Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
October 25, 2022
Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Izumi, for your briefing. We appreciate your persistent efforts, and the work of the experts of the OPCW, to provide independent, thoroughly researched, detailed information about the lack of Syria’s progress towards the complete and verifiable elimination of its chemical weapons program.
Nine years ago, in October 2013, the Syrian regime submitted to the OPCW its official plan for the systematic, total, and verified destruction of its chemical weapons program. Just weeks earlier, the regime had killed approximately one thousand people in a horrific chemical attack on Ghouta.
Faced with such carnage, the Syrian regime should have been shamed into changing its ways; into finally riding the world of these barbaric weapons. But the Assad regime has no shame.
And so, for years, rather than comply with its agreements and make the world and Syria safer, the regime has worked instead to pull the wool over the eyes of this Council.
The Assad regime, backed by Russia, continues to obfuscate and delay, rather than fully declare the chemical weapons stockpiles it has repeatedly used, a violation of its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention it joined in 2013.
The Assad regime also continues to prevent the deployment of the OPCW’s Declaration Assessment Team to Syria, in clear violation of its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 2118.
The DAT has now proposed to address unresolved issues via correspondence. While the United States commends the OPCW for seeking a way forward, document review is no substitute for the DAT deploying to Syria.
As such, we continue to call on those with influence over the Assad regime to encourage Damascus to immediately permit the DAT to return to Syria, resolve discrepancies, and help ensure the verified elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons program, as it is bound to do under the Chemical Weapons Convention and UN Security Council Resolution 2118.
In the absence of such positive action, however, we call on the Assad regime to provide a full response to the DAT’s information request as expeditiously as possible.
It is worth noting, however, that even when the Syrian regime has provided information, the regime’s chemical weapons declarations have been riddled with gaps, inconsistencies, and unresolved discrepancies. Because of this – as we heard today – the Director General of the OPCW continues to assess that the Syrian declarations still cannot be considered accurate or complete.
Syria’s failure to provide complete, accurate information is extremely concerning. There is indeed a real possibility the Assad regime could, once again, use chemical weapons as it has done, repeatedly, against its own population.
The U.S. government assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons at least fifty times since Syria joined the convention in 2013. The OPCW-UN Joint investigative Mechanism and the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team have independently confirmed the regime’s use of chemical weapons on eight occasions. The IIT’s work is ongoing, and we look forward to its next report on the April 2018 attack on Douma.
Mr. President, the Council is not duped by the Assad regime’s obfuscation, aided by its ally Russia. OPCW States parties are not duped either and continue to support the OPCW’s work on Syria.
This has been repeatedly demonstrated, most recently during the 101st meeting of the OPCW Executive Council earlier this month, by the overwhelming support for the Organization budget that includes funding for the Investigation and Identification Team.
The regime’s continued refusal to provide answers or information requested years ago by the DAT is an affront to OPCW, this Council, and the international community.
Its failure to declare and destroy its chemical weapons stores, meanwhile, is a threat to the Syrian people and the wider region. Taken together, these behaviors undermine our collective security and make the world less safe.
The United States remains committed to holding the Syrian regime accountable for its use of chemical weapons and condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anyone, under any circumstances.
And just yesterday, we took action to hold three Syrian regime military officials involved in the August 2013 air strikes on Ghouta accountable These three officials. and their immediate families, are now ineligible to enter the United States.
The regime should end its intransigence and simply meet its obligations under both Security Council Resolution 2118 and the Chemical Weapons Convention as quickly as possible.
Doing so would be a positive step toward enhancing our collective security and help to ensure that we never again witness the horrific scenes we have seen in Syria over the last nine years. Thank you, Mr. President.