they're not in a position to do.

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