HomeUnited NationsSyria’s Declaration on Chemical Weapons Programme Remains Incomplete, Delegates Tell Security Council

Syria’s Declaration on Chemical Weapons Programme Remains Incomplete, Delegates Tell Security Council

Disarmament Head Urges Damascus Cooperate with Technical Secretariat, Allow Access

The representative of Albania said the situation has not changed and there has not been any progress, preventing the resolution of the Syrian chemical weapons issue.  He deeply regretted Syria’s deliberate obstruction.  The 105th report comes to the same conclusion as the same inconsistences and discrepancies exist.  It is still not possible for Declaration Assessment Team members to confirm issues.  There is a refusal to provide key information and look at the true scope of the situation.  Closing the investigation quickly will help Syrian citizens and help the Council support the people of Syria, he concluded. The Russian Federation’s representative said the organization’s latest report follows the same pattern and aims to achieve the same goal as previous ones:  creating an impression about Syria’s alleged inability to be constructive or cooperate.  Yet, Damascus continues to comply with its obligations and actively engage with OPCW.  The Director-General should focus all efforts to “expeditiously turn this shameful page” in OPCW’s history where, for the benefit of Western representatives, a State was stripped of its rights despite “conscientiously complying” with the Chemical Weapons Convention, he said. RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil), Council President for July, speaking in his national capacity, welcomed the recent understanding to address shortcomings in Syria’s initial declaration by exchanging correspondence.  Even if such exchanges cannot replace consultations between Syria and the Declaration Assessment Team, they are a step towards the resumption of constructive dialogue.  Brazil urges the restoration of trust between OPCW and Syria and the need to overcome the regrettable politicization undermining the culture of consensus within the organization and its decision-making bodies.  While the Council should closely watch the progress in the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria and enforce accountability for their use, the timing of these meeting needs to be urgently reassessed.  The absence of a meeting in June did not affect the Council’s work on the file in any way, he said, reinforcing his perception that the ideal frequency for such exchanges is quarterly.  Holding monthly meetings, when there is little or no relevant development on the ground, does not efficiently use the Council’s time and resources. Statements Syria’s delegate said that, despite difficult circumstances, Damascus has fully cooperated with OPCW to destroy its stock of chemical weapons and production facilities “in record time”.  Syria has positively engaged despite the politicization over recent years, the hostile approach of some States and the Technical Secretariat’s procrastination in dealing with some aspects of the dossier.  Detailing several positive developments — including Syria’s submission of its 104th monthly report on the elimination of chemical weapons and production facilities — he said that it is unfortunate that Damascus’ cooperation with OPCW was met with “ingratitude and denial”.  The reports present only a partial account of certain aspects by placing them outside of context.  Responding to comments made by the representatives of the United States, France and Albania, he stressed that those aggressive, non-constructive positions lead nowhere.  He called on those colleagues to refrain from such hostile declarations and adopt a more positive approach to let the Council shoulder its responsibilities in line with the Charter of the United Nations. Mr. SABBAGH (Syria), taking the floor a second time, recalling that the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs said that the OPCW’s Declaration Assessment Team is an investigative body, emphasized that this is not the case.  The Team is neither an investigative nor an inspection body, and was instead created to assist Syria in providing its initial declaration.  On the granting of visas, he said that the issue is one of dealing with an expert who has lost objectivity and neutrality.  He stressed that Syria is not making a choice, as OPCW can choose whoever it wants as it has sufficient experts to do the job. She regretted that the Technical Secretariat still cannot carry out the twenty-fifth round of consultations in Damascus between the Syrian authorities and the Declaration Assessment Team, due to that country’s repeated refusal to issue an entry visa for the Team’s lead technical expert.  The Syrian authorities have stated that the exclusion of the expert from a limited round of consultations in Beirut, as proposed by the OPCW Secretariat, is a condition for its participation in the consultations. She also was advised that, in response to the OPCW Technical Secretariat’s note verbale dated 20 May, Syria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates sent a letter to the OPCW Director-General on 31 May.  This note agreed with the OPCW Secretariat’s proposal to address shortcomings in Syria’s initial declaration through an exchange of correspondence for the time being.  In his letter, Syria’s Foreign Minister also acknowledged that such an exchange could not replace consultations between the Syrian authorities and the Declaration Assessment Team.  