NEW YORK CITY: The UN’s under-secretary-general and high representative for disarmament affairs told the Security Council on Monday that her agency has yet to resolve outstanding issues and declarations by the Syrian regime relating to the elimination of its chemical weapons program and the destruction of stockpiles.
Izumi Nakamitsu said 20 outstanding issues with Syria’s chemical weapons program need to be addressed and resolved, as stipulated by Resolution 2118, which was adopted by the council in 2013 in response to concerns about the use of such weapons against civilians during the conflict in the country.
The UN and human rights organizations accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against its citizens on at least three occasions — August 2013, April 2017 and April 2018 — in and around the capital, Damascus, killing hundreds of civilians and injured thousands.
Nakamitsu said the UN’s Office for Disarmament Affairs is in regular contact with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons about activities related to the implementation of Resolution 2118.
She said her department and other UN agencies have been unsuccessful in obtaining clarifications about the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons program and the quantities of nerve agents it still possesses. Declarations submitted by Syrian authorities continue to have “gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies,” she added.
Cooperation from the Syrian regime with the OPWC on resolving all outstanding issues regarding to its chemical program is essential, Nakamitsu said.
“At this time, the OPCW technical secretariat assesses that the declaration submitted by the Syrian Arab Republic still cannot be considered accurate and complete in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention,” she added.
A Syrian representative to the UN denied the use of chemical weapons against citizens at any time during the ongoing civil war, which began in 2011, and denounced the use of such weapons “anywhere in the world and under any circumstances.”
He added: “We repeat our rejection of the false accusation and lies that some accuse my country of, and we affirm Syria’s full and transparent cooperation with the OPCW and fulfillment of all its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.”
He said his country made a strategic decision in 2013 to sign up for the convention and had provided detailed information about its stockpile and the weapons that have been destroyed.
He denied that Syrian authorities were uncooperative or delaying the work of the OPCW’s technical assessment teams.
The US representative to the UN said the Syrian regime has not been “cooperating fully, nor being transparent with the OPCW.”
Iran’s representative defended Syrian authorities, who he said were complying with the Chemical Weapons Convention. He accused Western countries of employing “double standards” in relation to chemical weapons and called for “credible” and impartial” investigations into the use of such weapons in Syria.
He added that the West is using a “political approach” he described as “unconstructive” to address the issue of chemical weapons, rather than a strictly technical and scientific approach.
Other speakers expressed support for the work of international organizations to eliminate chemical weapons, condemned the use of such weapons, and called for Syria to comply fully with its legal obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.