Syria accused of flouting Chemical Weapons Convention at UN

Syria accused of flouting Chemical Weapons Convention at UN
A United Nations vehicle during the visit by international experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to Damascus. (AFP/File)
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Updated 29 April 2022

Syria accused of flouting Chemical Weapons Convention at UN

Syria accused of flouting Chemical Weapons Convention at UN
  • US deputy envoy: ‘Assad regime has used chemical weapons at least 50 times since conflict began’
  • UAE: Terror groups such as Daesh seeking to obtain chemical weapons

LONDON: On the 25th anniversary of the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the US on Friday accused Syria of flouting the treaty and obstructing inspectors.

“The Assad regime has used chemical weapons against its own people on at least eight occasions since joining the convention,” said Richard M. Mills Jr., US deputy ambassador to the UN.

“And the picture is even more grim than that. The US assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons at least 50 times since the conflict in Syria began,” he added.

“Syria, as a state party to the CWC, agreed to fully disclose the precise location, aggregate quantity and detailed inventory of chemical weapons it possesses, yet as we’ve heard countless times … Syria’s declaration still cannot be considered complete and accurate.”

Izumi Nakamitsu, UN undersecretary-general of disarmament affairs, told the Security Council: “Despite the accession of Syria to the CWC, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons continues to document instances of chemical weapons use in Syria.”

She added: “This council has not fulfilled its responsibility to hold accountable the perpetrators of these heinous acts.” 

Nakamitsu said while the regime had agreed to limited talks in Beirut, the OPCW had yet to receive documentation about Syria’s remaining stockpiles, an attack on a military installation in March 2021, and an attack on the city of Douma in 2018. The regime had also refused to issue a visa for a key inspector, she added.

“The Syrian Arab Republic has agreed to the limited round of consultations, while at the same time requesting the exclusion of one OPCW secretariat expert,” she said.

“Until these outstanding issues are closed, the international community cannot have full confidence that the Syrian Arab Republic’s full chemical weapons program has been eliminated.” 

Syrian Ambassador Bassam Sabbagh said the inspector in question had been denied access because of a “lack of objectivity and professionalism.” He accused the OPCW and the CWC of political bias.

Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya said the convention had become a “punitive” instrument wielded in the interests of a “narrow group of countries” against Syria.

“At its 25th anniversary, the OPCW has very serious systemic problems and a tarnished reputation,” he added.

“Russia unconditionally supports the CWC and is committed to its letter and spirit. What gives rise to question to us is how its provisions are being implemented by the OPCW.”

Mills, though, said: “In the face of irrefutable proof documented by the meticulous work of the OPCW that Syria is flouting its CWC obligation, the Assad regime in this chamber hurls preposterous accusations of bias at the OPCW independent and professional experts in a failed effort to immune them and distract from proven facts.” 

The UK, China and others also accused Syria of not cooperating with the international community, with France calling its use of chemical weapons “odious.”

The UAE said while the CWC had succeeded in securing the disposal of “99 percent” of the world’s chemical weapons, they were being sought by terrorist groups such as Daesh.

“As we have recently witnessed in Al-Hasakah, terrorist groups continue to develop their methods of attack, and seek to obtain advanced weapons such as chemical weapons to achieve their nefarious goals,” said Mohamed Abushahab, the UAE’s deputy permanent representative. 

“Accordingly, we stress the importance of continuing our fight against Daesh in Syria and elsewhere … to prevent them from acquiring chemical weapons.”