Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 2, 2020
Thank you, Nicolas. I’d like to offer my best wishes for your Council this month, and I was very relieved this morning that I could actually understand you; I was getting a little concerned about the French going on, so I was trying to practice my French last night, my three words that I know, so that’s a welcome surprise this morning. I’d also like to congratulate Sven and the Estonian delegation for their successful May presidency.
Last month, when we gathered to discuss this issue, we were briefed by OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias and IIT Coordinator Santiago Onate. They provided the Council with an important overview of the IIT’s first report, which explicitly attributed responsibility to the Assad regime for three chemical weapons attacks in Syria in March 2017. They did not come here to politicize the findings of the report, nor to take sides. They were here to provide the facts, and the facts are clear: the Assad regime dropped sarin and chlorine in Ltamenah, Syria, three times during that month, including once on a hospital.
The presentation from the briefers and the full report received by this Council give a detailed account of these events. Crucially, they reveal the integrity and impartiality of the OPCW in its efforts to get at the truth of how these attacks were carried out, and they rule out other possible explanations. The Council has what it needs to advance the discussion on addressing Syria’s continued use of chemical weapons, and to hold the Assad regime to account.
Unfortunately, Russia and China – in an act of political theater – chose not to participate in last month’s meeting. But they didn’t just refrain from participating; they publicly attacked the credibility of the IIT in an attempt to undermine the technical and professional work of the OPCW. This choice made clear that neither country has a credible way to question the facts that are outlined in the report.
I’ve said it before, but today I’ll say it again – no amount of disinformation from Assad or his enablers can hide or obstruct the facts that the Assad regime used chemical weapons in March 2017, and that it will revert to the use of chemical weapons if it believes these weapons can serve its strategic objectives. It is time for Russia to end its efforts to shield the Assad regime from accountability.
We call on the Council to speak with one voice to condemn the use of chemical weapons and work towards ensuring the Assad regime is held to account. Such continued defiance of Syria’s obligations under Resolution 2118 cannot be ignored, as the use of chemical weapons by any state presents an unacceptable security threat to all states. The Members of this Council must not remain silent. The United States certainly will not.
This month, we begin the rollout of a number of accountability actions contained in the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019, which passed with significant bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress. The law gives the United States strong new sanctions authorities to disrupt transactions that benefit the Assad regime and support the regime’s brutal atrocities, like those presented in the IIT report. We intend to use those authorities as part of our broader effort to hold the regime and its enablers accountable.
We ask other members of the Council to join us in the effort to deny the Assad regime the financial resources it uses to fuel its campaigns of violence and of destruction – campaigns that have resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths.