Syria must fully cooperate with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to close all outstanding issues related to its declaration, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today during its monthly briefing on the implementation of resolution 2118 (2013) on the elimination of the country’s chemical weapons programme, highlighting that long-standing gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies remain unresolved.
Adedeji Ebo, Director and Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, speaking on behalf of High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu, said efforts by the OPCW Declaration Assessment Team to clarify all outstanding issues regarding Syria’s initial and subsequent declarations have not progressed since the Council last met on the matter.
The OPCW Technical Secretariat has informed the Syrian National Authority of its intention to send a reduced team to conduct limited in-country activities in Syria from 17 to 22 January, he said, stressing that Syria’s full cooperation with the Technical Secretariat is essential to closing all outstanding issues. As has been stressed many times before, due to the identified gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies that remain unresolved, Syria’s declaration cannot be considered accurate and complete in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, he said.
The OPCW Technical Secretariat continues to plan the next round of inspections of the Barzah and Jamrayah facilities of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre, to be held in 2023, he continued. While the OPCW Technical Secretariat was awaiting Syria’s response on the latest version of the agenda for the in-person meeting between the OPCW Director-General and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Syria, Damascus suggested a preliminary meeting in Beirut. Meanwhile, on 8 December, OPCW, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and Syria finalized an extension of the tripartite agreement for a period of six months from 1 January up to and including 30 June.
The OPCW fact-finding mission remains in the process of studying all available information related to allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, he said. The investigation and identification team also continues its work and will issue further reports in due course. It is imperative to hold accountable all those who would dare to use chemical weapons, he said, voicing hope that members of the Council will unite on the issue.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed the Council’s new non-permanent members, Ecuador, Japan, Malta, Mozambique and Switzerland, and once again condemned any use of chemical weapons. Several members reiterated their concern about the ongoing lack of progress on the file and called on Syria’s full cooperation with OPCW, while others questioned the utility of the monthly meetings on the matter.
The representative of the Russian Federation said discussing this topic in the Council each month was to “tick the box” for the benefit of a number of Western countries’ domestic political objectives, devalue the debate and undermine the 15-member organ’s authority. The OPCW Director-General has repeatedly come up with excuses as to why he is unable to attend the Council’s meetings for the briefing, while providing a “carbon copy” of the reports. Until the meeting schedule is optimized, he sees no point in engaging in the debate on the substance of the issue, he said.
The representative of the United States, however, pointed out that despite Moscow’s repeated assertions that OPCW’S Director-General has not met with the Assad regime, the regime has stalled the scheduling of such meetings since June 2021. OPCW and the United Nations have independently concluded that the regime has used chemical weapons on eight occasions, he said, calling on Syria to comply with its obligations and immediately cease its obstructions of the OPCW Expert Team so the issue of chemical weapons use by the country is resolved once and for all.
Japan’s representative, Council President for January, speaking in his national capacity, said the use of chemical weapons should never be tolerated anywhere, at any time, by anyone, under any circumstance. Syria must engage in good faith with the Technical Secretariat and provide all required documents to solve the outstanding issues related to the initial and subsequent declarations submitted by that country. It should also refrain from making further excuses to impede the entry of the Declaration Assessment Team’s technical expert to its territory.
The representatives of the United Arab Emirates and China underscored the importance of dialogue for tangible progress on the issue. Highlighting that the Syrian chemical file is one of the most politicized of the Council, the delegate of the United Arab Emirates called on the parties to work with a consensus-based and non-politicized approach. China’s representative called for a holistic approach, noting that information provided by Syria’s Government on terrorist organizations possessing and using chemical weapons must be taken into full account.
Syria’s representative, pointing out that his country has never used a prohibited weapon or a toxic chemical matter, said that over the past nine years, Syrian authorities granted more than 500 entrance visas to OPCW Technical Secretariat officials, facilitated 24 rounds of negotiations of the Declaration Assessment Team and nine rounds of inspections of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center. He welcomed the request of the Technical Secretariat to enable a visit of a reduced Declaration Assessment Team to carry out limited activities. Underscoring the illegal nature of the establishment of the investigation and identification team, he reiterated that his country does not recognize any conclusions of the “illegal” team.
Also speaking were representatives of Ghana, Brazil, Malta, Albania, Ecuador, Switzerland, France, United Kingdom, Türkiye and Iran.
The meeting began at 10:01 a.m. and ended at 11:16 a.m.