The international body responsible for policing chemical weapons abuses today/Tuesday expressed extreme worry about deployment of the nerve agent novichokin Salisbury, saying those found responsible must be held accountable.
The director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ahmet Üzümcü, made the statement on the opening day of a meeting of the executive council. He said:
The recent report that two people became seriously ill in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as a result of exposure to a nerve agent is of serious concern.It is extremely worrying that chemical agents are still being used to harm people. Those found responsible for this use must be held accountable for their actions.
With the UK unable to secure support at the United Nations security council or, so far from the White House, and neither Nato or the European Union seemingly interested in taking action, the 192-member OPCW offers at least one route to international action.
Üzümcü stopped short of ordering an investigation. A member state can request the OPCW to intervene. This would involve verifying the use of a nerve agent and then investigating whether Russia was in compliance with international treaty rules on chemical weapons.
Involving the OPCW could be among the raft of measures to be announced by Theresa May on Wednesday if she concludes Russia has failed to provide a credible response to the nerve attack.
The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson spoke to Üzümcü on Monday night, informing him about the outcome of the Porton Down conclusion that novichok, a rare nerve agent developed by Russia, had been employed.
All 192 members have signed the convention on chemical weapons. An investigation by the OPCW would be potentially awkward - or at least embarrassing - for Russia.