Work still remains on Syria chemical weapons destruction, Security Council hears

The United Nations

Identifying perpetrators of chemical weapon attacks, and holding them accountable, must remain a priority, a senior UN official said on Wednesday during the latest Security Council meeting on Syria.

Thomas Markram with the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) updated ambassadors on latest developments under a September 2013 Council resolution on the destruction of the country’s chemical weapons programme.

Resolution 2118 calls for Syria to cooperate with UN partner the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and allow access to its territory.

Prevent these threats

Nearly eight years later, “there is still work to be done” before the resolution can be considered fully implemented, said Mr. Markram, who is the Deputy to the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.

“Moreover, as long as the use of chemical weapons continues, or the threat of their use remains, we must retain our focus on preventing these threats,” he added.

“Unity in the Security Council is required to re-establish the norm against chemical weapons. The use of these weapons must always be seen as a clear violation of a deeply-held taboo. Accordingly, the identification and accountability of those responsible is imperative.”

The UN disarmament office maintains regular contact with the OPCW, whose deployments to Syria have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gaps and inconsistencies

Mr. Markram said the OPCW Declaration Assessment Team (DAT), which engages with the Syrian authorities, was supposed to travel there in May for the latest round of consultations. However, “in the absence of a response”, the visit was postponed.

“As a result of the identified gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies that remain unresolved, the OPCW Technical Secretariat continues to assess that, at this stage, the declaration submitted by the Syrian Arab Republic cannot be considered accurate and complete in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention,” Mr. Markram told the Council.

“I reiterate my call to the Syrian Arab Republic to extend its full cooperation to the OPCW Technical Secretariat to resolve all outstanding issues. As noted on many prior occasions, the confidence of the international community in the complete elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons programme depends on these issues being finalized.”

Attack on military facility

Mr. Markram told the Council that last month Syria wrote to the OPCW to report an attack on 8 June against a military installation that housed a declared former chemical weapons production facility.

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