UK Statement by Deputy Political Coordinator Tom Phipps at the UN Security Council meeting on Syria Chemical Weapons

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Syria’s chemical weapons remain a threat to international peace and security

7 September 2023

Let me begin by thanking Director-General Fernando Arias of the OPCW for his latest monthly report, and also to the OPCW Declaration Assessment Team for their tireless efforts to resolve the outstanding issues in Syria’s Chemical Weapons Declaration. I would also like to thank High Representative Nakamitsu for her briefing today.

President, as Ms Nakamitsu and others have said, ten years ago in the early hours of 21 August,Bashar Assad’s forces used sarin against the people of Ghouta. More than 1,000 people were killed, many of whom were women and children. The resulting UN Mission report described it as the most significant confirmed use of chemical weapons against civilians since Saddam Hussein used them in Halabja in 1988.

This Council expressed its outrage, it condemned the killing of civilians, it affirmed that any use of chemical weapons constitutes a serious violation of international law and we collectively called for accountability. Security Council resolution 2118 was adopted, unanimously.

The resolution condemned chemical weapons use in Syria and endorsed the implementation of the OPCW Executive Council decision setting out the steps for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons programme.

It was clear that the Syrian Arab Republic should not use, develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons. It compelled Syria to cooperate fully with the OPCW and the UN, including by providing personnel designated by the OPCW with immediate and unfettered access to, and the right to inspect in discharging their functions, any and all sites that the OPCW has grounds to believe to be of importance for the purpose of its mandate.

Ten years later, the provisions of UNSCR 2118 have not been met. As others have said today, there have been nine further confirmed chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian regime.

Next month will mark ten years since Syria acceded to the chemical weapons convention.

It is a moment for us to all reflect on our responsibility for the implementation of UNSCR 2118, and how we can move forward, collectively, and in support of the OPCW’s efforts to resolve outstanding inconsistencies with Syria’s declaration.

We owe that to the victims of Ghouta and of all chemical weapons attacks. Including the attack carried out by Russia five years in Salisbury, in the UK, which resulted in the death of the British national Dawn Sturgess.

President, Syria’s chemical weapons will remain a threat to international peace and security until its chemical weapons programme has been fully and verifiably destroyed by the OPCW.

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