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

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
October 5, 2020


Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Izumi, for your briefing.

Let me start by saying, that the United States is committed to forthright and transparent discussions in the Security Council. We have no interest in allowing this Council to be used for propaganda. Regardless of what Russia has said, the additional briefer that was proposed, at the last minute, for this afternoon’s discussion, was removed from the OPCW in 2002, more than a decade before the issue of chemical weapons in Syria came before the Council. We would be very happy to work with our colleagues on a sincere and deliberate basis to find appropriate briefers to most effectively inform the Security Council in future discussions on this matter.

Several weeks ago, at Russia’s request, the Security Council’s monthly consultation on Syrian chemical weapons took place in an open format. Russia then sponsored an Arria-formula meeting on September 28, ostensibly on implementing Resolution 2118 and upholding the authority of OPCW. As I said at the time, that meeting was nothing more than a stunt – a desperate but failed attempt by Russia to further spread disinformation, attack the professional work of the OPCW, and distract from an ongoing effort by responsible nations to hold the Assad regime accountable for its use of chemical weapons.

We will always welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter openly and expose to the world Russia’s blatant attempts to shield the Assad regime from accountability for its chemical weapon attacks. The sad reality is that despite international condemnation, the regime has continued to use chemical weapons against the Syrian people, and has refused to cooperate with the OPCW.

The Russian-sponsored Arria-formula meeting last week was particularly appalling. Russia’s aim was simple: to sow confusion and distract from the truth. However, Russia failed in its baldly deceitful attempt to discredit the OPCW, a well-respected organization with a long history of impartiality, transparency, and professionalism.

The Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons is well-documented and confirmed by the former OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism and most recently the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team. The OPCW itself reports the regime has declined to cooperate, refused to address numerous discrepancies, and failed to fully disclose and eliminate its chemical weapons program.

Taken together, these reports are further evidence of Syria’s non-compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention and Resolution 2118. They clearly illustrate the regime’s utter disregard for human life, and Syria’s international obligations.

On July 9, the OPCW Executive Council decided that the Assad regime must within 90 days: declare facilities where chemical weapons used in the Ltamenah attacks were developed, produced, stockpiled, and stored for delivery; and, declare its remaining chemical weapons stockpile and production facilities. The 90-day timeline established by the Executive Council will expire in two days. We expect the Assad regime to adhere to the timeline and look forward to the OPCW Director-General’s report on the regime’s response. We also look forward to the outcomes of the October meeting of the OPCW’s Executive Council, and the November meeting of the CWC’s Conference of States Parties.

The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, which has caused tremendous suffering for the Syrian people. The use of chemical weapons presents an unacceptable security threat to all states, and the members of this Council must not stay silent. We reiterate our commitment to ensure that those responsible face serious consequences. We call on the Assad regime to come into compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention without delay.

Thank you.