Syria

Syria’s Declaration of Chemical Weapons Programme Not Considered Accurate, Thorough, Disarmament Chief Tells Security Council

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SC/14722

SECURITY COUNCIL
8921ST MEETING (AM)

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.

Briefing

IZUMI NAKAMITSU, Under‑Secretary‑General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, giving an update on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) regarding the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons programme, said she held a monthly call with the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on 3 December 2021, to receive an update on developments. The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs received information from the Permanent Mission of Syria concerning chemical weapons issues for this period. This information was studied carefully and forwarded to the OPCW Technical Secretariat.

The Technical Secretariat’s ability to deploy to Syria depends on the COVID‑19 pandemic’s evolution. Despite ongoing travel restrictions, the Technical Secretariat continues to undertake its mandated activities. The OPCW Declaration Assessment Team is persisting with its ongoing efforts to clarify all the outstanding issues regarding the initial declaration by Syria. 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. Once these assessments are conducted, the Technical Secretariat assists Syria in amending its initial declaration as required to ensure an accurate and complete declaration.

Syria has submitted 17 amendments and several supplements to its initial declaration, she continued. However, out of the 24 outstanding issues, 20 remain unresolved. The Technical Secretariat remains of the position that Syria must declare all types and quantities of chemical warfare agents produced and/or weaponized at the former chemical weapons production facility that was declared by Syria to have never been used for such purposes. The requested declarations from Syria have not been received. The Technical Secretariat has not yet received a response from Syria on the requests for information and documentation regarding the damage caused to the declared former chemical weapons production facility during the 8 June 2021 attack. Nor has it received a response to the request for information regarding the unauthorized movement and remains of the two destroyed cylinders related to the chemical weapon incident that took place in Douma on 7 April 2018, she pointed out, calling on Syria to respond to the Technical Secretariat as soon as possible.

Since April 2021, the Technical Secretariat has attempted to schedule the twenty‑fifth round of consultations between Syria and the Declaration Assessment Team in Damascus. However, Syria continued to refuse issuing all the requested visas to members of the Assessment Team. Efforts by the Technical Secretariat to convene a limited meeting with Syrian experts at OPCW’s Headquarters in The Hague in late October 2021 were also unsuccessful. As a result of the identified gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies, the Technical Secretariat continues to assess that, at this stage, the declaration submitted by Syria cannot be considered accurate and complete in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, she said, reiterating her call to the Government to facilitate arrangements for the Declaration Assessment Team’s deployment as soon as possible. It is only through complete cooperation by Syria with the Technical Secretariat that all outstanding issues can be closed. The confidence of the international community in the complete elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons programme depends upon these issues being finalized.

The Technical Secretariat is planning for inspections of the Barzah and Jamrayah facilities of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Centre in December 2021. However, the inspections of these facilities remain subject to the evolution of the pandemic. Syria has yet to provide sufficient technical information or explanations that would enable the Technical Secretariat to close the issue related to the detection of a “Schedule 2” chemical at the Barzah facilities of the Research Centre in November 2018.

Regarding the in-person meeting between the OPCW Director-General and Syria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, the officials in charge of preparations continue discussing the date, location, agenda and composition of the delegations. The OPCW fact-finding mission is studying all available information related to allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria and continues to engage with the State and other States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention regarding various incidents. Further the fact‑finding mission deployments will be subject to the pandemic’s evolution.

Following the issuance of its second report in April 2021, the Investigation and Identification Team continues its probes into incidents in which the fact‑finding mission has determined that chemical weapons were used or likely used in Syria. The Investigation and Identification Team will issue further reports in due course, subject to the evolution of the pandemic. Once again, she reiterated her full support for the integrity, professionalism, impartiality, objectivity, and independence of the work of OPCW.

On 21 April 2021, the Conference of the States Parties to the Convention at its twenty‑fifth session, adopted the decision to suspend the rights and privileges of Syria. The country’s rights and privileges will be reinstated by the Conference of the States Parties once the OPCW Director‑General has reported to the Executive Council that Syria has completed all the required measures. Syria has yet to complete those measures, she reported, urging Damascus to cooperate fully with the Technical Secretariat in this regard.