The letter also stated that the exclusion of the Team’s lead technical expert was a condition for holding the twenty-fifth round of consultations. In the ensuing discussion, the representative of France recalled that, nine years ago, President Bashar al-Assad killed more than 1,000 Syrians in the suburbs of Damascus.  This was never contested, and after that massacre, Council members unanimously adopted resolution 2118 (2013), including those who today contest Syria’s use of chemical weapons.  He deplored the absence of progress and said the situation is not evolving and Syria’s initial declaration is still incomplete.  The regime continues to obstruct OPCW’s work with a complete absence of cooperation. ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico) said that, despite recurring requests, Syria’s authorities have not provided all the necessary information regarding many discrepancies.  There has been no progress in clarifying the unauthorized transfer of cylinders relating to the Douma 2018 incident.  She noted Syria’s acceptance of the use of correspondence.  While not providing the same results as placing a team on the ground, this could build trust and shed light on pending issues.  She regretted that another round of consultations cannot be held as Syria will not issue a visa for a member of the Declaration Assessment Team, noting that a technical matter should not become a political issue.  She urged Syria to fulfil its obligations under the Convention on Chemical Weapons, as well as Council resolutions.  Mexico fully supports the professionalism and impartiality of OPCW.  The Council has an obligation to promote accountability against the use of chemical weapons. MONA JUUL (Norway) noted again that no progress has been made on this file since the last meeting and Syria is still not fulfilling its obligations, in line with the Chemical Weapons Convention and Council resolution 2118 (2013).  The lack of progress is concerning, not only for Syria, but for the international community’s attempt to uphold the global prohibition against the use of chemical weapons.  She regretted that the twenty-fifth round of consultations between the Declaration Assessment Team and Syria’s authorities has not been held, due to Damascus’ refusal to issue a visa to the Assessment Team’s lead technical expert.  She reminded Syria of its obligation to cooperate with OPCW, and to accept and provide access for the organization’s personnel.  She continued to urge Syria to provide sufficient information to OPCW to resolve the 20 outstanding issues from Syria’s initial declaration.  Accountability for the use of chemical weapons must remain a priority, both for the international community and the people of Syria. Mr. SABBAGH (Syria) objected to the High Representative’s remarks, stressing that the mandate is not to verify Damascus’ initial declaration.  It is to assist Syria in presenting its assessment.  “No mandate to verify; a mandate to assist,” he insisted. DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said that OPCW’s latest report is based on the same pattern and aims to achieve the same goal as previous ones; namely, to create an impression about Syria’s alleged inability to be constructive or cooperate.  However, Damascus continues to comply with its obligations and actively engage with OPCW.  Noting a significant list of questions for the OPCW Director-General, he expressed hope that the same “will find the time to speak to the Council” when it next meets to discuss this issue.  The Director-General should focus all efforts to “expeditiously turn this shameful page” in OPCW’s history where, for the benefit of Western representatives, a State was stripped of its rights despite “conscientiously complying” with the Chemical Weapons Convention, he said.  He went on to reject any current or future reports of the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team as “an illegitimate product of an illegitimate structure”, as such reports do not present accurate information, but, rather, are shaped to fit the narrative of Damascus’ guilt.  Reiterating that Western countries’ politicization of OPCW does damage to the chemical-weapons-prevention regime and undermines the organization’s ability to respond to real threats, he called on such countries to “eschew their perverse focus” on exploiting OPCW as a blind instrument to punish States “that are inconvenient to them”. Turning to the decision titled “Addressing the Possession and Use of Chemical Weapons by the Syrian Arab Republic”, adopted on 21 April 2021, she stated that Damascus has not yet completed any of the measures stipulated in paragraph 5. ÖNCÜ KEÇELI (Türkiye), noting that outstanding issues related to Syria’s initial and subsequent declarations persist, said OPCW is awaiting responses to its questions regarding chemical weapons facilities and chlorine cylinders.  The regime continues to delay, refusing to meet the Declaration Assessment Team and to issue a visa to one member.  Türkiye expects action from the Council to ensure the regime cooperates with that team and immediately declares the full extent of its programme to OPCW.  Current investigations by the OPCW fact-finding mission and the Investigation and Identification Team are important for establishing the truth about chemical‑weapons use.  He took note of the fact-finding mission report, establishing the use of chemicals as weapons in 2015 and 2016, and awaits the results of the Investigation and Identification Team investigation into these attacks.  