Even before Syria took over the presidency of the conference, there were already considerable obstacles. As the 65-nation conference works by unanimous decision-making, the likelihood that each of these 65 members agree to do something is unlikely, and the organization has been blocked for about two decades. During this time, the members of the conference met only for technical and expert discussions on issues. "The disarmament conference is not very productive at the moment," said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington.
A long-time US goal at the conference is to start negotiating a contract to cut off fissile material production. Other countries have other priorities: China and Russia want talks on a contract to prevent an arms race in space. Several other members of the conference want to start drafting a treaty that clarifies that a nuclear-armed state will not use or threaten nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear country. But as the conference works by consensus, one country can object to the priorities of others, and Kimball put it this way: "They were unable to start a formal work plan for one of these problems."
Robert Wood, US Ambassador to the Conference, left the plenary session in protest of the Syrian takeover of the presidency which he called "travesty". He later returned to condemn the Assad regime for chemical weapons against Syrian civilians:
I informed the CD members that the US would not attend a subsidiary during Syria's four-week presidency. or informal meetings convened by the Presidency. The presidency of Syria can not be as usual. However, I will declare the regime's crimes in plenary sessions. pic.twitter.com/fDMK5MXV8N
– Robert Wood (@USAmbCD) May 29, 2018
Such abuses by an American official are not uncommon. The United States raised similar protests when Iran assumed the presidency in 2013. "It is understandable and justified that the United States objected to Syria assuming this role because it legitimized Syria as a credible player on the international scene, if that is not the case," said Kimball, but he added, "It it also disturbs our own goals as we and other countries have goals that we want to achieve. "Syria's presidency is unlikely to help.