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

Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 29, 2022


Thank you, Mr. President. I thank the High Representative for her briefing. My delegation appreciates your persistent efforts, and the efforts of the experts of the OPCW, to provide independent, thoroughly researched, detailed information about Syria’s chemical weapons program and its use of chemical weapons.

As we noted last month, August 2022 marked the ninth anniversary of the Assad regime’s vicious deployment of the nerve agent sarin on Syrian civilians in the Ghouta district of Damascus. Since then, the OPCW, this Council, and the global community have witnessed many egregious violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention and continued malign behavior by the Syrian regime. These violations include not only the use of chemical weapons, but also the Assad regime’s failure to completely declare its entire chemical weapons program and its continued interference with the work of the OPCW’s Declaration Assessment Team.

Our desire to end the outrageous behavior of the Assad regime and their Russian enablers is what brings us to these consultations each month, to speak truth and urge the Assad regime to comply with its international obligations.

So, here are a number of difficult truths that no volume of denial can counter. Over the last nine years, the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism and the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team, IIT, have independently confirmed the Assad regime used chemical weapons on eight separate occasions. Our own assessment is that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons at least fifty times since Syria joined the Convention.

Despite our knowledge of these horrors, and our numerous efforts to reduce the risk that such an attack might ever happen again – the Assad regime and its backers, especially Russia, continue to stonewall efforts to account for Syria’s chemical weapons.

The regime’s continued refusal to provide answers or information requested years ago by the Declaration Assessment Team is an affront to this Council and to the OPCW. The fact is that Syria has not declared its entire chemical weapons program and it retains a hidden stockpile – a stockpile of chemical weapons. The risk remains that the Assad regime will again use chemical weapons against its own population. Syria continues to deny a visa to a member of the OPCW’s Declaration Assessment Team, preventing its deployment. We again call on the Syrian regime to immediately permit the Declaration Assessment Team to return to Syria, resolve all discrepancies, and help ensure the verified elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons program.

After nine years and 24 rounds of consultations, the Director-General of the OPCW tells us that Syria’s declaration cannot be considered accurate and complete. The regime has shown it is willing to deploy inhumane measures. The threat of future attacks will remain until the regime clearly and thoroughly answers the questions that have been posed by the OPCW, fully declares its chemical weapons program in accordance with its obligations under the CWC, and ceases its obstruction and provides visas to the OPCW experts so they can deploy to Syria.

Mr. President, in conclusion, our commitment to hold actors accountable for their use of chemical weapons is universal and shared – so it is said – by everyone on this Council and is not limited to Syria. We condemn in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anyone, under any circumstances. In that spirit, we call on the regime to end its intransigence and simply meet its chemical weapons obligations as quickly as possible. Doing so will reduce the risk of further chemical weapons use and help to ensure that we will never again be faced with the horrific scenes we have witnessed over the last nine years.

Thank you, Mr. President.