SC: Syria - Chemical Weapons

Statement by Ambassador Mona Juul in the UN Security Council open briefing on Syria / Chemical Weapons, 5 January 2021.

Firstly, allow me to join colleagues in extending my own congratulations to Tunisia for the excellent PoW they have presented. We very much welcome your Presidency this month, and look forward to working with you to make it a success.

Thank you also to all the words of warm welcome to us as new members. We also add our congratulations to our fellow incoming members. 

Turning to the issue at hand this morning, I would like to thank the High Representative for Disarmament Ms. Nakamitsu for her briefing.

Dear colleagues,

It’s fitting that this is the first meeting we undertake as full members of the Security Council.

Syria remains a large and very visible part of this Council’s work. And one we are likely to devote considerable attention to.

The world has stood unified in the condemnation of chemical weapons since the atrocities of World War I.

And yet their use remains on the Council’s agenda today.

Chemical weapons attacks in Syria have been committed with impunity so far.

This is unacceptable. Those responsible must be held accountable through credible national or international criminal justice mechanisms.

Norway strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons in any situation.

It is an abhorrent crime, a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. One which should be addressed seriously by this Council.

Since the adoption of Resolution 2118 in 2013, the use of chemical weapons in Syria is well documented and confirmed by: the former OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism, and the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team.

As part of the joint OPCW-UN mission Norway, together with Denmark, conducted a naval operation to ensure transportation of chemical weapons and components out of Syria in 2014.

This was a contribution to destroying Syria’s chemical weapons in order to prevent further atrocities on the civilian population.

Today, almost seven years later, we are deeply concerned by the continued failure of the Syrian Arab Republic to fulfil its obligations in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Norway has full confidence in the OPCW and its technical secretariat.

This obviously includes full confidence in the findings of the Investigation and Identification Team concerning the use of chemical weapons in Ltamenah (uttales: Latemenah) in Syria in March 2017.

Syria failed to respond to the measures requested in the decision made by the 94th meeting of the Executive Council of the OPCW in July last year, within the 90 day deadline.

Therefore, Norway is co-sponsoring a draft decision of the Conference of the States Parties to suspend certain rights and privileges of the Syrian Arab Republic under the Convention.

We urge the Syrian Arab Republic-as a matter of urgency- to comply in full with:

Security Council Resolution 2118 of 2013,

the Chemical Weapons Convention – to which it is a state party –

and the decision of the Executive Council of the OPCW of July 2020 concerning the use of chemical weapons in Ltamenah (uttales: Latemenah) in March 2017.

Allow me now to turn to the latest monthly report from the OPCW on progress in the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme.

While we welcome progress on three of the outstanding issues from Syria’s initial declaration, it is regrettable that 19 issues remain outstanding.

One area of particular concern is that the OPCW has found reasons to doubt Syria’s declaration that a certain facility has never been used for the production of chemical weapons.

The review of all information gathered by the OPCW’s Declaration Assessment Team indicates that production and/or weaponisation of chemical warfare nerve agents did take place at the facility.

In order to rebuild trust, Syria must comply fully with the OPCW’s request for information about the types, and quantities, of chemical agents produced and/or weaponized at the site.

We are also concerned by the continued failure of Syrian authorities to provide sufficient technical information, or explanations, about the Schedule 2.B.04 chemical detected during the third round of inspections at the Barzah facilities of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Centre.

Norway firmly rejects attempts to discredit or bring into disrepute the OPCW and the work of the Technical Secretariat.

Such attempts against the international community’s efforts in securing accountability and preventing use of Chemical Weapons are deeply concerning.

Norway is committed to supporting the OPCW in its efforts to put in place arrangements to identify the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic.

And we will work closely with all on the Council to ensure an appropriate response to the use of chemical weapons.