6 May 2021

Syria Must Declare All Chemical Warfare Agents Produced at Former Production Facility, Says High Representative in Briefing to Security Council

The confidence of the international community in eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons production depends on its Government’s swift action to resolve all new and outstanding issues in light of fresh reports and a recent decision at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs told the Security Council today during a videoconference meeting.

Briefing the 15-member organ on the implementation of Council resolution 2118 (2013) on the elimination of the chemical weapons programme of Syria, Izumi Nakamitsu said that while the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has affected OPCW deployments to Syria, its Technical Secretariat and the Declaration Assessment Team have continued their work, despite travel restrictions.  Providing highlights of new reports and findings, she said the Technical Secretariat insists that Syria must declare all chemical warfare agents produced or weaponized at a former chemical weapon production facility and informed the Government that a new outstanding issue would be opened and discussed during consultations with the Declaration Assessment Team.  The Team had detected a neat chemical warfare agent from samples taken from storage containers at a declared facility in September 2020, the production of which Syria has not declared.  After the team analysed information Syria had provided on samples, it assessed that the explanations were not sufficient to explain the results, as the presence of the substance at this facility may imply undeclared production activities.

Raising deep concerns about the second Investigation and Identification Team report, she said findings involving a February 2018 incident in Saraqib indicated reasonable grounds to believe that a Syrian Arab Air Force helicopter dropped at least one cylinder that released chlorine gas, affecting 12 individuals.  Regarding unresolved issues, she said the Technical Secretariat continues to assess that Syria’s declaration is not accurate nor complete and called on the Government to resolve these matters.  Results of two facility inspections in November will be imminently discussed, but other deployments remain dependent on the evolution of the pandemic, she said, noting that Syria has yet to provide sufficient information to be able to close a 2018 inspection at the Barzah facilities.

Turning to the OPCW fact-finding mission, she said it continues to study chemical weapon use in Syria and is addressing a variety of incidents as it engages with the Government and other States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention).  It recently deployed to Syria to collect information and conduct interviews regarding an incident that occurred in Kafr Zita, Hama, in October 2016.

She said the Office for Disarmament Affairs has taken note of a decision titled “Addressing the Possession and Use of Chemical Weapons by the Syrian Arab Republic”, adopted at the twenty-fifth session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention.  The decision suspended Syria’s rights and privileges under the Convention until the OPCW Director-General informs the Executive Council that Syria has completed all of the measures, she said, urging Damascus to fully cooperate.  Those responsible for the use of chemical weapons must be held accountable, she said, expressing hope that the Council will unite on this issue and pledging her Office’s support in this matter.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members roundly condemned the use of chemical weapons, but divergent views emerged on how best to eradicate their use.  While many welcomed the decision at the Conference of States Parties meeting to curtail Syria’s membership rights pending a resolution of all outstanding issues, some highlighted the country’s ongoing cooperation with OPCW.  Many members urged Syria to resolve all issues and meet its obligations to the Chemical Weapons Convention and relevant Council resolutions.  Delegates also called for accountability for those responsible for using chemical weapons along the road to ridding the world of them.

The representative of the United States, raising concerns about recent OPCW reports, said the Syrian regime’s numerous atrocities include at least 50 chemical weapons attacks since the conflict began.  Indeed, the latest reports attributed eight such attacks to the regime.  Despite OPCW efforts, the Assad regime continues to ignore the international community’s calls to verifiably disclose any and all chemical weapons.  Predictably, four days after the release of the second Investigation and Identification Team’s report, the Russian Federation announced that OPCW efforts are part of a “Western plot to attempt regime change in Damascus”, he said, pointing out that the majority of Member States represented in the Council refuted this claim.  Welcoming the recent Conference of States Parties and OPCW decisions to hold Syria accountable, he said it is time for the Assad regime to adhere to its commitments to the Chemical Weapons Convention and relevant Security Council resolutions.

