Ambassador Richard Mills
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 3, 2021
Thank you, Madam President, and thank you, High Representative Nakamitsu for your briefing.
As we all agree every month, the use of chemical weapons anywhere constitutes a clear threat to international peace and security. The United States remains committed to holding those who use these horrific weapons to account.
The High Representative reiterated an important message from the Secretary-General in her remarks just now, so I’d like to reiterate a key message from the United States on this issue: the Assad regime has repeatedly used chemical weapons against the Syrian people, and then subsequently sought to avoid accountability by obstructing independent investigations and undermining both the responsibility and work of the OPCW.
The Assad regime’s allies, including Russia, have actively sought to block all efforts to promote accountability. Russia, unfortunately, continues to shield the Assad regime from accountability for its chemical weapons attacks, including by spreading disinformation, attacking the professional work of the OPCW, and otherwise seeking to undermine efforts by responsible nations to hold the Assad regime accountable for its use of chemical weapons.
Let me be clear, the United States firmly supports the impartial and independent work of the OPCW. We applaud the OPCW’s leadership, the Technical Secretariat, and the professional manner in which it carries out its mission. The OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team, the IIT, continues to carry out its mandate, and we look forward to its future reports.
In response to the IIT’s first report released last April in which it concluded that the Assad regime used chemical weapons on three occasions, the OPCW Executive Council adopted a decision in July 2020 requesting that Syria take measures to redress the situation. Unsurprisingly, Syria failed to complete any of the measures set forth in the decision, as reported by the OPCW Director-General in October.
The United States, along with 45 co-sponsors, has submitted a draft decision to the OPCW Conference of the States Parties in response to Syria’s failure to complete the measures requested by the OPCW Executive Council. We again call upon the Conference of States Parties to take appropriate action when it reconvenes this spring so that we send a strong message to the Assad regime and its supporters that the use of chemical weapons in direct contravention of the Chemical Weapons Convention has consequences.
We also believe the Security Council must ensure that there are serious consequences for the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. In 2013, the Security Council decided in Resolution 2118 the Assad regime shall not use, develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, or retain chemical weapons. The Council further decided that the Assad regime must cooperate fully with the OPCW and the UN.
The United States supports these and other efforts aimed at holding the Assad regime responsible for the use of chemical weapons and other ongoing atrocities against Syrian civilians, including mass detention, torture, and indiscriminate attacks on civilian infrastructure. Accountability, for all of this, will be essential to bring long-overdue justice to the victims and their families who need and deserve the international community’s support. Accountability would also help to build confidence in the broader political process, as called for in Resolution 2254, intended to bring stability and peace to Syria.
Let me end by saying, the Syrian people must be allowed to live in a world free of the threat of chemical weapons. It is time for the Assad regime to uphold its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and Resolution 2118. The Security Council must call out such atrocities and hold those who use chemical weapons accountable.
Thank you, Madam President.