Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2319 (2016), Security Council Extends Mandate of Mechanism to Identify Perpetrators Using Chemical Weapons in Syria

SC/12594
17 November 2016
7815th Meeting (Night)

Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2319 (2016), Security Council Extends Mandate of Mechanism to Identify Perpetrators Using Chemical Weapons in Syria

The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations-Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Joint Investigative Mechanism, the body mandated to determine responsibility for the use of chemical weapons in Syria, for an additional year.

Unanimously adopting resolution 2319 (2016), the Council maintained the previous mandate of the Mechanism without significant changes, following a 31 October extension for almost three weeks, that allowed an opportunity to reconsider the scope of its work (see Press Release SC/12571).

In today’s text, the focus of the Mechanism’s investigations was kept solely on Syria, as before.  However, the Council also encouraged the Mechanism to engage relevant regional States in pursuit of its mandate, including for the purpose of identifying any involvement of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Al-Nusrah Front or other non-State actors in the use of chemicals as weapons in Syria.  The Council further encouraged the Mechanism to consult, as appropriate, with the 1540 Committee on non-proliferation and the Al-Qaida/ISIL Sanctions Committee.

Following the vote, the representative of the United States noted that the Joint Investigative Mechanism’s work was not complete and must continue; it was the only body given the mandate to identify those involved in the use of chemicals as weapons.  If the Council had failed to extend it, it would have been wilfully blinded about who was responsible for those crimes.

She added that evidence suggested the Mechanism was dissuading actors from using chemical weapons.  Even if the Mechanism made a small impact, it would save lives and establish a crucial global norm.  The Council’s responsibilities did not end with knowledge of the facts, she pointed out, stressing that Members also need to work together to ensure that those who used such weapons faced consequences.

The Russian Federation’s representative also encouraged all to set aside political differences and join forces to eradicate the devastating phenomenon of chemical weapons.  However, he underscored that the Mechanism’s mandate must be carried out in an impartial and objective manner.  Among other things, he voiced his regret that the Russian Federation’s several initiatives had been repeatedly blocked by some countries.

China’s representative, on the other hand, lauded the resolution’s positive elements, such as the provision that the Mechanism would give more attention to the use of chemical weapons by non-State actors and strengthen the exchange of information with Syria’s neighbouring countries.  He expressed hope that the Council would continue to unite on the matter, play a positive role in eliminating the use of such weapons in Syria, and move toward a comprehensive and durable solution to the conflict.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Spain, Japan and Egypt.

The meeting began at 9 p.m. and ended at 9:30 p.m.

Statements

SAMANTHA POWER (United States), commending the spirit with which the Russian Federation had carried out negotiations on the resolution, said that the Joint Investigative Mechanism was a vital tool for fighting impunity.  Syria’s carrying out of three attacks using chemical weapons constituted a clear violation of that country’s obligations under Security Council resolution 2118 (2013), as well as the chemical weapons convention.  The Joint Investigative Mechanism’s work was not complete and must continue; it was the only body given the mandate to identify those involved in the use of chemicals as weapons.  If the Council had failed to extend it, it would have been wilfully blinded about who was responsible for those crimes.  Furthermore, evidence suggested the Mechanism was dissuading actors from using chemical weapons.  In the 15 months since it had begun its work, the number of alleged attacks had dropped.  Even if the Mechanism made a small impact it would save lives and establish a crucial global norm.  She went on to say that the Council’s responsibilities did not end with knowledge of the facts, stressing that Members also need to work together to ensure that those who used such weapons faced consequences.

VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation), noting that the text was an outcome of an extensive negotiation marathon between the United States and his country, said he had been sceptical about the Mechanism’s report and intended to flag technical, logistical and procedural aspects where necessary.  The Mechanism’s mandate must be carried out in an impartial and objective manner.  He went on to warn against the threat of spill over from the Syrian conflict.  The text encouraged the Mechanism to engage relevant regional States to identify any involvement of terrorist groups such as ISIL, Al-Nusrah Front and other non-State actors in the use of chemicals as weapons in Syria.  Among other things, he voiced his regret that the Russian Federation’s several initiatives had been repeatedly blocked by some countries, and he encouraged all to set aside political differences and “join forces to eradicate the devastating phenomenon” of such weapons.