The use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere and under any circumstances is a grave violation of international law.  He condemned their repeated use by the Assad regime against its people, underscoring the collective responsibility to ensure accountability for crimes committed in Syria.  “We owe this to the victims,” he remarked.  It is “high time” for the Council to act in accordance with international law.  Syria must be urged to cooperate with OPCW without delay, which is essential for preventing the recurrence of chemical weapons use.  Ending impunity is key to achieving peace in Syria, he added. XING JISHENG (China) expressing regret that the OPCW Director-General declined the Council’s invitation, said his country firmly opposes any use of chemical weapons under any circumstances.  It has always called for dialogue and consultations to resolve outstanding issues related to Syria’s initial declaration.  He encouraged the OCPW Technical Secretariat to maintain communication with Syria regarding inspection of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre and the meeting between OPCW and Syria’s Foreign Minister.  He called for respecting the State party’s concerns on the visa issue related to one expert and to “show flexibility” on the matter.  OPCW should strictly follow the Convention’s requirements in attributing the alleged use of chemical weapons, abiding by the principles of independence, impartiality and objectivity, and respecting science and facts to ensure procedural compliance, reliable evidence and credible conclusions.  Many countries, including China, have opposed the decision titled “Addressing the threat from Chemical Weapons Use”, which goes beyond the scope of the Convention.  China is deeply concerned about the highly politicized work of OPCW and deep division among States parties.  He expressed hope the OPCW Director-General and Technical Secretariat will uphold the technical nature of the organization, return to the tradition of consensus-based decision-making and not allow OPCW to become a geopolitical tool.  He called on the Council to be “effectiveness-oriented” and to consider holding less frequent or combined meetings on the issues at hand. PRATIK MATHUR (India) expressed hope that the twenty-fifth round of consultations with the Declaration Assessment Team and Syria, pending since April 2021, will be organized at the earliest.  India attaches high importance to the Convention and its full, effective and non-discriminatory implementation, he said, encouraging all parties to ensure that its integrity is maintained.  Outlining India’s rejection of any chemical weapons use, by anyone, anywhere, at any time, under any circumstance, he said any investigation into their potential use must be impartial and objective.  The procedures embedded in the Convention must be followed, with facts established and evidence-based conclusions reached.  India has cautioned about the potential for terrorist entities and individuals to gain access to chemical weapons, including in the region.  Reports by the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da‘esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (UNITAD) have also referred to repeated deployments of chemical weapons by United Nations-proscribed terrorist groups and those affiliated with Da’esh against civilians, between 2014 and 2016.  Noting that India contributed 0,000 in support of UNITAD investigations, he said progress on other tracks also would help realize peace in Syria.  All parties, including external players, must demonstrate commitment to a Syria-led and -owned political process held under United Nations auspices, per resolution 2254 (2015). HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), speaking also for Gabon and Kenya, reaffirming his delegation’s commitment to the Convention and resolution 2118 (2013), and support for OPCW’s work, expressed concern over the Technical Secretariat’s assessment that the statements submitted by Syria’s authorities cannot be considered accurate and complete, in accordance with the Convention, resolution 2118 (2013) and decisions of the Executive Council.  He expressed similar concern that the Secretariat has yet to receive Syria’s declaration regarding all undeclared types and quantities of nerve agents produced and/or militarized at a former chemical weapons production facility that was declared as never having been used to produce and/or militarize these agents.  As the Declaration Assessment Team’s on-site operations are vital for implementing its mandated responsibilities and relevant Executive Council decisions, he appealed to Syria to grant unfettered access for all team members and encouraged greater cooperation between the OPCW Secretariat and Syria’s authorities.  He welcomed the extension of the Tripartite Agreement among OPCW, Syria and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) until 31 December, pressing the Council to better address issues impeding the implementation of resolution 2118 (2013). Ms. NAKAMITSU, responding to a request by the representative of the Russian Federation, said the Declaration Assessment Team is mandated to verify Syria’s initial declaration through bilateral consultations with Syria’s national authorities.  It is a means for verification, as well as to assist Syria in the implementation of its Convention obligations.  