Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 4, 2021
Thank you, Mr. President. I’d like to start today by congratulating France on a successful Presidency of the Council in July, and to wish India and your team the best of success during the month of August. And thank you, Mr. Markram, for your briefing and for the extraordinary work of the OPCW.
Later this month, on August 21, we will mark eight years since the Assad regime horrifically attacked and killed hundreds of Syrian men, women, and children in Ghouta with sarin gas. This terrible attack is not the only one. The Assad regime’s appalling use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people is well documented.
The OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team has attributed four separate chemical weapons attacks in Syria to the Assad regime. These incidents are in addition to the four chemical weapons attacks attributed to the Assad regime by the former UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism. The OPCW earnestly attempts to engage the Assad regime and assist it with complying with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention. But sadly, the Assad regime, supported by Russia, continues to ignore calls from the international community to fully disclose and verifiably destroy its chemical weapons programs. Instead, the Assad regime continues to deliberately delay and obstruct the work of the OPCW’s Declaration Assessment Team.
The Security Council must call out atrocities and hold those who use chemical weapons accountable. Without accountability for the atrocities committed against the Syrian people, lasting peace in Syria will remain out of reach. It is disappointing that the use of a weapon of mass destruction by a government against its own people could possibly be a source of political conflict in this Council. Fortunately, more and more members of the international community want to hold the Assad regime accountable.
The April decision of the OPCW’s Conference of the States Parties to condemn Syria’s use of chemical weapons and suspend certain rights and privileges of Syria under the Chemical Weapons Convention sent a clear and unequivocal message: the use of chemical weapons has consequences. Nearly 90 nations supported such actions – only a small number of Assad enablers, including Russia, sadly, stood in opposition.
Given the voting trends of the OPCW, it is clear that Russian and Assad disinformation, including as propagated here in the Security Council every month, is failing to persuade most states. The United States, along with an overwhelming number of responsible nations, will continue to support the work of the OPCW in carrying out its critical mandate against the backdrop of the continued threat of chemical weapons use.
The Security Council must unite to forcefully condemn this method of warfare. And the international community must identify and hold accountable all those who use such weapons in violation of international law. There simply cannot – cannot – be impunity for the use of chemical weapons.
Thank you, Mr. President.