Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 10, 2022
Thank you, Mr. President and I thank the High Representative for her briefing this morning.
It continues to be essential that the Security Council receive these regular updates on chemical weapons in Syria, and on the critical work of the OPCW in that regard. Last week, this Council received the 101st report of the OPCW Director General on Syria’s chemical weapons – 101st. And yet sadly, very little is new. This report, as well as the contents of the February 23 Technical Secretariat briefing to the CWC States Parties in The Hague, continues to drive home the simple point – the Syrian regime has yet to meet its obligations under Resolution 2118. We urge Syria to stop obstructing the work of the OPCW, and to come into compliance with its obligations.
We have heard again that the Syrian government continues to refuse to issue the necessary visas to all members – all members – of the OPCW’s Declaration Assessment Team to be able to travel to Syria for its 25th round of consultations. It has been more than one year since the last such consultations occurred. The Syrian government does not get to select which OPCW experts are involved in the assessment; it is obligated instead to cooperate fully with the OPCW. We have heard again that the Assad regime continues to withhold evidence corroborating the claimed 2021 destruction of two chlorine cylinders related to the April 2018 chemical weapons attack in Douma.
We have heard again that the Assad regime continues to fail to explain why those chlorine cylinders were moved from their inspected and documented location – despite specific instruction not to move them without prior OPCW notification and approval – and they were moved to the site of the airstrike where they were purportedly destroyed.
I think it is important again to not that every single one of the 17 amendments the Syrian government has made to its declaration has been in response to unreported materials and irregularities in Syria’s declaration uncovered by OPCW experts conducting their thorough examinations. The amendments are not evidence of Syria’s cooperation, but rather were made because of their failure to fully cooperate.
Despite the regular claims to the contrary by Syria and its enablers, the Assad regime has not fully cooperated with the OPCW as it is required to by Resolution 2118. Syria has not been forthcoming in its declaration regarding the scope of its chemical weapons program. It has yet to carry out any of the measures requested by the OPCW Executive Council after it was found by the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team to have used those weapons on its own people in three separate attacks in Ltamenah in March 2017.
Instead of cooperation, the Assad regime offers thin excuses and claims of bias – claims which are belied by the detailed reports of the impartial, objective, and thorough investigations that are performed by OPCW experts.
And unfortunately, the Assad regime has help on this Council. The Russian Federation has repeatedly spread disinformation regarding Syria’s repeated use of chemical weapons. The recent web of lies that Russia has cast in an attempt to justify the premeditated and unjustified war it has undertaken against Ukraine, should make clear, once and for all, that Russia also cannot be trusted when it talks about chemical weapon use in Syria.
The global norm against the use of chemical weapons and the Chemical Weapons Convention have helped make the world a safer place. Failure to hold the Syrian regime to account for its use of chemical weapons and its violations of its international obligations, puts not just the Syrian people, not just people in the Middle East, but all of us at risk.
In conclusion Mr. President, the United States once again, calls on the Assad regime to end its systematic obstruction of the work of the OPCW, to fully cooperate with the Fact-Finding Mission, the Declaration Assessment Team, and the Investigation and Identification Team, and to once and for all fulfill its international obligations related to these horrific weapons.
Thank you, Mr. President.