The representative of the Russian Federation expressed disappointment that today’s meeting is being held in a virtual format, as “nothing is preventing us from returning to our customary in-person meetings” in the Council Chamber with delegates observing the COVID-19 pandemic requirement for social distancing.  “This would be an important signal for the international community.”  He requested that China, as Council President, take immediate measures to return to traditional working methods.  Noting that past predictions by the Russian Federation have come true, he pointed to the April decision by the Conference of States Parties to suspend Syria’s rights in OPCW, with Western colleagues violating the Convention’s norms and the longstanding practice of consensus.  Noting that only 6 Western States voted in favour of the decision, he said the rest were against it or abstained from voting.  This unprecedented decision dealt another blow to OPCW’s credibility.  He questioned whether the anti-Syria campaigners expect to continue business as usual with Damascus, suggesting that Western backers seek only to provoke the Government to take drastic steps, and thus, achieve their own political goals.

He said inspections by the Technical Secretariat have been tailored towards this punitive decision, under pressure from the West, leading to flagrant violations during investigations into the April 2017 Khan Sheikoun and April 2018 Douma incidents.  He went on to accuse the OPCW fact-finding mission of “outright fudging” of its conclusions on the matter and of intimidating free thinkers who refused to participate in its venture.  The illegitimate Identification and Investigation Team, like the fact-finding mission, has disregarded the chain of custody, giving rise to a report replete with errors accusing Syria of using chemical weapons on two occasions.  The Technical Secretariat “remains deaf” to any criticism, as it was with the Douma report.

He said the Russian Federation also had warned that the Investigation and Identification Team by April would introduce another propaganda product to foment anti-Syria sentiment.  Just before the recent vote in The Hague, the Team presented a report about the incident in Saraqib, which repeats the same errors in the fact-finding mission’s Douma report.  The Team never travelled to the site of the incident.  Rather, the notorious White Helmets gathered the evidence and half of the witnesses interviewed were White Helmets.  He recalled comments by the former OPCW Press Secretary stating that the organization would never study samples that had not been collected by its inspectors in the field.  Thus, the Technical Secretariat is violating its own principles.  “We cannot allow the OPCW to punish those that have fallen out of favour,” he said.  “Any other State could end up in Syria’s position.”  Pointing out that the United States is not doing anything to dispose of its own weapons of mass destruction, he condemned the use of chemical weapons, whenever by anyone for whatever purposes, and expressed support for OPCW.

The representative of Mexico expressed regret that despite the verified destruction of 27 production facilities initially declared by Syria, there are still inconsistencies.  The Declaration Assessment Team identified a chemical warfare agent, whose production had not been declared, leading to questions.  “We will expect results from inquiries between OPCW and Syria in May”, he said, noting that the Identification and Investigation Team expressed reasonable grounds that Syria’s air force carried out a chlorine attack in Saraqib in 2018.  He encouraged Damascus to continue to cooperate with OPCW — and all mechanisms carrying out investigations on chemical weapons use on its territory, in line with its Convention obligations.  He expressed confidence in the impartiality of OPCW and the Identification and Investigation Team — a multinational team of experts that observes the strictest international standards.  He reiterated the need to strengthen cooperation between the United Nations and OPCW, calling on the Security Council to fully condemn chemical weapons use by any actor in any circumstance, and to support compliance with the Convention through engaging in fact-based discussions.  Mexico does not support actions that lead to the exclusion of any party, he said, stressing that “all are needed at the negotiation table”.   The Council must promote cooperation among OPCW, Syria and itself.