SHEN BO (China) said his country’s position on chemical weapons was clear and consistent.  Stressing that China was firmly opposed to their use by anyone under any circumstances, he condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  Resolution 2139 (2014) contained many positive elements, such as the provision that the Mechanism would give more attention to the use of chemical weapons by non-State actors and strengthen the exchange of information with Syria’s neighbouring countries.  He expressed hope that the Council would continue to unite on the chemical weapon question and play a positive role in eliminating the use of such weapons in Syria and move toward a comprehensive and durable solution to the conflict.

ANNE GUEGUEN MOHSEN (France) said that the text had showed the Council’s commitment to bring an end to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  “There is no room for political division,” she said, noting that the text had justified the Mechanism’s existence.  Renewal was a positive development yet it could not stop there, she said, expressing hope that the Council would soon adopt a text on sanctions.

PETER WILSON (United Kingdom), commending the United States representative for bringing the Council together, went on to thank the Mechanism’s members, whose tireless work under difficult circumstances had led to the knowledge that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons against civilians in Syria, and that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) had used sulphur mustard.  Despite many efforts, barbaric acts involving chemical weapons continued.  At least four such cases were being investigated by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).  It was not enough to know that such attacks had occurred or who had carried them out, he stressed, calling for justice and an end to the impunity surrounding perpetrators of such horrific attacks.  It was time for the Council to step up and do its part.  The continued use of chemicals as weapons was a clear violation of numerous Council resolutions.  The adoption was a valuable first step and he called for using its momentum to ensure that those responsible for chemical attacks faced justice.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine), expressing concern about the possible illegal possession, movement and intention of using toxic substances in Syria, said that the text’s adoption had proved the importance of having the Mechanism in the future.  It also envisaged additional tasks for the Mechanism concerning illegal activity of non-State actors.  That change of focus would not lead to overlooking the primary part of the Mechanism’s mandate, he stressed, adding that removing the use of chemical weapons was an essential element for deescalating tensions on the ground, tackling extremism and attaining a sustainable political solution to the crisis.

FRANCISCO JAVIER GASSO MATOSES (Spain) said it was essential for the Mechanism to continue carrying out its work.  Perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks must be held accountable.  New allegations of such attacks kept arising and the Mechanism’s deterrent effect must be preserved.  He expressed pleasure that the resolution had included references to the cooperation between the 1540 Committee and the Mechanism.  He called for the Mechanism to be given adequate resources to carry out its mandated work.

TAKESHI AKAHORI (Japan) emphasized the need to uncover the “whole picture of alleged use of chemical weapons” in Syria and to hold accountable those responsible from such acts.  For its part, Japan stood ready to engage in efforts that would uphold universal norms and identify them, he stated.

IHAB MOUSTAFA AWAD MOUSTAFA (Egypt) said it was essential that the Mechanism executed its mandate with a high level of objectivity and neutrality, and those responsible were held accountable.  Drawing attention to the growing capabilities of terrorists in manufacturing and using chemical weapons, he said that the Council must be in a position to identify the ways and means to bring an end to such acts.  In that regard, the text’s adoption could be a new impetus for a solution to the Syrian crisis.