As to the insistence on inclusion for the expert whose visa has not been granted, she said she has been advised that this expert has been part of the team and in direct contact with Syrian experts and officials since April 2014, when the Team was established.  This expert has deployed to Syria more than 20 times and is familiar with the entire history of Syria’s initial declaration, including outstanding and resolved issues.  The expert also is fluent in Arabic. The representative of the United States said the Syrian regime has refused to grant all requested visas to the Declaration Assessment Team, despite its clear obligations under Council resolution 2118 (2013), and to meet with that team outside of Syria.  Given its failure to hold the next round of consultations for more than a year, Syria has left unresolved 20 issues in its incomplete declaration.  The regime and its supporters, including Moscow, claim that OPCW is biased.  “That claim is absurd,” he said, recalling that the regime has amended its initial declaration 17 times — and only after OPCW has noted its discrepancies with observable facts.  “The Council has responsibility to address this issue seriously and Russia shares that responsibility,” he said.  After 105 reports by the OPCW Director-General, the Technical Secretariat states that the declaration cannot be considered complete, notably amid the relentless obstruction of the regime. Ms. NAKAMITSU, responding, said that she did not use words such as “investigative” or “inspection”, and emphasized that the Declaration Assessment Team’s mandate is to verify Syria’s initial declaration through bilateral consultations with Damascus and to assist it in this regard. As such, she said OPCW considers that expert is an indispensable Declaration Assessment Team member.  While visa issuance is an issue of national sovereignty, paragraph 7 of resolution 2118 (2013) establishes special arrangements in this regard, outlining that Syria shall cooperate fully with OPCW and the United Nations, including by accepting personnel designated by either organization and providing them with immediate unfettered access to — and the right to inspect — any and all sites, and by allowing immediate unfettered access to individuals that OPCW has grounds to believe to be of importance for the purpose of its mandate.  “This is the reason why this member is very important to be part of the round of consultations,” she added. International efforts to clarify Syria’s declarations on its chemical weapons programme still have not progressed, the United Nations disarmament chief told the Security Council today, as some delegates sparred over the contents of the fact-finding mission’s latest report. RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States) thanked the High Representative for providing independent and thoroughly researched information about Syria’s chemical weapons use and programme.  Syria’s regime has not provided information requested in October 2020 on nerve agents produced and weaponized at a facility that the regime said was not involved in chemical production.  Nor has it offered information requested in July 2021 on the declared chemical weapons facility that was reportedly damaged in a June 2021 attack.  It claimed that two chlorine cylinders implicated in that attack were destroyed at a site — but, as was just heard, the regime has not responded to multiple requests nor provided an explanation about the moving of those cylinders to their site of destruction.  Nor has it answered questions about the Bazrah facility of the Syria Scientific Research Centre, where chemicals that can be used as weapons were detected in December 2018, or completed any measures requested by OPCW’s Executive Council in its July 2020 decision that Syria declare all chemical weapons it possesses and resolve all outstanding issues.  He said the regime has refused to grant all requested visas to the Declaration Assessment Team, despite its clear obligations under resolution 2118 (2013), and to meet with that team outside of Syria.  Given the failure to hold the next round of consultations for more than a year, Syria has left unresolved 20 issues in its incomplete declaration.  The regime and its supporters, including the Russian Federation, claim that OPCW is biased.  “That claim is absurd,” he said, recalling that the regime has amended its initial declaration 17 times — and only after OPCW has noted its discrepancies with observable facts.  “The Council has responsibility to address this issue seriously and Russia shares that responsibility,” he said.  After 105 reports by the OPCW Director-General, the Technical Secretariat states that the declaration cannot be considered complete, notably amid the relentless obstruction of the regime.  The United States looks forward to the Investigation and Identification Team report on the use of chemical weapons in Douma in 2018, he said, noting that the team has already attributed four chemical weapons attacks in Syria to the regime — in addition to four other such attacks attributed by the OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism.  He called for Syria’s full compliance with its obligations. The OPCW Technical Secretariat also expects further information and documentation from Syria regarding damage caused during the 8 June 2021 attack on a military facility housing a declared former chemical weapons production facility.  She was advised that the Technical Secretariat has not yet received a response to the request for information regarding the unauthorized movement of, and remains of, two destroyed cylinders related to the chemical weapon incident that took place in Douma on 7 April 2018.  