The representative of Estonia said the recent decision by the Conference of the States Parties is a measured and fitting response to Syria’s continued possession and use of chemical weapons.  He expressed hope that in the face of clear evidence the Council takes action to uphold its resolutions and the Charter of the United Nations.  The victims of the regime’s war crimes deserve to see accountability, which is needed to build peace in Syria.  This ninety-first monthly report includes stubbornly persistent gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies in the Syrian declaration, and the Assad regime must declare its entire supply of chemical weapons so they are verifiably destroyed.  Reiterating Estonia’s full trust in the independent, impartial and professional work of the OPCW Technical Secretariat, its investigative bodies and in the credibility of its reports, he said any attempts to undermine them and weaken the international architecture against chemical weapon use is deeply concerning and unacceptable.  Estonia continues to call on the Russian Federation to cooperate with OPCW and to disclose, urgently, fully and in a transparent manner, the circumstances of the poisoning of Alexei Navalny with a chemical nerve agent and to inform the Security Council in this regard.

The representative of the United Kingdom, taking note of recent assessment and investigative teams’ reports, said the implications are clear:  Syria is a country that by its own admission had an extensive chemical weapons programme.  It failed to declare this programme in full, retained a chemical weapons production capability beyond the 2014 destruction of its declared programme and has been found to have used them on numerous occasions throughout the conflict.  Syria continues to fail to comply fully with the OPCW Technical Secretariat.  The recent Conference of States Parties’ decision was minimal and proportionate given Syria’s catalogue of breaches of Council resolutions, the Chemical Weapons Convention and international norms.  The next steps for Syria are clearly set out in the decision.   While these issues remain unresolved, and particularly in light of Syria’s identified use of chemical weapons, she said there is an extant threat to international peace and security, on which basis the Council should remain seized of the matter.

The representative of Niger said any delay in resolving chemical weapons issues only prolongs the suffering of Syrians.  All chemical weapons incidents must receive the same attention and be treated with the same diligence to arrive at a conclusion and identify those responsible.  He called for a calm technical analysis of results to ensure the integrity of OPCW, pressing Syria and OPCW to cooperate in good faith.  Noting that a new outstanding issue will be discussed with the Declaration Assessment Team in May, he said “rigorous attention” must be paid to all chemical weapons use in Syria or elsewhere.  He expressed regret that the Investigation and Identification Team did not have access to sites to verify the findings in its second report.  If the decision is to suspend Syria’s rights to vote at the Conference of States Parties and OPCW Executive Council, or to stand for election to that body or to hold any office in the Conference of States Parties is in line with OPCW regulations, it risks affecting the already difficult cooperation between OPCW and Syria.  Rather, Syria should engage further by providing the requested information in order to rectify any irregularities, he said, urging the Security Council to show “true unity” in addressing these issues.

The representative of Tunisia, recalling that, through resolution 2118 (2013), the chemical weapons prohibition regime mobilized efforts to destroy arsenals in Syria in order to allow for international verification, stressed:  “This is achievement which must be preserved.”  He underscored the importance of upholding the spirit and letter of the Convention, including in the case of disputes over the instrument.  He also called for collaboration in addressing non-compliance with the Convention and for advancing technical consultations between Syria and OPCW in a spirit of mutual trust in order to settle outstanding issues.  Taking note of efforts to establish a date for the next cycle of consultations between the Declaration Assessment Team and Syria in mid-May, he urged OPCW to continue its important technical work in the country through investigations into chemical weapons use.  “There should be no doubt or different interpretations,” he asserted, with the Investigation and Identification Team given full access to Syria’s territory and efforts to combat the threat posed by terrorist organizations which do not recognize the ban on chemical weapons use.  He concluded by condemning the use of chemical weapons by anybody in any circumstance, whatever the motivation.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines said allegations of the use of chemical weapons ought to be given immediate attention and investigations should be comprehensive and in keeping with international best practices, with OPCW playing its indispensable role in this regard.  Encouraging all efforts to strengthen its capacity to ensure the continued quality of work, she noted with concern recent findings of its Investigation and Identification Team.  Chemical weapons atrocities cannot be ignored, and impunity cannot be encouraged.  While divergent views persist regarding the recent decision of the Conference of States Parties, pragmatic action must be prioritized to build consensus, thwart further polarization and foster cooperation among signatories.  “We must work together to ultimately achieve the collective goal of a world free of chemical weapons,” she stressed, underscoring the importance of clarifying the gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies in the initial declaration.  In this vein, she recognized the continued efforts of both Syria and the Technical Secretariat, despite the pandemic.  Turning to the new outstanding issue, she expressed hope that positive engagement and a continued commitment to dialogue will allow for a final resolution to all outstanding matters.

