The situation in the Middle East.
Damascus Representative Says Government Cooperating with Investigations, Claims Member States Turn ‘a Deaf Ear to the Truth’
Almost eight years after the Security Council mandated the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons programme, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, tasked with effectuating that goal, continues to face challenges, including unaddressed discrepancies and insufficient cooperation, the senior United Nations disarmament official told the Security Council today.
Izumi Nakamitsu, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, briefed the 15‑member organ on her Office’s recent engagement with its counterparts at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a month after her last address to the Council on the matter. Because of OPCW’s Technical Secretariat’s assessment regarding unresolved discrepancies and inconsistencies, the declaration submitted by Syria still cannot be considered accurate and complete in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, she noted.
“It is only through complete cooperation by the Syrian Arab Republic with the OPCW Technical Secretariat that all outstanding issues related to the Syrian Arab Republic’s initial declaration can be closed,” she emphasized. The OPCW Technical Secretariat still plans to conduct two rounds of inspections of the Barzah and Jamrayah facilities of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Centre. However, these plans remain subject to evolving conditions on the ground, due to the COVID‑19 pandemic.
The Syrian Government had confirmed its readiness to engage in a twenty‑fifth round of consultations with the OPCW’s Declaration Assessment Team later in the month, she reported. However, it has refused to issue an entry visa to one of the experts. “Given this situation, the Technical Secretariat confirmed that it would not deploy the Team to Syria,” she said.
As Council members took the floor, many of them expressed concern about the continuing stalemate between OPCW and Syria, with some calling for greater compliance from Syria and more decisive measures to ensure its accountability, while others called for an end to politicizing the process and stressing the need for greater cooperation and goodwill to be fostered between the two parties.
The representative of the Russian Federation averred that OPCW has turned into a politicized instrument used by Western States to punish unwanted regimes. He also repudiated the OPCW findings on chlorine cylinders, remarking that its experts ought to be awarded a Nobel Prize for discovering “new” laws in alternative physics. The Syrian chemical dossier has long ceased to have anything to do with the issue of non‑proliferation of chemical weapons, he declared, adding Damascus continues to implement its obligations under the Convention.
The representative of the United States, voicing his disagreement, underscored that there is overwhelming evidence the Syrian regime has utterly failed its obligations under the Convention. Despite the Assad regime’s denials, as many as four separate chemical attacks have now been attributed to the regime by the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team. The Council should impose measures under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations against the regime and take resolution action to address Syria’s non‑compliance.
Niger’s delegate observed a repetitive pattern between the OPCW pointing to unaddressed gaps of information by Syria and Syria countering that they are cooperating and have indeed provided the requested information. While this points to differing interpretations of the issue, he stressed: “This cycle of accusation and counter‑accusation must cease.” Continued good‑faith cooperation between OPCW and Syria could help resolve the issue.
Meanwhile, the representative of Tunisia underlined the need to restore cooperation between the Syrian Government and the OPCW’s Secretariat, recalling that OPCW also provides a forum for discussion and cooperation between States. All allegations pertaining to the use of chemical weapons must be dealt with in an independent, transparent and comprehensive manner, he said.
However, Syria’s representative said he stood against the efforts of some States to use OPCW as a tool against his country. Noting that the Declaration Assessment Team is not an investigative team, but a team which will help the Syrian authorities present their declaration, he defended his country’s decision to refuse an entry visa to a member of the OPCW’s Team. The expert had proved to be non‑objective in the past and could easily be replaced.
More so, he highlighted how Syria had voluntarily joined the Chemical Weapons Convention and met all its obligations in record time. Despite statements by some States, which prove that they continue to turn a deaf ear to the truth, Syria is cooperating with OPCW and is keen to close the file as soon as possible.
Nonetheless, the representative of Turkey said decisions made by the OPCW’s Executive Council and during the twenty‑fifth Conference of States Parties must be “worth more than the paper they are printed on”. He added that, as the body charged with maintaining international peace and security, the Council must uphold the authority of the Convention, emphasizing that: “This is not a choice. This is a responsibility”.
Also speaking were the representatives of Norway, Estonia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, France, China, Ireland, India, Viet Nam, United Kingdom, Mexico and Kenya.
The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 4:34 p.m.