Syria must respond with urgency to the Technical Secretariat’s requests, she said. Syria’s full cooperation with the Technical Secretariat is essential to closing all outstanding issues, she said.  As stressed repeatedly, due to the identified gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies that remain unresolved, the Secretariat continues to assess that, at this stage, the declaration submitted by Syria cannot be considered accurate and complete, in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention.  The Secretariat remains fully committed to ensure Syria’s full implementation of all its declaration requirements and help Syria fulfil its obligations under the Convention.  She reiterated her full support for the integrity, professionalism, impartiality, objectivity and independence of OPCW. She said Syria has yet to provide sufficient technical information or explanations that would enable the Technical Secretariat to close the issue related to the detection of a Schedule 2 chemical at the Barzah facilities of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre in November 2018. She urged Syria’s Government to cooperate with the Technical Secretariat, as set out in paragraph 7 of article VII of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and facilitate arrangements to deploy the Declaration Assessment Team, in accordance with paragraph 7 of Council resolution 2118 (2013).  This includes allowing immediate and unfettered access for all personnel designated by the Secretariat. In response to the OPCW Technical Secretariat’s note verbale dated 20 May, Syria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates sent a letter to the OPCW Director-General on 31 May.  This note agreed with the Technical Secretariat’s proposal to address shortcomings in Syria’s initial declaration by exchanging correspondence for the time being.  In his letter, Syria’s Foreign Minister also acknowledged that such an exchange could not replace consultations between the Syrian authorities and the OPCW Declaration Assessment Team.  The letter also stated that the exclusion of the Team’s lead technical expert was a condition to stage the twenty-fifth round of consultations. Regarding the in-person meeting between the OPCW Director-General and the Syrian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, she has been advised that the Technical Secretariat is waiting for Damascus’ position on the latest version of the agenda.  The proposed meeting would be an important opportunity to strengthen dialogue and cooperation between both parties.  The OPCW fact-finding mission is studying all available information related to allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria and continuing to work with Syria and other States parties on a number of incidents and prepare for upcoming deployments. BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria) said that, despite his country’s difficult circumstances, Damascus has fully cooperated with OPCW to destroy its stock of chemical weapons and production facilities “in record time”.  Further, Syria has maintained a constructive approach and positive engagement despite the politicization witnessed in recent years, the hostile approach of some States and the Technical Secretariat’s procrastination in dealing with some aspects of the dossier.  Detailing several positive developments — including Syria’s submission of its 104th monthly report on the elimination of chemical weapons and production facilities — he said that it is unfortunate that Damascus’ cooperation with OPCW was met with “ingratitude and denial”, and that recent reports focus on negative aspects while ignoring all positive developments.  Further, the reports present only a partial account of certain aspects by placing them outside of context. She said the OPCW Director-General has stated that he cannot justify traveling to a State party that has been deprived certain rights by the Conference of States Parties, to pursue a meeting that the Technical Secretariat had proposed.  However, he also stated during the one hundredth session of the OPCW Executive Council, held from 5 to 7 July, that, when Syria is ready to back its declarations of commitment with actions, including by engaging on the venue and agenda, the Secretariat would be ready engage accordingly.  She was informed that the Director-General’s office maintains regular direct contact with the Foreign Minister’s office.  “Engagements are still continuing,” she said, expressing hope that such meetings will take place as soon as possible. Regarding this twenty-fifth round of consultations in Damascus between the Syrian authorities and the Declaration Assessment Team, Ms. Nakamitsu said she regretted that the Technical Secretariat still cannot carry out these consultations because of Syria’s repeated refusal to issue an entry visa for the Team’s lead technical expert.  