Resolution

The full text of resolution 2319 (2016) reads as follows:

The Security Council,

Recalling its resolutions 2314 (2016), 2235 (2015), 2209 (2015) and 2118 (2013),

Noting that additional allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria are being investigated by the Fact-Finding Mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW),

Condemning again in the strongest terms any use of any toxic chemicals as a weapon in the Syrian Arab Republic and expressing alarm that civilians continue to be killed and injured by toxic chemicals as weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic,

Reaffirming that the use of chemical weapons constitutes a serious violation of international law and reiterating that those individuals, entities, groups or Governments responsible for any use of chemical weapons must be held accountable,

Reaffirming their grave concern that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), and other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with ISIL (Da’esh) or Al-Qaida, including but not limited to foreign terrorist fighters who have joined ISIL (Da’esh) in Syria, groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIL (Da’esh), and Al-Nusrah Front (ANF), continue operating in the Syrian Arab Republic,

Stressing the need for all Member States to fully comply with their obligations under resolution 2178 (2014),

Recalling that in resolution 2118 (2013) the Council underscored that no party in Syria should use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer chemical weapons and decided that member States shall inform immediately the Security Council of any violations of resolution 1540 (2004), including acquisitions by non-State actors of chemical weapons, their means of delivery and related materials in order to take necessary measures therefore,

“1.   Decides to renew the mandate of the Joint investigative Mechanism, as set out in resolution 2235 (2015), for a further period of one year from the date of adoption of this resolution, with a possibility of further extension and update by the Security Council if it deems necessary;

“2.   Recalls its decision that the Syrian Arab Republic shall not use, develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to other States or non-State actors;

“3.   Reaffirms paragraphs 1, 3-4, 6, 8, 9, 12 and 15 of resolution 2235 (2015);

“4.   Encourages the Joint Investigative Mechanism, where relevant, to consult appropriate United Nations counter-terrorism and non-proliferation bodies, in particular the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004) and the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, in order to exchange information on non-State actor perpetration, organization, sponsorship, or other involvement in use of chemicals as weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic where the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission determines or has determined that a specific incident in the Syrian Arab Republic involved or likely involved the use of chemicals as weapons;

“5.   Invites the Joint Investigative Mechanism to engage relevant regional States in pursuit of its mandate, including in order to identify to the greatest extent feasible any individuals, entities or groups associated with ISIL (Da’esh) or ANF who were perpetrators, organizers, sponsors or otherwise involved in the use of chemicals as weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic where the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission determines or has determined that a specific incident in the Syrian Arab Republic involved or likely involved the use of chemicals as weapons, encourages relevant regional states to provide, as appropriate, to the Joint Investigative Mechanism information on non-State actors’ access to chemical weapons and their components or efforts by non-State actors to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use chemical weapons and their means of delivery that occur under their jurisdiction, including relevant information from national investigations, and underscores the importance of States Parties’ obligations under Article VII of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (CWC), and the full implementation of paragraph 8 of resolution 2235 (2015), including with respect to information pertaining to non-State actors;

“6.   Recalls Article X.8 and X.9 of the CWC allowing any State party to request and receive assistance and protection against the use or threat of use of chemical weapons if it considers that chemical weapons have been used against it, recalls further that such requests, substantiated by relevant information, are transmitted by the Director General of the OPCW to the Executive Council and all States Parties to the CWC, and invites the Joint Investigative Mechanism to offer its services to the OPCW in such circumstances if relevant to effectively fulfilling the Joint Investigative Mechanism’s mandate;

“7.   Reaffirms paragraph 7 of resolution 2235 (2016), including with respect to the ability of the Joint Investigative Mechanism to examine additional information and evidence that was not obtained or prepared by the FFM but that is related to the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, and stresses the need for its full implementation, in particular the provision of information requested by the Joint Investigative Mechanism and the making available of witnesses;

“8.   Requests the United Nations Secretary-General, in coordination with the OPCW Director-General, present a report to the United Nations Security Council and inform the OPCW Executive Council every 60 days on the progress made;

“9.   Requests the Joint Investigative Mechanism to complete a report within 90 days of adoption of this resolution, and complete subsequent reports as appropriate thereafter, and requests the Joint Investigative Mechanism to present the report, or reports, to the United Nations Security Council and inform the OPCW Executive Council, and invites the Joint Investigative Mechanism to brief, as appropriate, the 1540 Committee, the 1267/1989/2253 Committee or other relevant counter-terrorism or non-proliferation bodies on relevant results of their work;

10.   Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”

For information media. Not an official record.