Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
July 20, 2022
Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, High Representative Nakamitsu. We appreciate your consistent efforts, as well as those of the OPCW experts to provide independent, thoroughly researched, detailed information about Syria’s chemical weapons program and its use of chemical weapons.
I think we should take stock of where we are as we meet once again to address this issue. The Syrian regime has still not provided information requested in October 2020 on the nerve agents produced and weaponized at a weapons production facility that the regime declared to not be involved in chemical weapons production. The regime also has not provided information requested in July 2021 on the declared chemical weapons production facility that was reportedly damaged in an attack in June 2021. Syria claimed two chlorine cylinders implicated in that Douma chemical weapons attack were destroyed at this site as a result of this purported attack. But as we just heard from the High Representative, the regime has not responded to multiple requests for information or provided an explanation for the movement of those cylinders to the site of their purported destruction.
The regime has not provided information or explanations on the Barzah facility of the Syrian Scientific Research Center, where chemicals that can either be used as chemical weapons themselves or as precursors, were detected in November 2018. Nor has the regime completed any of the measures requested by the OPCW Executive Council in its July 2020 decision that the regime declare the production and stockpiling facilities implicated in three chemical weapons attacks in March 2017, that it declare all of the chemical weapons it possesses, and that it resolve all of the outstanding issues regarding its initial chemical weapons program declaration.
The regime has refused to grant all requested visas to the Declaration Assessment Team, despite the regime’s clear obligations under Security Council Resolution 2118 to do so. The regime has also refused to participate in a meeting with the full Declaration Assessment Team outside of Syria.
Through deteriorating cooperation with the OPCW and the failure to hold the next round of consultations for more than a year, Syria has left unresolved the 20 issues in its still incomplete initial declaration. The Assad regime and its supporters, Russia in particular as we have just heard, have repeatedly claimed that the OPCW is biased and unprofessional. That claim is absurd. The regime itself has amended its own declaration 17 times, but only after OPCW experts identified discrepancies between what the regime had told them and the clear, observable facts. Is the OPCW biased when it uncovered these discrepancies that the regime belatedly admitted to? This Council has a responsibility to address this issue seriously, and Russia shares in that responsibility.
After 105 reports from the OPCW Director-General – 105 – the Technical Secretariat assesses that Syria’s initial declaration cannot be considered accurate and complete in accordance with obligations. The OPCW attribution effort continues in the face of relentless obstruction by the Assad regime and its supporters.
We are looking forward to the release of the OPCW’s investigation and identification team report on the use of chemical weapons in 2018 in Douma. We must recall that the OPCW’s investigation and identification team has already attributed four separate chemical weapons attacks in Syria to the Assad regime. Those incidents are in addition to the four chemical weapons attacks attributed to the Assad regime by the former OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism.
But of course, tragically, the regime’s most grievous transgression of all is still to the Syrian people – to the dead and injured for whom there is no justice, to the surviving loved ones for whom there is no comfort or closure, and to all those Syrians who still live in fear that Assad’s chemical weapons might once again be unleashed on them at any moment.
We continue to call on Syria to engage in meaningful cooperation with the OPCW and fully comply with its obligations. Thank you, Mr. President.