The Syrian authorities have stated that the exclusion of the expert from a limited round of consultations in Beirut, as proposed by the Secretariat, is a condition for its participation in the consultations. Also speaking today were the representatives of Ireland, India, Mexico, United Kingdom, Ghana (also on behalf of Gabon and Kenya), United Arab Emirates, China, Norway, Brazil, Iran and Türkiye. Presenting an update on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) regarding the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons programme (document S/2022/530), Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu stated that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Technical Secretariat has yet to receive the requested declaration from Syria on all undeclared types and quantities of nerve agent, produced and/or weaponized, at a former chemical weapons production facility that was declared by Damascus as never having been used to produce and/or weaponize chemical warfare agents. MARTIN GALLAGHER (Ireland), expressing support for OPCW, noted that it has been more than a year since any progress has been made.  Syria’s cooperation with OPCW has “gone into reverse”, with 20 outstanding issues to be resolved.  While Syria claims it is cooperating with the Technical Secretariat, “we have seen no real effort from Syria to comply with its obligations”, he said.  OPCW requests for information go unanswered, on chemical agents produced at a mis-declared chemical weapons production facility, the schedule 2 chemicals from Bazrah, and on chlorine canisters, forming part of the evidence from Douma, which were moved without informing the organization, and supposedly destroyed.  Syria also has blocked or sought to place conditions on the organization’s work, contravening resolution 2118 (2013) to accept personnel and provide unfettered access to OPCW and United Nations personnel.  Noting that OPCW has shown flexibility and a willingness make progress, he voiced concern that arrangements for bilateral meeting between the OPCW Director-General and Syria Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad are outstanding, after more than a year.  Syria cannot claim it is cooperating and at the same time, hinder OPCW’s work by blocking the Declaration Assessment Team and delaying meetings with the Director-General.  Syria must engage seriously with OPCW “without prevarication” he said, stressing that the international community must be assured that Syria no longer holds or produces chemical weapons.  It is only with OPCW that this can be done.  The Council should uphold the legal norm against chemical weapons, he said, adding that Ireland will work, including through its membership on the OPCW Executive Council, to resolve the issues. She urged Syria’s Government to cooperate with the Technical Secretariat, as set out in paragraph 7 of article VII of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and facilitate arrangements for the deployment of the Declaration Assessment Team, in accordance with paragraph 7 of Council resolution 2118 (2013).  This includes allowing immediate and unfettered access for all personnel designated by the Secretariat. IZUMI NAKAMITSU, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said efforts by the Declaration Assessment Team to clarify all outstanding issues regarding the initial declaration and subsequent declarations of Syria, have not progressed since the Council’s last meeting on this issue.  The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Technical Secretariat has yet to receive the requested declaration from Syria on all undeclared types and quantities of nerve agent, produced and/or weaponized, at a former chemical weapons production facility that was declared by Damascus as never having been used to produce and/or weaponize chemical warfare agents. NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) recalled that, nine years ago, President Bashar al-Assad killed more than 1,000 Syrians in the suburbs of Damascus.  This was never contested, and after that massacre, Council members unanimously adopted resolution 2118 (2013), including those who today contest Syria’s use of chemical weapons.  Deploring the absence of progress, he pointed out that the situation is not evolving, and that Syria’s initial declaration is still incomplete.  Syria must shed full light on all its chemical-weapons stocks, but the regime continues to obstruct OPCW’s work with a complete absence of cooperation.  He stressed that this attitude of systemic obstruction is unacceptable, calling on the Syrian regime to respond, in writing, to the 20 outstanding questions as soon as possible.  Syria must fulfil its international obligations if it wishes to restore the rights and privileges suspended by the Conference of the States Parties in April 2021.  He added that it is unacceptable that there are those who call into question the OPCW Technical Secretariat’s legitimacy and working methods. SHAHAD MATAR (United Arab Emirates), noting that an agreement to hold a round of limited consultations between the Syrian authorities and the OPCW’s Declaration Assessment Team in Beirut was not reached, stressed that consultations and dialogue are critical to assessing the status of outstanding issues and making progress on this file.  The parties must reach a compromise, and she expressed hope that the obstacles to holding these consultations will be overcome before the Council next meets on this matter.  The fact that chemical weapons could be obtained by terrorist organizations poses a threat to both regional and internal security and stability.  Considering Da’esh’s continued attempts to launch attacks and develop its combat capabilities, the international community must strengthen its efforts to prevent this group from rearranging its ranks and acquiring chemical weapons.  