Thank you, Mr. Chair!
The repeated use of chemical weapons has been one of the most appalling aspects of the Syrian conflict. Throughout the conflict, now going on 9 years, chemical weapons have been used to serve strategic aims to suppress opposition with devastating humanitarian consequences for the Syrian people.
The OPCW Fact-Finding Mission that has most rigorous guidelines for investigations have repeatedly confirmed the use of toxic chemical agents as a weapon in Syria, including in Douma in April 2018. Further, between 2015 and 2017, the Joint Investigative Mechanism that was tasked by the Security Council to identify the perpetrators, concluded that the Syrian Arab Republic was four times and ISIL twice responsible for using chemical weapons.
Considering the inhum ane and indiscriminate effect the chemical weapons have, these findings and actions are staggering.
Estonia condemns the use of chemical weapons in the strongest terms. Any use of such weapons is a grave violation of international law. The use of chemical weapons in armed conflict amounts to a war crime and crime against humanity.
Yet regrettably, so far, chemical weapons attacks in Syria have been largely committed with impunity.
Since the Security Council renewed the JIM mandate in 2016 for one year, it has been unable to agree on any collective action regarding establishing an impartial and independent instrument for attributing the chemical weapons attacks in Syria. All attempts in the Council to move towards accountability for the use of chemical weapons in Syria have been blocked by the Russian Federation’s veto.
Impunity cannot be an option. This is the reason Estonia, along with a large majority of the State Parties of the Conference to the Chemical Weapons, supported the decision to establish a mechanism to investigate and identify the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. We have been pleased to hear about the progress made by the IIT and we look forward to its first report. The recent decision of the General Assembly to fund the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism from the UN regular budget, shows further the large support and need to address accountability for the crimes against international law committed in Syria.
It is unfortunate that this meeting has not been convened with the aim for the Security Council to discuss how to put an end to these crimes and move forward with accountability measures. Instead, the aim has been to deflect blame, increase impunity and undermine the authority of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the OPCW. This disinformation campaign undermines the well-established norm against the use of chemical weapons.
Let me be clear. Estonia fully supports and trusts the independent, impartial and professional work of the FFM, undertaken in difficult and dangerous circumstances. There is nothing that has given any reason to doubt in the conclusions of the Douma report. We also reject accusations against the White Helmets and commend their self-sacrificing humanitarian work.