Security Council

The situation in the Middle East (Syrian chemical…

The situation in the Middle East (Syrian chemical weapons programme) - Security Council, 8921st meeting
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The Security council members will review the activities of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in implementing Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) and the relevant provisions of the OPCW Executive Council decisions in relation to the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme during the period from 24 October to 23 November 2021.

Delegate Calls for Improving Working Relationship between Damascus, OPCW

Syria’s declaration of its chemical weapons programme cannot be considered accurate and complete due to the identified gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies, the United Nations disarmament chief told the Security Council today, urging that country’s thorough cooperation with the Technical Secretariat of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Presenting an update on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) regarding the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons programme, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu reported that Syria has submitted 17 amendments and several supplements to its initial declaration, with 20 of the 24 outstanding issues remaining unresolved.

She said that the Technical Secretariat’s role is to assess whether explanations provided by Syrian experts for gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies in the country’s initial declaration are scientifically plausible, adding that once these assessments are conducted, that OPCW body assists Damascus in amending its initial declaration as required to ensure an accurate and complete declaration.

The Technical Secretariat insists that Syria must declare all types and quantities of chemical warfare agents produced and/or weaponized at its former chemical weapons production facility that was declared to have never been used for such purposes, she noted.

On the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention’s decision to suspend Syria, she said the country’s rights and privileges will be reinstated once the OPCW Director‑General has reported to the Executive Council that Syria has completed all the required measures. However, Damascus has yet to complete those measures, she reported, urging Damascus to cooperate fully with the Technical Secretariat in this regard.

She then reiterated her full support for the integrity, professionalism, impartiality, objectivity and independence of the work of OPCW.

In the ensuing discussion, the Russian Federation’s representative said the Technical Secretariat “churns out one politically motivated report after another” and takes discriminatory decisions and avoids dialogue with States who care about the organization’s role. The decision taken by the State Parties to remove the rights of a sovereign State that complied with the Convention is a “counter‑milestone” and a blow to the non‑proliferation regime. His country disassociated from consensus in the decision to re‑elect OPCW Director‑General Fernando Arias, he said, adding that Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in good faith.

The representative of the United States said that during the eight years since the adoption of resolution 2118 (2013), most Council members deeply regretted Syria’s failure to uphold its obligations under the Convention. On 1 February 2018, Syria dropped chemical barrel bombs on its own people “as part of barbaric siege”, followed by a chemical attack, which burned the skin of its victims, he said, pointing out that these facts underscored the “audacity of the Assad regime”, which steadfastly denies the truth and portrays itself as victim. He said that the Assad regime and its enablers, notably the Russian Federation, should know that the United States will use all available tools to promote accountability. Syria has used chemical weapons an estimated 50 times since the start of the conflict, he added.

Tunisia’s delegate encouraged both Syria and OPCW to do their parts, expressing hope that a meeting will take place between the OPCW Director‑General and Syria’s Foreign Minister. He urged Syria to clarify pending issues to comply with the Convention. For its part, OPCW must heed concerns of Damascus to best address the matter. The Security Council can help eliminate the use or the threat of use of chemical weapons through consensus­-based decisions.

In the same vein, Viet Nam’s delegate said that finding a long‑term solution hinges on renewing trust through constructive efforts and mutual engagement to improve the working relationship between Damascus and the OPCW Technical Secretariat, he said, anticipating the forthcoming meeting between Syria’s Foreign Minister and the OPCW Director‑General could find ways “to break the ice”.

Syria’s representative, taking the floor following Council members, said the OPCW Technical Secretariat does not have a mandate to determine whether data submitted by Damascus is scientific, he said, insisting that his country’s initial declarations are complete and accurate. Noting that it has presented clarifications to the Declaration Assessment Team while categorically rejecting attempts to question Syria’s data, he went on to deplore that OPCW, a guarantor of implementation of the Convention, has become a forum exploited by the United States and its allies. Accountability must apply to States supporting terrorists and to occupying Powers, he added.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Kenya, Mexico, Norway, China, Estonia, United Kingdom, India, Ireland, France, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Niger, Iran and Turkey.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 11:42 a.m.