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National Statement at Security Council Meeting on the Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria

Thank you very much indeed, Mr. President, and congratulations on assuming your presidency. You know you’ll have the full support of the Irish delegation throughout your month and an excellent programme of work. I can say also that we’re thrilled as a new member to take our position here as an elected Security Council member.


Thank you very much indeed Under-Secretary-General Nakamitsu for your excellent briefing.


Mr. President, we know that the Council addresses this subject every month, and some of the arguments we have already heard, indeed they may be ones that we feel we know. But I want to say as for the first time at the Council table that Ireland regards this as a really important debate.


My country unequivocally condemns any use of chemical weapons at any time, anywhere, under any circumstance. We find that the marked increase in the use of chemical weapons in recent years is deeply disturbing. This shows for us that the framework against the use of these deadly weapons may well be under threat. And I think that every one of us sitting here today in this meeting has a responsibility to address that threat.


This Council must be clear on the need to ensure accountability and put an end to impunity in the use of these appalling weapons at any time, anywhere. Ireland certainly will work tirelessly with our Council colleagues to do that.


The OPCW, its diligence, impartiality and professional analysis is crucial. We find that is truer now than ever.


As Director-General Arias made clear to the Council last month, the OPCW Technical Secretariat has spared no effort over seven long years to assess Syria’s initial declaration, and to assist Syria to complete it.  We find it deeply disturbing that after seven years long years of effort, it is still not possible to assess Syria’s initial declaration as either accurate or complete, given that there are gaps and inconsistencies in Syria’s account of its chemical weapons programme. Ireland fully supports the work of the Declaration Assessment Team (DAT), the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM), and the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT), in addressing chemical weapons and their use in Syria.


I want to be clear today that the problems in the initial declaration are not a minor issue, as some would portray it.


Over those seven years, the number of issues that need to be addressed has expanded from five to 19. There have been 17 amendments to Syria’s declaration, including the addition of a production facility, four research and development centres, and doubling of the amount of declared agents and chemicals. There are also issues relating to hundreds of tonnes of missing agents, and munitions reported destroyed prior to accession, which still cannot be verified. As the most recent reports have set out, there is also another issue related to a production facility, declared as never having been used, where there is clear evidence to the contrary.


Mr. President,


Since Syria’s initial declaration, the Fact Finding Mission and Joint Investigative Mechanism have investigated and reported on the use of chemical weapons in Syria on numerous occasions.


The JIM and now the IIT, have attributed responsibility for use of chemical weapons in some instances to the Syrian authorities.


For Ireland, all of this makes clear the ever more urgent need to fully resolve remaining issues. Only the OPCW in our view has the expertise to do this.  And in this, we know that we’re in good hands.


As Director-General Arias set out last month, OPCWinvestigation teams are made up of highly qualified experts in their own field who can independently assess, analyse and cross-check information that they have independently collected, as well as that which they receive from numerous sources, including the Syrian Government. This is done to ensure the strongest grounds for any conclusion reached. 


The OPCW Executive Council in July made clear the actions Syria needs to take to return to full compliance with the CWC. Ireland co-sponsored that Decision.


We deeply regret Syria’s lack of any real and meaningful response to that request.


In April, the Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CSP) will meet in The Hague. States Parties will then have to decide on the necessary course of action. Ireland will support the use of all measures available under the CWC to ensure Syria’s compliance. Ireland also strongly supports the EU’s chemical weapons sanctions regime, which includes listings related to chemical weapons use in Syria.


Let us be clear. Syria’s own actions have brought us to this point, and the Syrian authorities have the responsibility to act immediately to meet their obligations under the CWC. As a State Party to the Convention, we believe Syria is bound to eliminate, in its entirety, its chemical weapons programme and to cooperate actively, openly and in good faith with the Technical Secretariat of the OPCW.


In concluding Mr. President, I can only echo the heartfelt and sincere sentiments expressed by the High Representative, at end of her remarks this morning, that we start 2021 on a more hopeful note.


Thank you Mr. President.


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