OSLO, Norway, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- The head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says winning the Nobel Peace Prize will "boost morale" among staff members.
It was announced Friday that the OPCW was the 2013 recipient of the Noble Peace Prize.
"I see it as a recognition in fact, of contributions made by our organization to global peace and security over the past sixteen years of its existence," said Ahmet Uzumcu, director-general of the organization, in an interview with Nobelprize.org following the announcement. "Clearly, this award, in fact, is a recognition of all those who worked in the OPCW, as well as all those who represented their countries here in The Hague, a credit to the organization over those years."
Uzumcu went on to say that his organization has contributed to the destruction of 80 percent of the world's chemical weapons, but that the conflict in Syria, which has a large stockpile of chemical weapons, presents a challenge to the OPCW. "Syria poses a particular challenge to our organization, where there is a considerable amount of chemical weapons," he said.
"I think the Nobel Peace Prize, in fact, will give a new impetus and encouragement, I should say, great incentive to our staff who are working in the secretariat, and who are deployed also in Syria for the past two-three weeks, and this will boost their morale in order to fulfill their mission," Uzumcu added.
U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement congratulating the OPCW for its achievement.
"I want to congratulate the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for winning the Nobel Peace Prize," Obama said. "The world will never forget the loss of the more than 1,000 innocent Syrians senselessly killed with chemical weapons on Aug. 21."
"Since that horrific attack, the OPCW has taken extraordinary steps and worked with unprecedented speed to address this blatant violation of international norms that shocked the conscience of people around the world," Obama said. "Just a few weeks ago, a united international community came together at the OPCW and the United Nations to establish a clear path toward eliminating Syria's chemical weapons forever."
Since the 1990s, the OPCW has, through inspections, destruction and other means, tried to implement a convention to prohibit chemical weapons, their production and their storage, the Nobel Committee said in a release.
The convention has 189 signatories to date.
"The conventions and the work of the OPCW have defined the use of chemical weapons as a taboo under international law," the committee release said.
Recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have been used, "have underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons," the release said.
The committee noted some countries still weren't OPCW members while others have missed deadlines for destroying chemical arms, singling out the United States and Russia for missing an April 2012 deadline.
"Disarmament figures prominently in Alfred Nobel's will," the committee release said. "By means of the present award to the OPCW, the Committee is seeking to contribute to the elimination of chemical weapons."