Statements

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said it was time to “take stock” of the Syrian chemical weapons dossier, which is “far from encouraging”, due to the constant attempts to politicize OPCW’s work. “The erosion in trust has taken on dire dimensions, even if our Western colleagues try to convince us otherwise,” he stressed, adding that the Technical Secretariat “churns out one politically‑motivated report after another”. Further, he said, it takes discriminatory decisions and avoids dialogue with States who care about the organization’s role. The previous week’s meeting of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention only confirmed these “unsightly trends”, he said, calling the decision taken to remove the rights of a sovereign State that complied with the Convention a “counter-milestone” and a blow to the non-proliferation regime. He said the report under discussion differs little from those that preceded it, as it is purely motivated by presenting Damascus in an unflattering light. Due to OPCW’s unwillingness to correct its mistakes, his country disassociated from consensus in the decision to re‑elect OPCW Director‑General Fernando Arias, he said, adding that he hoped OPCW leadership will respond reasonably to the concerns and questions raised on a number of occasions by the Russian Federation in the Council. On the “notorious report” on the incident in Douma, he asserted that the final version was “radically edited under pressure from some delegations”, and therefore entailed “de facto fraud”. Moreover, there is mounting evidence of “glaring manipulation” in the preparation of the report on the fact-finding mission, he said, adding that it is a “scandalous episode” that merely constitutes the “tip of the iceberg”, as its manipulations are emblematic of other reports that preceded it. Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in good faith, and despite facing a terrorist threat fueled from abroad, despite being subjected to a “tidal wave of criticism”, he stated. He went on to question why Mr. Arias has not yet visited Syria, and said the points raised by his country constitute sufficient grounds to propose a dialogue with him.

RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States), observing that the delegate of the Russian Federation had “thrown out a lot of allegations against the wall” agreed nonetheless that it is a good time to take stock, in the eight years that have elapsed since the passing of Council resolution 2118 (2013). During that time, the majority of Council members deeply regretted Syria’s failure to uphold its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention. “The message of condemnation, while clear and consistent, gets lost in the details: highlighting the violations’ impact on human beings,” he stressed. He set out events that occurred on 1 February 2018, when 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, pointing out that these facts underscored the “audacity of the Assad regime”, which refuses to comply with the Convention, steadfastly denies the truth and portrays itself as victim. Recalling that the United States has sanctioned a person for their role in the two attacks, 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 said, adding that the decision to suspend some of its rights and privileges under the Convention was reached as it has made no efforts to fulfill its obligations. It continues to deny and delay visas, resulting in “unprecedented delays” in the Technical Secretariat’s presence in Damascus, he said. He welcomed the extension of Mr. Arias’ appointment for another term last week, stating that his able and impartial leadership will help the body continue its work, despite Moscow’s “continued assault on the organization and this Council”. He pointed out that the Russian Federation has actively sought to block all attempts at achieving accountability, spreads disinformation and attacks OPCW’s integrity, and accuses Member States of politicizing “what are in fact heinous atrocities”, he said, characterizing this pattern as “irresponsible and dangerous”.

GIDEON KINUTHIA NDUNG’U (Kenya) reaffirmed that the use of chemical weapons anywhere and by anyone constitutes a great violation of international law, reiterating support for the mandate of OPCW in verifying any such use, and the tremendous responsibility it bears as the guardian of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Similarly, State Parties to the Convention must continue to have confidence in the Organisation as the only technically competent international authority in its area, and work together to preserve the international norm against chemical weapons, implementing the Convention in a consistent and non-discriminatory manner. Expeditious closure of investigations into the use of chemical weapons in Syria will allow the Council to support the Syrian people more meaningfully in their quest for lasting peace. He encouraged good faith cooperation and engagement between Syria and the Technical Secretariat of OPCW, particularly regarding the identified gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies that remain unresolved. There is no military solution to the situation in the country, he stressed, reaffirming commitment to advancing a Syrian-led and Syrian‑owned political process.

ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico) noted that Syrian authorities have not clarified discrepancies on 20 pending inconsistencies in their initial report to OPCW, also calling on them to fulfil their obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention. She urged Damascus to cooperate with the OPCW Declaration Assessment Team, including regarding issuance of visas for onsite inspections, emphasizing that expert inspections of delegations are a prerogative of the Technical Secretariat. Citing the importance of inspections at the Barzah and Jamrayah facilities, she called on Syria to clarify why chlorine cylinders related to the April 2018 incident in Douma were moved without authorization. While the Tripartite Agreement between Syria, OPCW and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) has been extended for a further six further months, she noted a longer timespan would be preferable for more effective deployment of teams. Thanking those States contributing to the OPCW Trust Fund for Syria Missions, she reaffirmed condemnation of use of chemical weapons by any actor under any circumstance.

