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Updated On: Saturday, 21 July 2018
Development Issues

Report on Chemical Weapons in Syria

Content by: South-South News

6 April 2018, New York, USA | South-South News — A senior UN official told the Security Council on April 4 that the international chemical weapons watchdog (OPCW) continued to be “unable to confirm the completeness and accuracy” of the Syrian government’s declarations regarding the dismantling of its chemical weapons program.

UN Deputy High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Thomas Markram said discussions between the OPCW Technical Secretariat and the Syrian government were continuing but had not permitted the resolution of any of the remaining issues. He stressed that resolving these issues would allow for shared confidence in Syria’s declarations.

Markram said the persistent allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria underscored the need to identify solutions and reach agreement on an appropriate accountability mechanism. He added that unity in the Security Council would provide the best foundation for success.

US ambassador Nikki Haley said the Council’s lack of action regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria had consequences. She said the use of nerve agents in Salisbury and Kuala Lumpur proved this point and revealed a dangerous trend.

“We are rapidly sliding backward, crossing back into a world that we thought we left,” she said, “No one wants to live in a world where chemical weapons are used. No one wants to live in fear that a colorless, shapeless gas will suddenly seep into our lungs and leave us gasping for air. If we do not act, if we do not stop and change course, this is the world we could be fast approaching.”

Haley said, exactly one year after the chemical weapons attack on Khan Shaykoun, the Council must reflect on this tragedy and renew its commitment to put an end to the use of chemical weapons in Syria. She said the United States refuses to believe that the Council could not come together once again to stop chemical weapons.

British ambassador Karen Pierce said Russia blocked the renewal of the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) last November which left the international community without a proper mechanism to determine accountability for chemical weapons use in Syria. She said Russia’s disdain for the international system manifests itself not only through its actions in Syria, but also through the poisoning of two people in Salisbury.

Pierce said, “The rules-based international order and its institutions are too valuable to be put at risk in this way. It is our collective duty to protect them and seek accountability for those who choose to defy them. We fail the people of Syria, we fail the people of Salisbury, we fail the world if we do not act.”

Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the JIM’s conclusions could not be taken seriously by professionals adding that the findings reflected preordained results and defied the laws of physics. He said Russia could not support the extension of the JIM’s mandate but would not dispute the need for an investigative mechanism.

Nebenzia said Russia was proposing a draft resolution to replace the JIM with an alternative mechanism. The proposal was for the UN Secretary-General to select impartial members to the mechanism from the broadest geographical representation possible to be approved by the Security Council. He said the members would travel to the areas, select samples, and interview witnesses on the ground. He proposed the guiding link for this mechanism to be composed of specialists from the five permanent representatives of the Council who would take decisions based on consensus.

The Russian ambassador said international law “falls to pieces when suspicions, and not confirmed evidence, become the queen of evidence.” He said countries continued to “confidently announce that chemical weapons are being used by Damascus; this despite the clear absurdity of such allegations, absence of evidence, and most importantly military and political motivations behind such actions by the Syrian authorities.”

Syrian Minister Counsellor Mounzer Mounzer said his Government had fully complied with the OPCW in dismantling its chemical weapons program in a record time yet some members of the Council continue to use misinformation to carry out their political agendas to control the world and return it to the times of colonialism and guardianship. He said, “What is deplorable is the insistence of some governments to appoint themselves as guardians of the fates of people and protectors of law when in fact their political and colonial history reflect their repeated violation of the rights of these people.”

Mounzer said the main goal of these countries was to stop the advance of the Syrian army in the face of terrorists. He reaffirmed the Syrian Government’s commitment to its obligations under the chemical weapons ban treaty and to its fight against terrorism.

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