The representative of Kenya, reaffirming his delegation’s support for OPCW and taking note of its recent reports, said unfortunately there has been little forward movement on the conclusion and closure of investigations since the adoption of resolution 2118 (2013).  For meaningful progress to happen, honest dialogue, transparency, trust and unity of purpose must be cultivated among all the relevant parties and stakeholders.  OPCW bears a profound responsibility as the guardian of the Chemical Weapons Convention, making it critical that all its investigations are conducted in a comprehensive, impartial and professional manner, consistent with applicable international instruments and standards.  Kenya encourages continued coordinated collaboration to facilitate an expeditious conclusion of these investigations and allow the Council to focus its attention on providing humanitarian assistance and helping Syria’s people reach a sustainable solution to the political crisis.  A long-term solution to the country’s crisis is an inclusive political dialogue that is careful to not reward terrorist groups with political legitimacy, he said, adding that Kenya stands in solidarity with the people of Syria in this endeavour.

The representative of Ireland said the use of chemical weapons anywhere and at any time is abhorrent and unacceptable, expressing full confidence in OCPW, its investigations and conclusions related to such use in Syria.  She described its latest report as “disquieting reading”, as the “long list” of issues to be resolved has expanded yet again to include the alarming discovery of a “neat chemical warfare agent” at the Hafer 1 facility, which underlines the significant problems with Syria’s declaration and failure to seriously cooperate with OPCW.  A significant step forward was taken at The Hague on 22 April, when the Conference of States Parties to the Convention overwhelmingly decided to act against Syria’s non-compliance.  This decision, and that of the OPCW Executive Council in July 2020, make clear the actions Syria must take to comply with the Convention.  The Security Council must work together to uphold the international prohibition against chemical weapons.

The representative of Norway said the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team — in its rigorous, evidence-based analysis — concluded there are reasonable grounds to believe that the Syrian Air Force was responsible for a chlorine attack on Saraqib in February 2018.  Together with the OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mission, it has attributed eight cases of chemical weapons use to Syria, and two cases to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).  Condemning any use of chemical weapons under any circumstance, by anyone, she welcomed the suspension of Syria’s rights under the Convention, made by the Conference of States Parties in response to the OPCW Identification and Investigation Team’s first report, in April 2020.  Welcoming the deployment of the fact-finding mission to collect information, and conduct interviews regarding incidents in Kafr Zita, Hama in October 2016, she expressed concern over the detection of a neat chemical warfare agent by the Declaration Assessment Team in September 2020.  Syria must “provide information to resolve this finding immediately”, she stressed, rejecting any effort to discredit OPCW’s work or tolerate impunity.

The representative of India, taking note of recent reports, said the Syrian authorities are cooperating with the Declaration Assessment Team and the fact-finding mission, as evident from the latter’s ongoing deployment and forthcoming round of consultations.  India has consistently supported the need for impartial and objective investigation by OPCW to establish the facts and reach evidence-based conclusions in incidents of any use of chemical weapons strictly in accordance with the provisions and procedures embedded in the Chemical Weapons Convention, and in conformity with the delicate balance of power and responsibility enshrined under it.  However, the second report of the Investigation and Identification Team falls short of these expectations.  India supports the resolution of all issues through consultation, dialogue and cooperation and encourages Syria to continue engagement and cooperation with the OPCW mechanism to resolve all pending issues expeditiously.  However, concerns remain about the possibility of chemical weapons falling into the hands of terrorist entities and individuals.  Citing the latest report of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD), he raised serious concerns about its mention of repeated successful deployments of chemical weapons by ISIL against civilian populations between 2014 and 2016, given the core area of operations of ISIL has been both Syria and Iraq.  It is deeply concerning that the involvement of external actors in Syria has sparked the growth of terrorism in the country and beyond, he said, pointing to frequent reports of the resurgence of terrorist groups in the region.  The international community cannot afford to lower the guard against terrorists.  India consistently calls for a comprehensive and peaceful resolution of the Syrian conflict through a Syrian-led dialogue, taking into account the legitimate aspirations of the people, he said, reiterating his delegation’s support for the United Nations-led efforts.