MONA JUUL (Norway) urged Syria to cooperate fully with OPCW and provide sufficient technical information and explanations to close the 20 outstanding issues. It is critical that Syria completes the necessary measures in order to lift the suspension of its rights and privileges as a State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention. She welcomed the six-month extension of the Tripartite Agreement between Syria, OPCW and UNOPS, noting it was an improvement compared to the previous extension of only three months. However, the Technical Secretariat needs a longer time span to be able to plan and implement its deployments effectively. With that in mind, she encouraged future extensions of the agreement to be of at least nine months duration.

SUN ZHIQIANG (China) noted that the investigation and handling of the alleged use of chemical weapons must comply with the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention, with proper procedures and reliable evidence. Expressing China’s concern about the establishment and work of the Declaration Assessment Team, he stressed that decisions should be made through consensus, calling on the Technical Secretariat to maintain cooperation with the Syrian Government regarding the initial declaration and the twenty-fifth round of consultations. Opposing the statement in the latest monthly report that the Declaration Assessment Team has been unable to deploy to Syria due to the Government’s repeated refusal to issue visas, he pointed out that Damascus only asked to replace one member of the Team and had issued visas to the others. Welcoming Syria’s willingness reflected in the report to conduct technical consultations and resolve the issues in the initial declaration, he expressed hope that the Technical Secretariat could work towards narrowing the differences, calling for serious consideration on reducing the frequency of the Council’s deliberations and simplifying the reports submitted by OPCW.

ANDRE LIPAND (Estonia), noting that there have been 98 reports over eight years on the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme, pointed out that 20 out of 24 outstanding issues opened by the Declaration Assessment Team since 2014 remain unresolved. These unresolved matters are not minor issues or technicalities; rather, they involve the retention and production of unknown quantities of chemical weapons, warfare agents and munitions, and represent the Syrian Government’s persistent attempts to obstruct the work of OPCW and its investigative mechanisms. Unfortunately, this lack of compliance has sponsors, he said, highlighting a systematic disinformation campaign in the Council over the past two years to discredit OPCW because it has reached conclusions that are inconvenient for Syria and its protectors. Enabling Syria to retain and use chemical weapons and undermining OPCW’s authority sets a new normality where such weapons are used to eliminate political rivals and punish opposition. There has been an alarming increase in their use — in Malaysia, the United Kingdom and, most recently, in the Russian Federation — and the Syrian regime has repeatedly used chemical weapons against its people to spread terror, suppress opposition and force displacement and surrender. Resolution 2118 (2013) clearly states that those responsible for the use of chemical weapons must be held accountable, and he called on current Council members — and those who start their term in January — to stand up for international law.

TAREK LADEB (Tunisia) condemned the use of chemical weapons, calling for redoubling efforts to hold perpetrators to account. Deploring that Syria’s chemical weapons file remains at a stalemate with no signs of progress, he stressed the need to resume dialogue between Damascus and the OPCW Technical Secretariat. He expressed 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 Chemical Weapons Convention. For its part, OPCW must heed concerns of Damascus to best address the matter. The Security Council can help eliminate use or the threat of use of chemical weapons through consensus‑based decisions.

MR. ECKERSLEY (United Kingdom) expressed regret that the Declaration Assessment Team has been unable to deploy to Syria for many months due to Damascus’ repeated refusal to issue visas. Stressing that the substance of the 20 outstanding issues with Syria’s initial declaration are a significant cause for concern, which constitutes an ongoing threat to international peace and security and a challenge to the Council’s authority, he called for adherence to resolution 2118 (2013) and the verifiable destruction of that country’s chemical weapons programme. He also pointed out that significant energy has been spent on spinning conspiracies, spreading disinformation, undermining OPCW and the Chemical Weapons Convention and dividing Council unity. “If that energy was expended in upholding Council resolutions and persuading the Syrian regime to meet its obligations, perhaps progress could be made towards resolving this issue,” he said.

HAI ANH PHAM (Viet Nam) said the full implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention is a must, requiring that State parties fully abide by their obligations. Pivotal in this regard is the role of OPCW whose work must be carried out in a most comprehensive, objective and impartial manner. Turning to the issue of alleged uses of these weapons in Syria, he shared concerns over the limited progress in the search for a conclusive solution, adding that: “If our goal here is to discuss the implementation of resolution 2118 (2013), it may seem unfulfilling for the outgoing elected‑members of the Council.” The one and only reason for this is the trust deficit among relevant parties and the international community’s long‑standing divergence over the issue, as demonstrated at the latest Conference of the State Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention. 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 the Syrian Foreign Minister and the OPCW Director‑General with a view to finding ways “to break the ice”. Addressing the 20 remaining issues relating to the initial declaration should be a priority, he said, calling for close, continuous and constructive engagement. Fully implementing the Convention and resolution 2118 (2013) can only be achieved when it is supported by constructive and non‑politicized international cooperation. Indeed, the international community’s unity is indispensable to support efforts of the OPCW Technical Secretariat and the Government of Syria, he said, underlining the importance of investing in a political settlement to the conflict.

