Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 5, 2020
Thank you, Madam President. And thank you, High Representative Nakamitsu, for her briefing and for your inspiring closing words.
This Council has met now on innumerable occasions, before and after the unanimous adoption of Resolution 2118 in 2013, to discuss the Assad regime’s repeated use of chemical weapons, its contempt for the resulting international response, and the regime’s failure to cooperate with the OPCW.
The regime’s conduct is not in question. Repeated investigations by the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism and the recent OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team have established the facts. Assad’s forces are responsible for horrific atrocities and immeasurable human suffering.
As we just heard, the barbaric use of chemical weapons is an unacceptable security threat to all states, and when weapons of this nature are used, all members of this Council must take decisive action to hold the perpetrators accountable.
Assad’s enablers, including the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China, and the Islamic Republic of Iran, share this responsibility with all of us. How can these governments defend the grotesque reality that Syria’s air force has repeatedly dropped sarin and chlorine bombs on civilians; and claim that they support international norms against the use of chemical weapons? It just doesn’t add up.
Tragically, the politically-divided place that we all find ourselves in today gives little reason to believe that accountability for this retched conduct is within reach. This Council is blocked from fulfilling its mission by permanent members who are intent upon protecting a client at all cost, including the lives of many innocent Syrian women, men, and children. And, unless and until those members alter their behavior, Assad has little reason to alter his.
So, it is hardly surprising that the Assad regime has been unresponsive, as we have heard, to the OPCW Executive Council’s demands that it declare facilities where chemical weapons were developed, produced, and stockpiled. That it reveal its remaining chemical weapons stockpile and production facilities. And that it cooperate with the OPCW to account fully for its chemical weapons program. This charade has gone on since 2013, when Syria joined the OPCW.
As if the use of chemical weapons were not bad enough, the Syrian people are starving, and their communities have been destroyed. Humanitarian relief is constrained, and neighbor countries struggle to accommodate swelling refugee populations.
Responsible governments behave responsibly. They promote and protect the human rights and the wellbeing of their citizens. They cooperate with their neighbors to pursue peace, security, and prosperity. They comply with their international obligations, such as the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Syrian regime has failed on all of these basic obligations.
Responsible nations must stand united against the conduct of the Assad regime and its gallery of supporters. While this Council is impeded by Russia and China, the effort elsewhere to pursue accountability must be sustained.
We must take all available action at the upcoming OPCW Conference of the States Parties. We must document the Syrian regime’s atrocities with precision. We must give voice to those displaced and preserve their histories. And we must spotlight the conduct of the regime’s enablers wherever possible and demand that they answer for their behavior. The victims of Assad’s chemical weapons attacks deserve nothing less from us.
Thank you, Madam President.