The situation in the Middle East - Security Council, 9026th Meeting

Preview Language:   Six Official
29-Apr-2022 01:30:41
Syria's failure to remedy pending issues of chemical weapons use is 'wake up call' for international community, disarmament chief tells Security Council.

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Syria’s continued failure to remedy outstanding issues prevents the international community from confirming the elimination of its chemical-weapons programme, the top United Nations disarmament official told the Security Council today as members traded allegations that the work of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is being politicized to suit national interests.

Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, recalled the historical lead-up to the Chemical Weapons Convention and past victims of chemical warfare, emphasizing that “it is obvious that not only has the Convention made the world a safer place, but also a more humane one”. However, she said that it is unfortunate that, today, many of that treaty’s historic accomplishments have been overshadowed by the continued use of chemical weapons. No example showcases that better than the numerous instances of such use in Syria, which OPCW continues to document despite that country’s accession to the Convention.

“These reports are a wake-up call to the international community about the continuing threat posed by these inhumane weapons,” she urged, expressing regret that there has been little to no change in the past month on issues related to the Syrian chemical-weapons file. OPCW has yet to receive certain requested information from Syria, and the deployment of its Declaration Assessment Team has been delayed due to that country’s continued refusal to issue an entry visa for one of the Team’s experts. She underscored that, until these outstanding issues are closed, the international community cannot have full confidence that Syria’s chemical-weapons programme has been eliminated.

In the ensuing debate, many Council members expressed regret over the limited progress made on the Syrian chemical-weapons file and called on Syria to cease its obstruction of OPCW’s work, including by providing necessary visas to the Declaration Assessment Team and by responding to OPCW’s requests for certain information. Others expressed concern over the politicization of OPCW’s work, stressing that any investigations must strictly adhere to the principles of independence, impartiality and objectivity. Some also called for campaigns of misinformation, designed to undermine OPCW’s professional credibility, to cease.

On that point, Ireland’s representative joined others in spotlighting continued efforts by Syria and the Russian Federation to undermine OPCW’s work in order to deflect attention from Syria’s culpability. She called on Damascus to stop its policy of equivocation and delay and to engage in meaningful cooperation with OPCW, including by providing the necessary clarity on all outstanding matters.

The representative of the Russian Federation, however, said that OPCW’s reports on Syria have long been built on the “presumption of guilt” for that country. OPCW — the independent and unbiased “guardian” of the Chemical Weapons Convention — has turned into a tool to punish those who do not suit Western countries and, if the situation is not rectified, OPCW will completely lose its authority, he stressed.

Ghana’s delegate, also speaking for Gabon and Kenya, reiterated the need for OPCW’s fact-finding mission in Syria and Investigation and Identification Team to remain independent, transparent and impartial as they carry out their respective mandates. He stressed that “the unaddressed gaps, inconsistencies and outstanding issues in Syria’s initial and subsequent declarations must be addressed”, encouraging that country to enhance cooperation with OPCW’s Secretariat.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates, echoing that point, encouraged a constructive, meaningful dialogue between OPCW and Syria, also joining other members in spotlighting the risk posed by the acquisition of chemical weapons by terrorist groups.

Syria’s delegate, noting that the Convention has been manipulated and politicized in recent years by certain Western countries to target Governments that refuse to capitulate to their instructions, stressed that accountability must be based on professional, objective investigations. Syria has fully cooperated with OPCW and fulfilled its obligations under the Convention, and he rejected certain countries’ allegations that attempt to discredit Syria’s seriousness in complying with the same.

Also speaking were representatives of the United States, Mexico, France, Albania, Norway, India, China, United Kingdom, Turkey and Iran.

The representatives of the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom took the floor a second time.

The meeting began at 10:39 a.m. and ended at 12:09 p.m.

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