Remarks by Ambassador Robert Wood, Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs, at a UN Security Council Briefing on Chemical Weapons in Syria

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March 4, 2024

Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, let me first congratulate you on assuming the presidency and assure you of the full cooperation of my delegation. And thank you Deputy Ebo, for your briefing and continued attention to this important issue.

For ten years, the United States, alongside most of the international community, has called out the Assad regime’s repeated and ongoing violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and Resolution 2118. We have condemned the regime’s multiple independently confirmed uses of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, and the regime’s failure to fully declare and destroy its chemical weapons and production facilities. We will continue to pursue accountability for all who use chemical weapons.

Recent reports by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are alarming. I urge all members of this Council to read the September 2023 OPCW report entitled: “Accession of the Syrian Arab Republic to the CWC: Ten Years On.” This document provides a factual accounting of Syria’s record of noncompliance with the CWC. The Director-General’s report on “Progress in the Elimination of the Syrian CW Program” is equally concerning.

Director-General Arias’ report comes on the heels of the decision taken by the OPCW Conference of the States Parties this past fall that for the first time invokes Article XII, paragraph 3 of the CWC and recommends that States Parties take certain “collective measures” to prevent the transfer to Syria of dual-use chemicals and equipment. States Parties must act to prevent such items from falling into the hands of the Assad regime and non-state actors, particularly terrorist groups.

Colleagues, the United States fully supports robust implementation of this decision. We will be working toward that end and fully support a Security Council meeting this year to discuss its implementation.

As is well documented in these OPCW reports, the Syrian regime continues to obfuscate and impede the work of the OPCW and its various technical teams that seek to fully engage with Syria in carrying out their mandates.

Rather than address discrepancies in its own declaration or providing the OPCW with full, substantive cooperation, Syria continues to delay and deflect, and Syria’s friends are politicizing the technical work of the organization.

The recent findings by the OPCW Declaration Assessment Team heighten our concern that the Syrian regime retains a residual chemical weapons capability.

We note with equal concern the February 22 report by the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team, which concluded that there are reasonable grounds to believe that on September 1, 2015, during sustained attacks aimed at capturing the town of Marea, Da’esh terrorists deployed sulfur mustard. The report finds that at least 11 individuals encountered liquid substances from projectiles fired by Dae’sh and experienced symptoms consistent with exposure to sulfur mustard. These findings are in line with the United States’ own assessment of the attack.

In finding Da’esh/ISIL responsible for these attacks, this report demonstrates that the IIT reports where the facts lead them, notwithstanding baseless claims of bias by members of this Council and the Syrian regime. As the IIT itself noted, it applied the same methodologies and standards for this investigation as it has in all of its prior reports. We commend the independent, impartial, and expert work of the OPCW staff, and condemn the use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anyone, under any circumstances.

The report further illustrates the need for the OPCW to retain the IIT’s unique investigative expertise, which plays a crucial role in upholding the global norm against the use of chemical weapons. The United States encourages the international community to strengthen cooperation in preventing the acquisition of chemical weapons by terrorists and make clear that there can be no impunity for the use of chemical weapons by anyone.

Colleagues, the threat posed to Syrians and the international community by Syria’s continuing non-compliance with the CWC and Council resolutions is alarming. We welcome the ongoing work of the OPCW as well as its report. We are committed to work with this Council, in other multilateral fora, and with partner countries to address this threat and ensure the Assad regime never again terrorizes the people of Syria with chemical weapons.

Finally, Mr. President, let me say a few words in response to attacks that have been made by some on the professionalism and rigor of the investigative teams. We commend the OPCW’s investigations of chemical weapons use in Syria. We continue to be impressed by the rigor the OPCW brings to each of its investigative efforts, meticulously collecting and analyzing evidence from a multitude of sources to reach irrefutable conclusions. This important work is necessary so that those responsible for these attacks can be held to account. There can be no, repeat, no impunity for chemical weapons use.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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