Remarks at a UN Security Council Meeting on Chemical Weapons Use in Syria

Ambassador Nikki Haley
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 7, 2017


Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Izumi, for your update today. I want to say a special word about Edmond and to thank him for being here. One look at his resume and you can see that Edmond is the right man to lead the Joint Investigative Mechanism. He had a distinguished career in public service in his home country of Guatemala. He has served as the head of Peacekeeping Operations and as Special Envoy to Haiti. His long list of academic credentials is impressive. In other words, Edmond is a man very much like the institution he heads – experienced, professional, and independent. All of these qualities are reflected in the JIM’s latest report.

Our friends from Russia have insisted that we put off the crucial task of reauthorizing the JIM until we’ve discussed this report. They tell us they want to determine who is responsible for the chemical weapons attacks in Syria. Russia affirmed this desire when they voted to create the JIM in 2015 and reauthorize it in 2016. I share this desire for answers. So let me try and address their concerns.

The JIM has fulfilled its mandate to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks in Syria. It has produced a report that concludes that the Assad regime is responsible for the April 4, 2017 sarin gas attack at Khan Sheikhoun. In addition, the report concludes that ISIL is responsible for the September 2016 sulfur mustard attack at Umm Hawsh. Our Russian friends tell us they want to ensure that this report – and the work of the JIM itself – is professional and impartial. Again, I agree with them.

The JIM’s report not only identifies those behind the chemical attacks, it also explains how it reached its conclusion. It lays out, in great detail, how the team carried out this challenging investigation. And, just as any independent team of experts would, it makes note of any irregularities it found in the information obtained from the investigation. The report transparently lays out these facts but determines they do not call into question the findings.

Russia has insisted that it is ready to return to the question of extending the JIM’s mandate after the publication of this report. Give us more time, they said two weeks ago. Give us until November 7, they said, as they acted to protect one of the world’s most murderous regimes from the consequences of its actions. Well, today is November 7. In the intervening days we have tried to work with our friends from Russia to ensure we can achieve a unanimous reauthorization. We have listened carefully to Russia’s concerns on methodology and site visits, even though most Council members do not share them.

We have much we can agree on. We can agree to strengthen language on chemical weapons used by terrorists. We can also emphasize the need for all parties to help investigators access sites in Syria relevant to their investigation. And we can underscore the ongoing importance of high standards and sound evidence for each attribution. On these issues, we want to work with Russia and find common ground. All of these are items found in Russia’s proposed draft. All of them we can accept as a show of good faith and a desire to find consensus. We have told this to our Russian friends, and we intend to circulate our text this afternoon.

We can’t, however, put a line in the resolution that keeps the Syrians from being investigated or found to have used chemical weapons. That is completely on Syria and Russia to work out. Yet even though we have continued to engage Russia bilaterally and have made efforts to address their concerns since they vetoed the resolution two years* ago, our Russian friends continue to push unacceptable language only meant to undermine the investigators and divide this Council.

The team of experts that this Council created to investigate those horrific attacks in Syria has done its job. Now it’s time for us to do our job.

Since 2012, there have been hundreds of reports of chemical weapons use in Syria. This is not something we can turn away from. This is not about ISIL, the Syrian regime, or anyone else. This is about the people of Syria and their protection. Ensuring that those responsible will be identified and held accountable is critical to ending the use of chemical weapons. This Council has created the tool – the Joint Investigative Mechanism – to do just that. Now is the time for this Council to unanimously renew the JIM to ensure it will continue to do its crucial work for at least another year. The arguments for renewing the JIM are clear. Its most recent report has only strengthened them.

We must ensure continuity of operations. Last year’s delay in renewing the JIM cost it nearly six months of work. We cannot afford such a loss this year, not when there is evidence of ongoing use of chemical weapons in Syria.

And tragically, there is no lack of cases for the JIM to investigate. Just last week, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Fact Finding Mission determined that the chemical weapon sarin was used in an attack that took place on March 30, injuring more than 70 people. This incident bears the hallmarks of the Khan Sheikhoun attack that would occur just a few days later. I remember vividly the faces of the murdered children of Khan Sheikhoun. I remember the outrage expressed by this Council. This Council came together in 2015 in a rare moment of unity to identify those who use chemical weapons and to ensure that such barbaric acts don’t continue.

The result of that rare unity is the JIM, the best tool we have to ensure that no individual, no group, or regime is allowed to attack with chemical weapons and get away with it. And the JIM will cease its operations in 10 short days. There can now be no higher priority for the Security Council than to renew the Joint Investigative Mechanism. Anyone who prevents us from achieving this goal is aiding and abetting those who have been using chemical weapons in Syria. They are helping to ensure, not just that more women and children will die, but that those women and children will die in one of the cruelest, most painful ways possible. We are better than this. We must be. Now is the time to show the world.

I call on the Security Council to act immediately to renew the Joint Investigative Mechanism.

Thank you.