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Statement of H. E. Bassam Sabbagh at the Security Council Meeting on The "Chemical File" in Syria

Wednesday, 20 July 2022
Ambassador Bassam Sabbagh
Security Council

Mr. Presidnt, 

The Syrian Arab Republic acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention voluntarily and in good faith and began implementing the Convention even before its ratification, notwithstanding our difficult circumstances. My country has cooperated fully with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). We destroyed our stockpiles of chemical weapons and their production facilities in record time, as confirmed in OPCW reports.

Despite the politicization of the chemical weapons file in previous years, the hostile approach of certain States and the deliberate procrastination of the Technical Secretariat in dealing with some aspects of the file, my country has maintained its constructive approach and positive engagement. In that context, I would like to mention several positive developments that were not mentioned by Mrs. Nakamitsu.

The Syrian Arab Republic submitted its 104th monthly report on the elimination of its chemical weapons and their production facilities. It also agreed to the extension of the tripartite agreement among the Syrian Arab Republic, the OPCW and the United Nations Office for Project Services for an additional six months until 31 December 2022, which should facilitate the tasks and activities of the OPCW in Syria. A report was also issued recently on the eighth round of inspections of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Centre, confirming the absence of any prohibited activity under the agreement and commending Syria’s full collaboration and excellent facilities during that round.

It is unfortunate that the Syrian National Committee’s cooperation with the OPCW, as well as the fact that it has been upholding its commitment under the Convention, was met with ingratitude and denial. The monthly reports of the OPCW Director-General, especially the most recent one (see S/2022/530), have focused on negative developments and ignored any positive developments. They also provide only a partial account of certain issues in a way that undermines the OPCW. Therefore, in recent months the Chair of the Syrian National Committee has sent several letters to the Director-General, explaining the inaccuracies included in the reports of the Technical Secretariat and asking for them to be rectified.

I would like to address some of the issues raised in today’s discussion.

First, with regard to the proposed high-level meeting between the Syrian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates and the OPCW Director-General, I wish to underscore that my country immediately welcomed the invitation to convene that meeting. We were keen to hold it as soon as possible, and the two parties were asked to agree on a venue and agenda for the meeting.

During consultations, the Syrian party suggested holding the meeting in Damascus. The DirectorGeneral, however, did not respond positively to that proposal, for which he gave an excuse unprecedented in the history of the OPCW. In his introductory statement to the OPCW Executive Council earlier in the month, he claimed that he could not hold the high-level meeting in Damascus, stating that: “In any event, as Director-General, I cannot justify travelling to a State party that has been deprived of certain rights by the Conference of the States Parties”. Ironically, no one knows where the DirectorGeneral found that explanation. There is no mention in the Convention or in any document of the OPCW, either directly or indirectly, of such a justification. It is clear that the Director-General has gone too far in submitting to the policies of Western countries and has started to implement the Convention based on the political agendas of those States, demonstrating that he has not been professional in carrying out his mandate.

The decision of the Conference of the States Parties to suspend the rights and privileges of Syria as a member of the OPCW — which was imposed by Western countries through pressure and blackmail — does not in any way mean that the Director-General can ignore his duties to communicate with the Syrian authorities concerned and seek lasting solutions to the outstanding issues between the two parties. Therefore, a visit by the Director-General to any State party is not a privilege that he grants to that State party but rather a duty that falls within his tasks and mandate. The question that has to be asked is: would Mr. Arias have visited Damascus and tried to find a solution to those outstanding issues even before the decision of the Conference of the States Parties to suspend Syria’s rights and privileges as an OPCW member State? The answer is simply no.

Secondly, as to the work of the Declaration Assessment Team, my country welcomes the holding of the twenty-fifth round of consultations and the visit of the team to Syria, with the exception of one individual, and that is due to valid reasons that we have already explained. The fact that the Technical Secretariat continues to insist on that individual at the expense of the team as a whole, although they have other equally qualified technical experts, reinforces us in our position and increases our suspicions as to the professionalism that the Technical Secretariat should show. In that context, I would like to mention that the Syrian National Committee has agreed to the recent proposal of the Technical Secretariat to exchange correspondence about the work of the team for the time being, although we are aware of the limited results that can be achieved through such correspondence. The Syrian Arab Republic expresses its concern over the hindrances that are created by the Technical Secretariat, which prevent the resolution of outstanding issues. That is in Syria’s highest interests. We therefore call on the Technical Secretariat to give up those harmful tactics and that negative behaviour and go back to constructive work and fruitful cooperation.

Thirdly, regarding the work of the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM), the Syrian Arab Republic, while repeatedly condemning the use of chemical weapons by anyone, anytime, anywhere and under any circumstances, had notified the Technical Secretariat of several incidents perpetrated by terrorist organizations using chemical weapons and asked the FFM to investigate those incidents. Unfortunately, the mission has to date not submitted any reports regarding those incidents, although more than five years have passed. It has also persisted in ignoring the professional working methodologies provided for in the Convention.

My delegation denounces that procrastination and calls for an end to be put to that manipulation. It calls on the mission to issue its report on those incidents and to respect the terms of reference and the provisions of the Convention while undertaking its tasks.

My delegation would like to recall that it has been keen on providing the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004) and the Technical Secretariat of the OPCW with information pertaining to access by terrorists from Da’esh, the Al-Nusra Front and their affiliated entities to chemical weapons and chemical toxins in order to launch chemical attacks or fabricate scenes so as to accuse the Syrian Arab Army.

In that context, I would like to mention that my delegation took part in the comprehensive review open consultations for the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) and has called for reinforcing international cooperation to prevent weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons, from falling into the hands of terrorist groups, thus threatening regional and international peace and security.

Allow me, before concluding, to respond to some of what has been said in the statements made by some countries. My colleague the representative of the United States used in his statement the term “regime” several times to talk about the Syrian Government. I would like to ask the colleague representing the United States if the resolutions of the Security Council or the decisions of the OPCW mention Member States as regimes or as Governments?

The United States of America, as a permanent member of the Security Council and as a member of the Executive Council of the OPCW, must respect the language that is being used in those resolutions and decisions and must not encourage others to use its language.

My colleague the representative of France accused us falsely, without any grounds or evidence. His accusation is part of the hostile policy that has been adopted by France towards my country for 10 years now, including by supporting terrorist organizations and violating the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria. Therefore, he must, before inviting others to respect resolutions, make sure that his country is respecting them.

My colleague the representative of Albania said that Syria wants to choose the experts. I would like to tell him that such a description is wrong. Syria does not want to choose the experts, but Syria has the right to accept or reject with whom it is going to be dealing, especially if Syria has information proving that some experts are biased and non-objective.

Those kinds of hostile and non-constructive discussions leads nowhere, but only to more complications. I therefore call on colleagues to refrain from such hostile declarations and to adopt a positive approach, thus allowing the Council to shoulder its responsibilities in line with the Charter of the United Nations and in total respect of the sovereignty and independence of Member States and the principle of non-interference in their internal affairs.