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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September 7, 2023

Thank you, Madam President. I also want to thank High Representative Nakamitsu for her briefing this morning. I’d also like to thank the teams at the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, for the steadfast leadership and exceptional work they bring to this critical issue each day.

Syria continues to flagrantly flout its obligations to comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention. Syria continues to defy numerous UN Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 2118. It has grown clear that the Assad regime believes it can continue to operate with impunity despite the objective and evidence-based record of its chemical weapons attacks.

Syria acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention in October 2013 – a decade ago next month. In doing so, it accepted, like all signatory States Parties, to be bound by the Convention’s obligations, including: one, never to produce, develop, acquire, stockpile, or use chemical weapons; two, to submit timely, accurate, and complete declarations of its chemical weapons and facilities; and three, to cooperate with the OPCW in the exercise of all its functions, and provide assistance to the OPCW’s technical secretariat.

Yet, 10 years after it undertook these obligations by ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention, Syria continues to make false statements and flout the authority of the Security Council. Time and again, the OPCW has found that the regime’s declarations regarding its chemical weapons program – as Director General Arias succinctly puts it – “still cannot be considered accurate and complete.” Moreover, the Assad regime continues to deny OPCW personnel the unfettered access it is obligated to provide per this Council’s decision.

The Assad regime has displayed such obstruction for nearly a full decade, during which time the OPCW – and before Russia’s Security Council veto dissolved the body, the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism – have found the regime responsible for nine separate chemical weapons attacks against its own people that occurred following Syria’s accession to the CWC.

With full knowledge of this duplicity, Russia continues to shield the Assad regime from appropriate oversight by the Security Council, depriving the Council of its ability to promote international peace and security by holding Assad to account for his despicable actions. In this regard, I note with particular concern that for the second consecutive month, two permanent members of this Council have indicated that they will not even participate in our discussion of an issue of this seriousness.

Despite Russia’s intransigence and Syria’s deceit, the United States continues to, and will continue to raise this issue in this Council. We will continue to call on Syria to comply with its CWC obligations and its obligations under Resolution 2118. We will continue to seek briefings by the Under-Secretary-General on the status of these efforts, and we call on other Council members to do the same.

Despite the efforts of Syria and Russia to impugn the credibility and professional work of the OPCW and distract us from the gravity of this issue, 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 impunity for chemical weapons use. Anything less would be turning a blind eye to a regime that has chosen to manufacture, stockpile, and, even more horrifically, use chemical weapons repeatedly against its own people.

The United States remains committed to hold to account those responsible for the repeated use of chemical weapons by Syria in violation of its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 2118 and the Chemical Weapons Convention. We will continue to press for progress both at the OPCW and in other relevant UN fora, while continuing to raise this issue here at the UN Security Council.

We keep pushing on this issue because we remember the victims and survivors of these horrific attacks by the Assad regime. We will continue to seek justice for the victims of these attacks and to remind our fellow Council members that it is our duty, as members of this Council, to do our part by remaining seized of this issue and to demand, at long last, real steps to end Syria’s chemical threat.

Thank you, Madam President.

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