Statement by DRP Gert Auväärt at UN Security Council VTC on Syria chemical weapons

Thank you, Mr President. I thank the High Representative Izumi Nakamitsu for her briefing. We greatly appreciate your calls for Syrian cooperation and for the unity of this Council to ensure accountability for the use of chemical weapons.

The monthly report of the Director-General of the OPCW on the progress in the elimination of the chemical weapons in Syria remains largely unchanged. There is no progress. This is the ninetieth report since 2014 and the outstanding issues with regard to the initial declaration remain in place. Worryingly, one of them pertains to a chemical weapons production facility, which Syria still denies to have ever used for that purposes; contrary to the facts and evidence that prove otherwise.

A decade long conflict in Syria reflects the Assad regime’s 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 first report of the IIT. This report concluded that Syrian armed forces used chemical weapons against its own people in three instances in Ltamenah in March 2017.

Due to the Syrian non-compliance with the Executive Council decision, a draft decision was put forward in November last year to the OPCW Conference of State Parties on behalf of 46 states, including Estonia. We hope that once the Conference reconvenes later this month, it takes appropriate action to show that there are serious consequences for the use of chemical weapons.

Mr President, Estonia is convinced that a robust response from the Security Council is essential to hold those responsible to account, seek justice for the victims and prevent such attacks from happening again. The Security Council and all its members have a responsibility to protect the international non-proliferation regime, which underpins our collective security. The use of a weapon of mass destruction by anyone and anywhere is not and cannot become acceptable.

Mr President, to conclude let me reiterate Estonia’s full confidence in the professional, independent and impartial work of the OPCW and its Technical Secretariat. We firmly reject attempts to discredit this body in order to hide the Assad regime’s crimes and avoid accountability. We call on the Syrian regime to cooperate with the Technical Secretariat and its investigative mechanisms actively and fully. We also call on the Russian Federation to disclose, urgently, fully and in a transparent manner, the circumstances of the poisoning of Mr Navalny with a chemical nerve agent of the Novichok group and to inform the Security Council in this regard.