Ambassador Richard M. Mills
Chargè d’Affaires/Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 7, 2022
Thank you, Mr. President. I want to thank the High Representative for her briefing. The United States greatly values the work of the Office of Disarmament Affairs on this file, in coordination with the commendable efforts of the OPCW, to provide independent, thoroughly researched, detailed information about Syria’s progress, or lack thereof, towards the complete and verifiable elimination of its chemical weapons program. Let me be clear in light of what we just heard. The international community must continue to work to hold the Assad regime accountable for its use of chemical weapons against its own people, through the efforts of this Council and in other international fora.
As long as the discrepancies on Syria’s chemical weapons statement remain, this monthly meeting remains necessary and fully appropriate. The United States welcomes the adoption in the UN General Assembly First Committee of a resolution on the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, that was put forward by our esteemed Polish colleagues. The resolution categorically condemns the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances, to include the independently verified, repeated use of these horrific weapons by the Assad regime. The international community’s overwhelming support for the resolution – it received 156 “Yes” votes, and just six “No” votes – makes clear there can be no impunity for those who choose to use chemical weapons. Those who voted “No” choose to turn a blind eye to recent uses of chemical weapons, including the numerous instances of use by the Assad regime against innocent Syrian civilians.
The United States continues to promote accountability for the use of chemical weapons. Last month, the United States imposed visa restrictions on three Syrian military officials for their involvement in gross violations of human rights due to their role in the deadly August 2013 chemical weapons attack on Ghouta. As a result of our action, the three officials as well as their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States. As Council members recall, the 2013 chemical weapons attack, using the nerve agent sarin, was on civilians in Ghouta and killed at least 1,400 people, many of them children.
The OPCW and the UN have, collectively and separately, independently confirmed the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons on eight occasions, and we anticipate future OPCW reporting in this regard. The United States assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons at least 50 times since acceding to the CWC in 2013. We will continue to promote accountability for the attacks on Ghouta and elsewhere.
Despite our collective demands, the Assad regime, backed by Russia, continues to obfuscate, and delay, and has failed to completely declare and destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles, in violation of its obligations under Council resolution 2118, and under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which it joined in 2013.
The Assad regime continues to prevent the deployment of the OPCW’s Declaration Assessment Team to Syria, in clear violation of its obligations under resolution 2118 which requires Syria to accept OPCW personnel and provide them with “immediate and unfettered access” to any and all sites. The United States once again calls on Syria to immediately, and without preconditions, allow the OPCW team back into Syria so that it can resume its important work of verifying the complete declaration and destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons program.
These failures by the Assad regime, which continues to enjoy the full support of Russia, a permanent member of this Council, are an affront to OPCW, to the Council, and to the international community. Its failure to declare and destroy its chemical weapons stores, meanwhile, is a threat to the Syrian people and the wider region. Taken together, these behaviors undermine our collective security and make the world less safe.
We call on the regime to end its intransigence and simply meet its obligations under both Resolution 2118 and the CWC as quickly as possible. Doing so would be a positive step toward enhancing our collective security and help to ensure that we never again witness the horrific scenes we have seen in Syria over the last nine years.
Thank you, Mr. President.