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Statement by Ambassador Byrne Nason at UNSC Briefing on Syria - Chemical Weapons

I would like to thank High Representative Under-Secretary General Nakamitsu for her briefing today.


Mr President, Ireland unequivocally condemns any use of chemical weapons anywhere and at any time. But clearly, that type of rhetoric doesn’t get us anywhere. What we need to do is to act. To act together. The first act is relatively simple: we need to unambiguously uphold the international prohibition against the use of these appalling weapons.


When Syria acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and its annex on Implementation and Verification, it took on clear legal obligations. The OPCW Decision of 27 September 2013, instructed the OPCW to conduct inspections, including of sites and facilities as necessary, to ensure that Syria was meeting these obligations. OPCW inspections have since become dedicated mechanisms, notably the Declaration Assessment Team, the Fact Finding Mission, the Joint Investigative Mechanism, and the Investigation and Identification Team.


However, over time, as well, as the OPCW conducted its mandated work, a clear pattern has emerged of Syrian evasion. Items have gone undeclared and mis-declared. Syrian cooperation has been sporadic and limited.


After seven years, the initial declaration has only grown in length, as have the seriousness of its gaps and inconsistencies.


The OPCW Executive Council and the members of the Security Council have repeatedly expressed their concerns, but these concerns have been ignored by Syria.


What makes this so serious is another clear pattern: that of documented, repeated use of chemical weapons in Syria since 2013. The OPCW has on seven occasions to date found that the evidence warrants attribution of use to the Syrian authorities. Further incidents are under investigation.


Syria’s response is to seek to undermine the professionalism and authority of the OPCW. We find this unacceptable.


The OPCW is fundamental to addressing the possession and use of chemical weapons. It has the primary mandate, the technical expertise and experience, to authoritatively advise on these issues. It is for the international community, and for this Council in particular, to act urgently, and in unity, to address the issue of this documented use of chemical weapons in Syria. 


The Syrian authorities, in turn, have the responsibility to fully address and answer issues relating to Syria’s compliance with the CWC. Syria must do what it promised to do, what it is legally obliged to do: declare and destroy all of its chemical weapons stocks and facilities.


The OPCW Executive Council set out in July 2020 the clear actions Syria must take to return to compliance with the CWC. Ireland deeply regrets that Syria chose not to act on these. We again urge Syria to act immediately to comply with this Decision. 


Given these circumstances, Ireland will support the proposed decision on Syria at the Conference of States Parties later this month.  Given Syria’s continued refusal to meet its obligations and the international community’s concerns, we believe the CSP must take all appropriate actions to address Syria’s non-compliance.


Thank you Mr President.

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