She went on to stress the importance of making progress on the chemical weapons file and in all files related to resolving the Syrian crisis. Briefing FERGUS ECKERSLEY (United Kingdom) underscored the need for those present to keep the facts in mind and not be distracted by the “blizzard of disinformation” that surrounds Syria’s chemical-weapons programme.  The responsibility for consultations not occurring rests with the Syrian side, which has failed to respond to letters or issue a visa for the lead technical expert.  Noting that Syria has also failed to comply with other commitments, including declaring the chemical weapons in its possession and the facilities used in attacks occurring in 2017, he stressed that these facts are not academic — “they are deadly serious”.  The 20 unresolved issues in Syria’s declaration include the whereabouts of several hundred metric tons of chemical agents, and OPCW’s fact-finding mission has identified 20 instances of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  He underlined the need to keep the spotlight on these issues because this is what is owed to the victims of these horrific weapons and what is needed to ensure that their use does not go unchallenged. FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said the situation has not changed and there has not been any progress, preventing the resolution of the Syrian chemical weapons issue.  He deeply regretted the deliberate obstruction being created by Syria.  The country’s authorities want to choose the inspectors, yet provision 7 of the Charter of the Convention says they do not have the right to do so.  This is the 105th report of OPCW and it comes to the same conclusion.  The same inconsistences and discrepancies continue to exist.  It is still not possible for Declaration Assessment Team members to confirm issues.  There is a refusal to provide key information and look at the true scope of the situation.  Syria needs to concretely show its desire to cooperate with OPCW and resolve this issue, according to resolution 2118 (2013).  Syria should change its attitude and fully cooperate with the Technical Secretariat.  He reaffirmed a firm condemnation of Syria’s use of chemical weapons and failure to meet its international obligations under the Convention.  He expressed his country’s full support for the international regime of non-proliferation.  Closing the investigation quickly will help Syrian citizens and help the Council support the people of Syria, he concluded. Turning to the proposed high-level meeting between Syria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and OPCW’s Director-General, he said that his country welcomed such a meeting and suggested that it be held in Damascus.  However, he recalled that the Director-General did not respond positively to that proposal, claiming that he could not justify “traveling to a State party deprived of certain rights by the Conference of the States Parties”.  As such, it is clear that the Director‑General went too far in submitting to the policies of Western countries and has started implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention based on the political agendas of those States.  Responding to comments made by the representatives of the United States, France and Albania, he stressed that those aggressive, non-constructive positions lead nowhere and called on those colleagues to refrain from such hostile declarations and adopt a more positive approach to allow the Council to shoulder its responsibilities in line with the Charter of the United Nations. “The use of chemical weapons is a grave violation of international law and an affront to our shared humanity,” she said.  “We need to remain vigilant to ensure that these awful weapons are never used again, and are eliminated, not only in Syria, but everywhere.”  She assured the Council of the United Nations commitment to work with all Member States to reinforce the norm against chemical weapons and ensure those responsible for their use are held to account. “The use of chemical weapons is a grave violation of international law and an affront to our shared humanity,” she said.  “We need to remain vigilant to ensure that these awful weapons are never used again, and are eliminated, not only in Syria, but everywhere.”  She assured the Council of the United Nations commitment to work with all Member States to reinforce the norm against chemical weapons and ensure those responsible for their use are held to account. The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 11:42 a.m. ZAHRA ERSHADI (Iran), calling for the complete, effective and non‑discriminatory implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the preservation of OPCW’s authority, stressed that the organization must not be used to accomplish politically motivated national objectives.  Syria has been subjected to such attempts in recent years, despite it fulfilling its obligations under the Convention and continuing to cooperate with OPCW.  The proposed meeting in Damascus between Syria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and OPCW’s Director-General is a move in the right direction, and noting that Syria’s Government has welcomed this meeting, she expressed hope that OPCW’s Director-General will do the same.  She went on to call on the Council — bearing in mind the Syrian Government’s cooperation in fulfilling its obligations under the Convention — not to devote its meetings to the repetition of positions and unfounded allegations against that Government.  “This is not conducive to the Council’s efficiency,” she added.

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