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

Ambassador Richard Mills
U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
May 6, 2021


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, High Representative Nakamitsu, for your briefing today.

As we just heard from the High Representative, on April 12, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Investigation and Identification Team, IIT, released its second report attributing yet another chemical weapons attack in Syria to the Assad regime. This time, it was a chlorine attack in Saraqib on February 4, 2018. This latest horrific finding should come as no surprise to those familiar with the abuses committed by the Assad regime against the Syrian people.

The United States assesses that the regime’s innumerable atrocities – some of which rise to the level of war crimes, crimes against humanity – include at least 50 chemical weapons attacks since the conflict began. The OPCW and the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism – together with this latest report – have now attributed eight chemical weapons attacks to the regime. The United States concurs with the OPCW’s conclusions cited in this second report. We continue to assess that the Assad regime retains sufficient chemicals to use sarin, to produce and deploy chlorine munitions, and to develop new chemical weapons.

Despite the OPCW’s efforts to engage and assist Syria in adhering with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and UN Security Council Resolution 2118, the Assad regime continues to ignore calls from the international community to fully disclose and verifiably destroy its chemical weapons program. The IIT’s second report is but the latest reminder of Assad’s flagrant repudiation of the rule of law. Predictably – just four days after the release of the second IIT report – Russia held an informal meeting of this Council on April 16 designed to impugn the OPCW and push a false narrative that the OPCW’s efforts to investigate and attribute the use of chemical weapons in Syria are part of a Western plot to attempt regime change in Damascus.

This Council and UN Member States are not fooled by this Russian disinformation tactic. As we heard on that day, the majority of Security Council members and other UN Member States refuted the arguments of Russia and its hand-selected presenters. Most Member States reaffirmed their widespread condemnation of Syria’s chemical weapons use, and called for accountability. Days later on April 21, many of these same states reaffirmed their commitment to the Chemical Weapons Convention by voting to adopt a decision of the OPCW’s Conference of the States Parties that condemned the Assad regime for its possession and use of chemical weapons, and which held the regime accountable by suspending Syria’s voting privileges at the OPCW until it completes certain measures, including declaring any chemical weapons and related production facilities it currently possesses, and resolving all outstanding issues regarding the initial declaration of its chemical weapons stockpile and program.

As it upholds the international norms against the use of chemical weapons, the United States welcomes the historic decision of the Conference of the States Parties to condemn Syria’s use of chemical weapons and suspend its rights and its privileges under the Chemical Weapons Convention, until such time as it completes the measures that are set forth in the OPCW‘s decisions. The adoption of this latest decision – supported by an overwhelming majority of those states who participated – sends a clear and collective message that the use of chemical weapons has consequences, and repeated failures by Syria to adhere to its obligations will not be tolerated. It is time for the Assad regime to adhere to its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and Resolution 2118.

Thank you, Mr. President.