A good joke can ease a world of tension. A bad one can amplify it. Syrian President Bashar Assad found that out when he decided to try out some new material regarding the Nobel Peace Prize and his chemical weapons stockpiles.
According to the Agence France-Press, Assad "jokingly" said that he should have been awarded this year's Peace Prize rather than actual winner, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee announced Friday it would bestow the 2013 honor on the OPCW for its "extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons."
Few people outside Assad's inner circle will find the joke funny or appropriate. More than 100,000 people have died since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, and OPCW inspectors are currently working to eradicate Syria's chemical weapons in the wake of an attack that killed hundreds.
Ahmet Uzumcu, director-general of the OPCW, warned Monday that fighting near chemical arms sites is preventing inspectors from carrying out their work. Uzumcu urged fighters to impose ceasefires that would allow inspectors to access the sites.
"They change hands from one day to another, which is why we appeal to all sides in Syria to support this mission, to be co-operative and not render this mission more difficult. It's already challenging," the director-general told the BBC.