Ambassador Richard Mills
U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
January 5, 2023
Thank you, Mr. President. And let me join others in welcoming the new members of the Council. We look forward to working with you; my delegation is glad to see you aboard. And, Mr. President, congratulations to you – we can’t think of a better, more experienced hand at the helm as we start our new year than the Japanese delegation.
I want to thank Mr. Ebo for his useful and informative briefing. And let me begin by saying we also appreciate the continuing efforts of UNODA and the OPCW to provide credible and detailed information about Syria’s progress, or lack thereof, towards the complete and verifiable elimination of its chemical weapons program.
My Russian colleague said it is shameful to start our new year with this discussion. I disagree. It is, tragically, sadly fitting that we start a new year in the Security Council yet again addressing how the Assad regime has repeatedly used chemical weapons and failed to comply with its obligations under the CWC and UN Security Council Resolution 2118.
It was positive news to hear that the Declaration Assessment Team will be in Syria soon. We appreciate that news. It is essential that the OPCW’s Declaration Assessment Team be allowed to meaningfully resume its work. And that is because many questions regarding Syria’s declaration remain unanswered.
Notably, the regime has yet to provide a credible explanation for the detection in 2018 of a scheduled chemical at the Scientific Studies and Research Center in Barzah.
The Assad regime has also yet to provide a credible explanation for the destruction of two chlorine cylinders implicated in the chemical weapons attack on Douma.
The Assad regime has yet to provide documents repeatedly requested by the OPCW Declaration Assessment Team since 2019 which would shed light on the regime’s chemical weapons program overall.
Despite the Russian Federation’s repeated assertions in this Council that the OPCW Director-General has not met with the Assad regime, we note that in fact, the regime has stalled the scheduling of such a meeting since June 2021.
The Assad regime and its Russian enablers have complained that the OPCW’s experts have exceeded their mandate. This is patently false. But what else should we expect from Russia, a country which itself has barely attempted to mask its own pattern of chemical weapons use and disinformation?
It is hardly intrusive to demand the regime comply with its obligations under a Convention it willingly joined in 2013, only to violate one of its core prohibitions shortly thereafter. The OPCW and the UN have independently concluded that the regime has used chemical weapons on eight occasions. And the tireless efforts of the Declaration Assessment Team have caused the regime to amend its declaration 17 times. This is hardly a pattern of behavior which engenders trust in the Assad regime.
Mr. President, in conclusion, the United States once again calls on the regime to comply with its obligations and immediately cease its obstruction of the OPCW’s expert teams so that we can resolve the issue of Syria’s chemical weapons use once and for all.
Thank you, Mr. President.