Thank you, Madame President. Thank you High Representative Nakamitsu for your briefing. We appreciate your strong position in defending the norm against the use of chemical weapons and the need for accountability.
The Assad regime has used chemical weapons throughout the Syrian conflict. Although there can be no justification for their use, there is no military necessity that can be raised in their defence, chemical weapons have been an important part of the regime’s war strategy. Sarin and chlorine have been used indiscriminately against Syrian people to spread terror, force them to leave their homes and surrender.
Independent, impartial, the best experts in the field have established the Syrian regime’s responsibility for chemical weapons use on seven separate occasions. The UN-OPCW joint investigative mechanism JIM has found that the Syrian armed forces used chemical weapons in 2014 in Talmenes, 2015 in Sarmin and Qmenas, and in 2017 in Khan Shaykhun. The OPCW Investigation and Identification Team has concluded that the members of the Syrian Air Force were responsible for the use of sarin and chlorin in three instances in Ltamenah in March 2017. These attacks have caused for thousands of people, many of them children, enormous sufferings and deaths.
All of these attacks occurred after Syria had declared that all of its chemical stockpiles and production facilities had been destroyed. The fact that there are still 19 unresolved issues remaining with regard to its declaration means that the situation continues to pose a threat to international peace and security. Worryingly, one of the outstanding issues pertain to chemical weapons production facility that Syria never declared to even exist.
In light of the blatant disregard to international norms and obligations, we welcome the OPCW Member States’ determination to take action. The OPCW Executive Council adopted a decision in July last year to respond to the findings of the IIT. Due to the Syrian non-compliance to this decision, a draft decision will be provided now to the Conference of State Parties in April 2021 to suspend Syria’s certain rights and privileges under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Madame President, accountability for these heinous crimes is an essential pillar for a political solution that will allow lasting peace in Syria. Just and lasting peace can only be achieved if the perpetrators of the war crimes and crimes against humanity are identified and brought to justice.
We should be equally aware that by tolerating impunity, without providing an effective response to these crimes, the global norm against the use of chemical weapons erodes. In addition to Syria, in recent years chemical weapons have been used in Malaysia, the United Kingdom and Russia to target adversaries and political opponents. The aim is clear – to silence those who dare to speak out and pose threat to power. We condemn Mr Navalny’s poisoning and his illegal imprisonment in the strongest terms. We call Russia to stop using chemical weapons, stop concealing its chemical weapons program and conduct a thorough and transparent investigation in Mr Navalny’s poisoning.
Any use of chemical weapons is a matter for international peace and security, and therefore, a matter for the Security Council. Those responsible must be held to account and the Council has an important role in ensuring that.