The representative of Viet Nam took note of recent reports, highlighting the continued engagement between OPCW and Syria in addressing the remaining outstanding issues.  It is important that the next round of consultations take place as planned.  Attaching great importance to the collaboration between OPCW and States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, he called on the Technical Secretariat and Syria to further enhance dialogue and technical consultations to resolve all gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies.  Unequivocally condemning the use of chemical weapons anywhere, at any time, by anyone, under any circumstances, he raised deep concerns about their alleged use in Syria and reports about armed groups possessing and using them.  Conclusive evidence and irrefutable facts must be established to bring about a conclusive decision that can ensure justice and prevent future violations.  This goal can only be attained through a comprehensive, objective, impartial and non-politicized investigative process.  He underlined the need to have a unified approach and to promote meaningful cooperation to achieve the goal of completely ridding the world of chemical weapons.  While OPCW is a universal organization charged with that responsibility, it is regrettable to see that it remains very divisive on some issues.  On a recent decision, the number of States Parties considered as not “present and voting” was even greater than that of those casting affirmative votes.  Unity is required to effectively implement the Chemical Weapons Convention and achieve the above goal, he said, calling for the prioritization of constructive engagement and renewed dialogue and cooperation efforts, as well as strict and full implementation of treaty obligations.

The representative of France welcomed that a vast majority of delegations at the twenty-fifth Conference of States Parties adopted a decision proposed by his country on behalf of 46 delegations.  “This is an important decision taken by responsible States Parties,” he assured, stressing that Syria’s flagrant and repeated violations of its international commitments had left no other choice but to suspend its rights.  The Identification and Investigation Team’s second report identified the authors of a February 2018 chlorine attack in Saraqib, which took 12 lives, under the authority of Syria’s twenty-fifth division of the special forces.  Syria’s use, “documented and irrefutable, is unacceptable and will not go unpunished”, he said.  If Syria hopes to restore its rights, it must adhere to its obligations under the Convention to which it chose to accede.  It must behave as a responsible player and finally shed full light on its initial declaration.  Expressing regret that new pending issues add to the list of older ones, he questioned why the situation is still at this point more than seven years after the adoption of resolution 2118 (2013).  Chemical weapons use must not go unpunished.  Legal proceedings, including before national jurisdictions, will take place and are necessary in order to deter others from using such weapons.  “We cannot violate an international convention without there being consequences,” he assured, which is why France in 2018 launched the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons, which is supported by 40 States and the European Union.

The representative of China, Council President for May, speaking in his national capacity, said the investigation and handling of alleged chemical weapons use must strictly comply with the Convention’s requirements, honour the principles of independence, neutrality and impartiality, and ensure procedural compliance that leads to credible conclusions in order to avoid causing controversy.  The non-transparent work methods of the Identification and Investigation Team, along with its procedural failure to meet Convention standards and difficulty in proving facts, give rise to multiple questions.  He expressed hope that the Technical Secretariat will respond to questions raised in efforts to ensure that conclusions are objective, truthful and impartial.  He called for strengthening dialogue and reverting to the practice of making decisions by consensus, noting that some countries have repeatedly pushed for a vote on the Syria file, leading parties to further disagreement.  If this practice persists, OPCW’s authority will be questioned and its decisions will be difficult to implement.  He called for improving the working atmosphere of OPCW, upholding the Convention, respecting the rights of States Parties and avoiding criticism of OPCW’s work.  As Syria expressed its willingness to cooperate with the Technical Secretariat, the international community should encourage it to resolve its differences through technical consultations.  Noting that China voted against the Conference of States Parties decision, he stressed that “OPCW cannot be used as a geopolitical tool or weapon to suppress legitimate Governments in developing countries.”  He denounced the use of chemical weapons under any circumstances for any reason, urging countries to destroy all chemical weapons as soon as possible.