PRATIK MATHUR (India) said that the Chemical Weapons Convention is a unique, non‑discriminatory disarmament instrument, and supported collective efforts to ensure the full maintenance of its credibility and integrity. Any investigation into the use of chemical weapons must be impartial, credible and objective, pursuant to the provisions and procedure embedded in the Convention and in conformity with the delicate balance of power and responsibility enshrined therein to establish facts and reach evidence‑based conclusions. Spotlighting his country’s repeated warnings of the possibility of terrorist entities gaining access to chemical weapons, he pointed out that the latest report by the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (UNITAD) mirrors these concerns. This must be acted upon, he stressed, adding that technical issues — such as Syria’s chemical weapons file — must be dealt with in an objective manner, as progress on these matters could potentially benefit the political track.

JIM KELLY (Ireland) said that the Council must maintain its strong and clear message on upholding the international prohibition on chemical weapons and ensure that they are never again used in Syria or anywhere else. The Council must continue to fully back OPCW on its ongoing work on all aspects of the Syrian chemical weapon file. Moreover, the 15‑member organ must respect the integrity and professionalism OPCW has shown in carrying out its mandate and reject efforts to undermine that work for political ends. It is in that context that Ireland supports the proposed bilateral meeting between OPCW Director‑General Arias and Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, he said, stressing the importance of a frank and meaningful discussion aimed at resolving the impasse and ensuring that real progress can be made on all the outstanding issues. Underscoring that the resolution of the file ultimately lies in the hands of the Syrian authorities, he said Damascus must respect its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and resolution 2118 (2013) and must engage substantively with OPCW. It should take immediate steps to lift its blockage of the deployment of the Declaration and Assessment Team, and to resolve the significant outstanding issues with its initial declaration. It is only through Damascus’ serious and meaningful cooperation with OPCW that the Council can be assured that Syria’s entire stocks of chemical weapons are declared and verifiably destroyed.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said the Syrian regime refuses to cooperate. It is refusing to issue the necessary visas and blocking deployments for the twenty‑fifth round of consultations in Damascus, which the OPCW Technical Secretariat has being trying to organize — without success — for more than six months. Moreover, the initial Declaration Assessment Team has still not been able to visit the site. “There is a deliberate desire on the part of the regime to obstruct, which is not acceptable,” he said, recalling that Syria has cooperation obligations flowing from the Chemical Weapons Convention and resolution 2118 (2013), which it must respect. He commended the Technical Secretariat’s tenacity, professionalism and independence in pursuing its mission, and welcomed the reappointment of Mr. Arias for another four years. Syria still has not answered questions posed by the Technical Secretariat and has not explained questions around the transport and destruction of the cylinders of chloride linked to the attacks in Douma. He noted that the decision to remove some of Syria’s rights and privileges under the Chemical Weapons Convention is reversible, but stressed that “the regime must cooperate”.

DIANI JIMESHA ARIANNE PRINCE (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) said all allegations of the use of these reprehensible weapons ought to be given immediate attention. As such, OPCW bears a great responsibility as the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Its findings must be capable of withstanding rigorous scrutiny to promote and sustain international cooperation. OPCW must therefore be free of politicization. The Conference of State Parties should pursue consensus‑based decisions and make efforts to prevent polarization and divisiveness among States parties. Expressing regret over the continued long-term lack of movement on this file, she pointed out that the gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies in the initial declaration have remained unresolved for far too long. Dialogue between the parties will cultivate a spirit of cooperation to make much needed progress on all issues, including those related to the approval of visas for OPCW personnel. For this reason, her delegation believes that the proposed in‑person meeting between the OPCW Director-General and Syria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates is necessary and should be prioritized.

ABDOU ABARRY (Niger), Council President for December, speaking in his national capacity, expressed regret that since the unanimous adoption of resolution 2118 (2013), attempts have not made it possible to pinpoint those responsible for the multiple cases of use of chemical weapons in Syria. Niger unreservedly condemns any use of chemical weapons anywhere; their use may not be justified under any pretext or circumstance. Noting that this marks the last time Niger will take the floor in the Council on the issue, he underlined the need for a continuous and frank dialogue between the OPCW Secretariat and the Syrian Government to resolve the issue of the initial declaration, and advance the work of the Declaration Assessment Team. Given its importance, issues around the use of chemical weapons must be unlinked from unjustifiable procrastination and antagonism; otherwise, the status quo will persist and accountability will not be achieved. He underlined the importance of OPCW remaining a technical body to preserve its integrity, and called for progress to be made in investigating the allegations of chemical weapons use in other incidents. Niger reiterates its appeal to OPCW to pay particular attention to allegations of possession of chemical weapons by non‑State entities, which, if well‑founded, could be disastrous for Syria, and elsewhere.

BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria) said his delegation participated in last week’s conference to negotiate a treaty a for nuclear weapons‑free zone in the Middle East. Five nuclear States also attended as observers, but one continued to protect Israel and boycott that important meeting. He wished to see the same level of enthusiasm — shown today by the United States for the elimination of chemical weapons — towards eliminating Israel’s nuclear arsenal. His country has continued its faithful cooperation with OPCW since joining the Chemical Weapons Convention. Damascus is continuing consultations to prepare for a meeting between the country’s Foreign Minister and the OPCW Director‑General. It presented the ninety‑sixth monthly report under the Convention and responded to numerous allegations. It accepted the Tripartite Agreement among Syria, OPCW and UNOPS. It has welcomed the Declaration Assessment Team with visas issued to team members, except one whose objectivity is in question. The Assessment Team can travel to Damascus tomorrow if they wish. It welcomes the request of sending a fact‑finding mission. It presented information regarding possession of chemical materials involving Turkish intelligence, al‑Nusra and other terrorist organizations.

The OPCW Technical Secretariat does not have a mandate to determine whether data submitted by Syria is scientific, he said, adding that visa issuance is a sovereign right of a State. Syria also sent experts to The Hague, but they were blocked. Data in his country’s initial declarations are complete and accurate, he stressed, 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 some States to target certain States. The decision of State Parties to suspend Syria and other practices all reflect control of the United States and its allies. Accountability must apply to States supporting terrorists and occupying Powers.

MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran) said efforts to end the conflict in Syria must be redoubled to prevent further sufferings of that country’s people and the dire ramifications for regional peace and security. This, however, must be based on certain principles, particularly the full respect for Syria’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, and withdrawal of all uninvited and occupying forces, as well as combating terrorist groups, which must be held accountable for the use of chemical agents during the conflict. Calling for universal adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention — the only way to ensure that all chemical arsenals have been declared and destroyed — he stressed that Israel must be compelled to join it without any precondition or further delay. Iran has been a major victim in contemporary history of the systematic use of chemical weapons, he stated, underlining the importance of the independent, impartial and professional work of OPCW. He noted the Syrian Government has made significant efforts in implementing its obligations under the Convention, including the complete destruction, in the least possible time and under severe conditions, of all its 27 chemical weapons production facilities, as verified by OPCW. He further expressed disappointment that the Syrian chemical file has been politicized by certain countries, undermining the Convention’s authority and the credibility of OPCW, calling for an end to that trend.

RAZIYE BILGE KOCYIGIT GRBA (Turkey) said the ninety‑eighth monthly report of the OPCW Director‑General clearly demonstrates that Syria continues to flout its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention. The identified gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies in its chemical weapons declaration persist, meaning the Organisation still cannot confirm that it is accurate and complete, as Syria consistently fails to reveal the true nature and scope of its chemical weapons programme. She expressed concern over the discovery of an undeclared chemical weapons production facility in Syria, the refusal to declare the chemical warfare agents produced and/or weaponized there, and the prior removal of two chlorine cylinders related to the Douma chemical attack without prior notification or approval of the Technical Secretariat. Syria has also abused the visa issue in order to hinder the OPCW officials’ mandated activities on the ground, despite the obligation to provide immediate and unfettered access by personnel in accordance with resolution 2118 (2013) and the Convention. To ensure accountability for the crimes committed in Syria for more than a decade, her delegation co‑sponsored the OPCW Executive Council decision of July 2020, and the decision adopted during the second part of the twenty‑fifth Conference of State Parties last April. To date, she noted Syria’s culpability in at least eight chemical weapons attacks has been established with the reports of investigative bodies mandated by the United Nations and OPCW. She pointed to last week’s commemoration of The Day of Remembrance for All Victims of Chemical Warfare, a sobering reminder for the need to act urgently to ensure full accountability for the chemical weapons attacks in Syria. Ending impunity and honouring victims is imperative to achieve lasting peace in the country, the key responsibility resting with those who embolden the Assad Government in its non‑compliance. Referring to the statement by the representative of Syria, she called his presence in the Council an affront to the citizens who suffered countless crimes, and would not honour him with a response.

* The 8920th Meeting was closed.

For information media. Not an official record.