Washington accuses Damascus of keeping hidden stockpiles of chemical weapons

The United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs has called on the Syrian authorities to again provide clarifications on 20 important areas in order to fully resolve its chemical weapons file in accordance with Security Council resolution 2118.

Syria must change its attitude and cooperate fully with the body responsible for verifying its compliance with international law governing chemical weapons, Izumi Nakamitsu told the Security Council on Thursday.

“Syria continues to impose conditions on the deployment of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) declaration assessment team,” she charged.

In light of this, the OPCW Technical Secretariat has proposed – subject to a change of attitude on the part of Syria – that the shortcomings of Syria’s initial declaration under the Convention on the chemicals be dealt with through an exchange of correspondence.

Nakamitsu noted, however, that such exchanges obviously yield less results compared to deploying the team, read a UN statement.

She went on to say that the Technical Secretariat, to help Syria resolve the 20 outstanding issues with its initial statement, provided Syria with a list of information requested by the Team since 2019.

Noting that the Technical Secretariat has not yet received the requested information regarding the unauthorized movement of two cylinders related to the chemical weapons incident in Douma in 2018, she stressed that Syria must respond urgently to these requests.

Syria’s full cooperation is essential to resolve all outstanding issues, and the Technical Secretariat remains fully committed to ensuring that Syria fully complies with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

In this regard, Nakamitsu reiterated his full support for the integrity, professionalism, impartiality, objectivity and independence of the work of the OPCW.

She also noted that the Technical Secretariat is currently planning to inspect the Center for Scientific Studies and Research in Damascus in 2022, pointing out that Syria has not yet provided sufficient information regarding the detection of a certain chemical. toxic at these facilities in November 2018.

For their part, the fact-finding mission and the investigation and identification team of the OPCW are continuing their work regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and the latter will publish further reports in due course. desired.

Recalling that the preamble to the Convention calls on the international community “to completely exclude the possibility of using chemical weapons”, she reiterated her call for unity within the Council to this end.

In the ensuing discussion, many Council members called on Syria to end its continued obstruction of the work of the OPCW, pointing to Damascus’ continued refusal to provide information relating to its initial statement and to provide a visa. to a member of the OPCW statement assessment team, the UN statement said.

Russian representative Dmitry Polyanskiy said that Moscow had repeatedly noted that the Syrian chemical weapons issue was spinning in circles and that OPCW reports repeatedly published “generic selections of unfounded accusations regarding the Syria”.

They do not reflect the progress made by Damascus and have only one purpose: to give the impression that the dialogue between the OPCW and Syria is running out of steam due to the latter’s lack of cooperation, reads -on in the UN statement.

However, many questions posed to the OPCW Technical Secretariat remain unanswered and the OPCW Director General, Fernando Arias, did not find time to brief the Council. He has also not visited Syria since his appointment to this post, which is not without comparison with the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who visits the installations and s addressed to the Council when called upon to do so.

The leadership of the OPCW – not Syria – must change its attitude, demanded Polyanskiy, adding that there was no point in discussing the issue of Syrian chemical weapons every month; rather, it should be discussed quarterly at a public meeting.

US Representative Richard Mills, meanwhile, condemned the Damascus regime’s “continued refusal to provide answers or information requested years ago by the statement’s assessment team is an affront to the Council and to the OPCW”.

“The fact is that Syria has not declared its entire chemical weapons program and maintains a hidden stockpile of chemical weapons,” he said.

The risk remains that the Assad regime will again use chemical weapons against its own people, he warned.

Syria’s representative, Bassam Dabbagh, stressed that his country “was keen to cooperate fully with the OPCW, even before it entered into force for Syria”.

He rejected “all baseless accusations by some countries, first and foremost the United States, of supporting terrorist groups that use chemical weapons in Syria”.

He said that his country had submitted to the Director-General its monthly report on September 15, which included its activities related to the destruction of chemical weapons and its production facilities.