Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Chemical Weapons in Syria

John Kelley
Political Minister Counselor
New York, New York
December 22, 2023

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you Deputy Ebo, for your briefing and sustained attention on this important issue.

The United States continues to be appalled by Syria’s flagrant non-compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention and defiance of various Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 2118. For ten years, the United States, alongside most of the international community, has called out the Syrian authorities’ repeated and ongoing violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention and Resolution 2118. We have condemned Assad’s multiple confirmed uses of chemical weapons against his own people and his government’s failure to fully declare and destroy its chemical weapons and production facilities.

To that end, we welcomed the OPCW Technical Secretariat’s report in September, which detailed the work of the Declaration and Assessment Team to identify the shortcomings of Syria’s initial declaration of data and its subsequent amendments. These shortcomings include unverified quantities of chemical weapons, undeclared production facilities for chemical weapons, and undeclared chemical weapons.

The report concludes definitively: “these matters give rise to continued concerns regarding the potential existence of undeclared stockpiles of chemical weapons, undeclared activities or facilities, and the possibility of the further use of chemical weapons.” These conclusions are stark reminders the Assad regime continues to pose a serious threat to the protection of its civilians and international peace and security as it flouts its commitments under the CWC and defies this Council’s resolutions. This assessment comes directly from professional, impartial experts.

Colleagues, protecting the global nonproliferation regime means recommitting to preventing further chemical weapons attacks and the proliferation of chemical weapons, as well as holding the Assad regime accountable.

Given this, the United States strongly welcomes the OPCW’s November 30th decision, entitled “Addressing the Threat from Chemical Weapons Use and the Threat of Future Use.” The Conference decided the continued possession and the use of chemical weapons by Syria, and its failures to submit an accurate and complete declaration and to destroy all its undeclared chemical weapons and production facilities, have caused serious damage to the object and purpose of the CWC. The decision calls on States Parties to take “collective measures” to prevent transfers of dual use materials that could support chemical weapons use or deployment in Syria, and to support relevant national and international accountability efforts.

It is the United States’ hope transparency will encourage States Parties to ensure that toxic chemicals and their precursors do not reach chemical weapons programs.

Lastly, the decision urges the General Assembly and the Security Council to take appropriate actions to address the situation and advance accountability.

All of this considered, there is no debate as to whether the Assad regime has used chemical weapons – it has. There is no debate if the Assad regime is compliant with its obligations under the CWC – it is not. There is no debate if Syria’s chemical weapons program remains a threat to international peace and security – it does. And there is no debate on the importance of this Council remaining seized by this issue – it must.

Colleagues, earlier this month 159 Member States voted in the General Assembly in support of the CWC. It is now time for the Council to carry out our responsibilities to uphold international peace and security in the face of a persistent chemical weapons threat.

The United States remains committed to working with all Council members, and in other appropriate fora, to ensure Assad never again terrorizes his people or the international community with chemical weapons.

And with that I thank you, Mr. President.

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