The situation in the Middle East (Syria) - Security Council, 8990th meeting
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Letter dated 4 March 2022 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council (S/2022/181)

Representative of Damascus Spotlights Cooperation with International Monitors, Stresses No Progress to Be Made through Ultimatums

Pending issues with Syria’s declaration of its chemical weapons programme remain unresolved, the United Nations disarmament chief told the Security Council today, as delegates traded barbs over the impartiality of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the frequency with which the 15-member organ considers the matter.

“As has been stressed repeatedly, due to the identified gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies that remain unresolved […] at this stage, Syria’s declaration cannot be considered accurate and complete in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention,” said High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu, as she presented one of her regular updates on the implementation of Council resolution 2118 (2013) regarding the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons programme.

She said OPCW has not yet received the requested declaration from Syria on all undeclared types and quantities of nerve agents produced and/or weaponized at a former chemical weapons production facility that was declared as never having been used for such purposes. Nor has it received from Syria the requested further information and documentation regarding the damage caused during the 8 June 2021 attack on a military site, which houses a declared former chemical weapons production facility, she said.

In addition, she said, OPCW has also not received a response to its request for information regarding the unauthorized movement and remains of two destroyed cylinders related to the chemical weapon incident that took place in the city of Douma on 7 April 2018. Meanwhile, the OPCW Technical Secretariat is still not able to conduct its next round of consultations in Damascus due to Syria’s continued refusal to issue an entry visa for one member of the team.

In the ensuing discussion, the Russian Federation’s representative noted that the Council was briefed on the same matter just 10 days ago. Western colleagues have not listened to the proposal made by China and his country to adjust the timetable to avoid “meeting for the sake of meeting”. Noting that the Council discusses Syria at least twice a month — while it meets on other active situations, such as Libya, only every two months — he said OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias should answer his delegation’s outstanding questions or risk increasing suspicions that the Technical Secretariat has something to hide.

His counterpart from the United States disagreed, arguing that the Council should continue to receive regular updates on Syria’s chemical weapons file and the critical work of OPCW. Every one of the 17 amendments that Syria has made to its initial declaration has been because of OPCW expert investigations, he stressed.

The United Kingdom’s delegate drew parallels between the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine and its actions in Syria, calling for an end to Moscow’s disinformation campaign. The Russian Federation has a long history of deflection, denial and obstructive behaviour when it comes to chemical weapons, he said, asking Council members whom they prefer to believe — a country with a track record of using chemical weapons or an independent, impartial international organization that carries out rigorous investigations based on clear evidence.

The representative of China, noting that OPCW faces challenges in its work, stressed the need for the entity and its Director-General to make greater efforts to uphold objectivity and neutrality. Echoing calls for the frequency of meetings on Syria’s chemical weapons file to be reduced, he reminded members that the subject of today’s meeting is Syria, and they should refrain from introducing issues that are not related to the subject under discussion.

Syria’s representative recalled that nine years ago, terrorist groups launched a chemical weapons missile near Aleppo that resulted in 25 deaths and 110 injuries. Syria then asked for the creation of an independent investigative team. Unfortunately, that team never visited the site and never investigated, and accepts evidence from “anonymous third parties” instead of collecting samples themselves. Noting other examples of attempts to undermine Syria’s cooperation with OPCW, he warned that no progress will be made through pressure or ultimatums.

Also speaking were the representatives of Albania, France, Norway, Ireland, Brazil, India, Ghana (also for Gabon and Kenya), Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Iran and Turkey.

The representatives of the Russian Federation and China took the floor for a second time.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended 11:20 a.m.