The representative of the United States, taking the floor a second time in response to “narratives of disinformation” by his counterpart from the Russian Federation, objected to that country’s obsessive focus on a single attack on Douma, while ignoring numerous other facts and cases that create a significant body of evidence of Syria’s malfeasance.  While the Russian Federation attacks OPCW findings on Douma, it leaves out that it was Moscow that had possession of the attack site immediately following the event, delaying OPCW investigators from entering it.  The Identification and Investigation Team conducted a thorough analysis of evidence from witnesses, biological samples and other analyses before arriving at its findings.

To claims that OPCW ignores voices of dissent, he said the Russian Federation “skips over” that the Identification and Investigation Team outlines that all views — including dissenting ones from within the organization — are factored into its assessments.  Outside experts are unable to corroborate any alternative theories raised by Syria and others.  To claims that the Conference of States Parties decision to hold Syria accountable is somehow illegitimate because it was not unanimous, he said the reality is that international organizations must take decisions in the absence of consensus.  The decision was fully consistent with the Convention.  Recognizing the gravity of politically contested actions, the Convention requires the adoption of decisions by two-thirds majority.  Eighty-seven States supported accountability by the Assad regime; only 15 voted against it.  “The decision was legal, and it was legitimate,” he said.

The representative of the Russian Federation said comments by his counterpart from the United States do not cast doubt on his comments, characterizing the efforts motivating the 21 April decision as “somewhat pathetic” as a minority of members favoured it.  A decision taken by consensus has much better chances of being implemented.  Rather, the United States and its allies have done their utmost to upset consensus about machinations leading to that decision, in violation of OPCW norms.  “You are disrupting this consensus, instead of helping the organization fulfill its mandate,” he said.  “You are politicizing the OPCW, not us.”  He wondered if the United States was against the application of the Convention.

To the unconvincing remarks about the Douma incident, he referred to comments by his delegation about multiple reports published in contravention of OPCW Technical Secretariat procedures, pointing out that the Saraqib report has the same shortcomings as the fact-finding mission report on the Douma incident, “meaning it is just as useless”.  His delegation has already refuted many times claims the Russian Federation delayed the arrival of the fact-finding mission.  In turn, he questioned why the United States, United Kingdom and France conducted strikes on alleged chemical sites before the inspectors arrived.  “You bombed the sites before any concrete evidence had been established” he said, subjecting Syria to chemical disaster.  He called on the United States to stop politicizing OPCW by using it to punish States that have fallen out of favour, noting that skepticism about Western motives is only growing.  “The truth will rise to the surface, despite United States chicanery,” he said.  “Let us make the OPCW great again.”

The representative of Syria raised several concerns about recent OPCW reports and a dangerous development in its course of work at the end April, when the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention adopted a hostile decision against his country as a result of pressure and blackmail by the United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.  Such action constitutes a precedent in OPCW history by suspending the rights of a Member State that joined voluntarily and cooperated with its Technical Secretariat.  Embodying a flawed report full of misleading and fabricated conclusions of the Investigation and Identification Team related to the alleged incidents in Al-Lataminah in 2017, the illegal decision was voted on by only 45 per cent of State parties.  Thanking countries who chose to take the right stance and not vote in favour of it, he said this politicized Western decision falls within the framework of an aggressive scheme against Syria.  Its main sponsors ignored Syria’s full cooperation with OPCW/the organization, and the decision will have serious repercussions on the future work of OPCW and the cooperation of the State parties with it.  The issuance of the illegal Investigation and Identification Team’s second misleading report days before the Conference of States Parties was a clear indication that the Team is serving its operators, he said, rejecting the report’s findings.  Syria has never used chemical weapons and renews its condemnation of their use by anyone, at any time and place, and under any circumstances.

