Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Briefing on Chemical Weapons in Syria

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 2, 2021


Thank you, Madam President. Let me start today by congratulating India on a successful Presidency of the Council in August. And I would like to wish you, Madam President, and your team, all the best during Ireland’s Council Presidency in September. We look forward to working with you. And thank you, High Representative Nakamitsu, for your very thorough and factual briefing, today. I’d like to acknowledge the presence of representatives from Turkey, Iran, and Syria.

The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anyone, under any circumstances. And I would like to repeat that: The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anyone, under any circumstances. There is no impunity for those who use these weapons. None. The use of chemical weapons by any state constitutes an unacceptable threat to the peace and security of every state.

The Assad regime has repeatedly used chemical weapons. And it has tried to avoid accountability by obstructing independent investigations and failing to cooperate with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The Assad regime’s goal is clear: to undermine the Organization’s work as the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

As we have previously noted, 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 UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism. The United States firmly supports the impartial and independent work of the OPCW and all its investigative bodies. And we welcome the OPCW Director General’s intention to deploy the Declaration Assessment Team to Syria to conduct the twenty-fifth round of consultations in Damascus later this fall. The Syrian government has a clear obligation to cooperate with the OPCW.

This month marks eight years since Syria acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Again, despite the OPCW’s efforts to assist the Assad regime with complying with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, the regime continues to ignore calls from the international community, including this Council, to fully disclose and verifiably eliminate its chemical weapons programs.

The OPCW’s assessment, and ours, is that the declaration submitted by the Assad regime still cannot be considered accurate and complete. Sadly, the Assad regime continues to deliberately delay and obstruct the work of the OPCW. Syria once again demonstrated its lack of candor with the OPCW when it recently reported the destruction of two containers that had previously been inspected by the DAT. Despite instructions to the regime not to open, move, or alter the containers and their contents in any way, without seeking prior written consent of the OPCW, the Assad regime reported these cylinders were destroyed during the attack on June 8, 2021 at a different location. The regime did not even notify the OPCW that the cylinders had been moved to a new location until it reported their destruction.

The Assad regime’s allies, including Russia, have also actively sought to block all efforts to promote accountability. Russia continues to defend the Assad regime for its failures to adhere to its obligations, including by spreading disinformation, attacking the integrity and professional work of the OPCW, and impeding ongoing efforts by responsible nations to hold the Assad regime accountable. This pattern of enablement is dangerous. Repeated and continued failures by the Assad regime to comply with the obligations under international law must not be tolerated.

So, we welcome the Conference of the States Parties’ decision to condemn Syria’s use of chemical weapons and suspend its rights and privileges under the Chemical Weapons Convention. This decision sends a clear and unequivocal message that the use of chemical weapons has consequences. It is time for the Assad regime to uphold its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and Resolution 2118.

This Council decided, in the event of non-compliance with Resolution 2118, to impose measures under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter. We now have overwhelming evidence of numerous incidences of non-compliance by the Assad regime. Now is the time to uphold and enforce this Council’s decision. Without accountability for the atrocities committed against the Syrian people, lasting peace in Syria will remain out of reach.

Thank you, Madam President.