Ambassador Richard Mills
U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 3, 2021
Thank you, Mr. President. I thank the High Representative for her briefing today. And the United States welcomes the Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Fernando Arias, to today’s discussion. We thank him for his thorough presentation. And let me just say, Director-General, the United States remains grateful for your commitment, your leadership at the OPCW in upholding the norm against the use of chemical weapons.
We also want to thank the courageous men and woman who carry out the impartial and independent work of the OPCW, often doing so – as the Director-General has indicated – in dangerous and difficult conditions. Their service and professionalism should never be taken for granted. The United States, along with an overwhelming number of responsible nations, will continue to support the work of the OPCW in carrying out its critical mandate against the backdrop of the continued threat of chemical weapons use.
Let’s be clear, the Assad regime is responsible for innumerable atrocities, some of which rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity. As the Council was briefed just this past April, the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team, or IIT, released its second report. This report concluded there were reasonable grounds to believe that the Syrian Arab Air Force used a chemical weapon in Saraqib, Syria in February of 2018. This act imposed deliberate and unconscionable suffering on Syrian victims.
The Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people is well documented. The IIT has now attributed four separate chemical weapons attacks in Syria to the Assad regime. These incidents are in addition to the four chemical weapons attacks attributed to the Assad regime by the former OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism. The United States concurs with the OPCW’s conclusions cited in this most recent report. Despite the OPCW’s efforts to encourage and assist Syria to adhere to its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and Security Council Resolution 2118, the Assad regime – supported by Russia – continues to ignore calls from the international community to fully disclose and verifiably destroy its chemical weapons program. Without accountability for the atrocities committed against the Syrian people, lasting peace in Syria will remain out of reach. The United States, once again, calls for justice and accountability as critical components to help move Syria towards a political resolution to the conflict.
The United States welcomes the April 21 decision of the OPCW’s Conference of the States Parties, which condemned – as we heard – Syria’s use of chemical weapons and suspended its rights and its privileges under the Chemical Weapons Convention. This decision, the first time that the CSP – Conference of States Parties – has taken such action, is in direct response to the Assad regime’s repeated use and possession of chemical weapons, and its failure to complete the measures set out in the OPCW Executive Council’s July 2020 decision. The adoption of this Conference of States Parties decision – which was overwhelmingly supported by nearly 90 nations around the world, and opposed by only 15 – sends the clear and unequivocal message that the use of chemical weapons has consequences.
As we made clear at the Council’s last meeting on this subject, no amount of disinformation – espoused by Syria and its very small number of supporters – can negate or diminish the credibility of the evidence that has been presented to us by the OPCW. The Assad regime must comply with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and Resolution 2118.
Thank you, Mr. President.