Thanking China and the Russian Federation for their initiative to organize an informal Security Council meeting on protecting developing countries from political pressure and upholding the integrity of the non-proliferation regime, he reiterated a request for OPCW to pay due attention to growing concerns.  They include fact-finding mission reports related to the alleged use incidents in Syria, foremost of which relates to the Douma incident, he said, requesting OPCW to take the necessary immediate measures to correct the grave defects in them, as its disregard for the fundamental observations and legitimate inquiries of important personalities, specialized experts and prominent academics is unacceptable.  The Western countries that claim today to be keen on strengthening the non-proliferation regime are the ones that invented weapons of mass destruction of all kinds, used them in the First and Second World Wars and continue to develop them.  These countries cannot be entrusted with maintaining international peace and security, nor in evaluating other States’ fulfilment of their international obligations, he said.

The representative of Iran said exploitation of the Convention and politicization of OPCW have led to a credibility crisis for OPCW and challenged the consensual decision-making tradition in disarmament and non-proliferation forums.  The politically motivated decision by the Conference of States Parties stems from years of attempts by Western countries to advance their national interests, including by creating the Investigation and Identification Team through a flawed procedure and compelling the fact-finding mission to use unreliable open sources.  “Such a process definitely leads to misjudgements and erroneous conclusions,” he stressed.  That partial decision “totally fails” to acknowledge Syria’s efforts to fulfil its obligations, notably by presenting its initial declaration during a conflict, destroying all its 27 production facilities — as confirmed by OPCW itself — submitting 89 monthly reports, holding 23 consultation rounds with the Declaration Assessment Team and receiving numerous OPCW teams.  The intentional disregard of such cooperation is a clear regression from the norms of impartiality and professionalism.  Noting that Iran voted against that decision, he condemned chemical weapons use in the strongest possible terms by anyone, anywhere and under any circumstance, and called for full and non-discriminatory implementation of the Convention.

The representative of Turkey denounced gaps and discrepancies in the regime’s chemical weapons declaration, pointing to the presence of an undeclared production facility as a great concern.  The regime failed to declare that a chemical warfare agent was produced or weaponized at this site, he said, noting that sample analysis by the Declaration Assessment Team in 2020 revealed the existence of a chemical warfare agent previously undeclared.  This hints at further undeclared production activities in Syria, he said, calling it unacceptable that the regime has not made a complete and accurate declaration of its programme, in violation of the Convention.  The Security Council must act in unison to push Syria to declare the full extent of its programme.  He expressed support for the July 2020 OPCW Executive Council decision and urged the regime to resolve all outstanding issues.  Its denial of its obligations calls for further measures.  He welcomed the decision adopted by an overwhelming majority of Member States during the twenty-fifth Conference of States Parties, providing an immediate response to Syria’s persistent noncompliance.  Chemical weapons use by the Assad regime against its own people is well-documented, most recently by the Identification and Investigation Team, which found that on 4 February 2018, chlorine was used to attack civilians in Saraqib.  It has been proven that the regime is responsible for eight attacks.  He condemned its use of chemical weapons and lack of cooperation with the Identification and Investigation Team, including through visa denial and a refusal to grant entry to its chemical weapons programme, proving it continues to hide the truth.  Syria presents a litmus test for international efforts to ensure the Convention is upheld.  Stressing that Syria’s crimes against humanity cannot go unanswered, he said that ending impunity is essential.

For information media. Not an official record.