Chemical weapons in Syria [fr]
French President Emmanuel Macron, 19 September 2017 at the United Nations General Assembly
The non-use of chemical weapons is a French priority with regard to the Syrian crisis. The objective is both to reduce the threat posed by the proliferation of mass destruction weapons and to fight impunity of individuals or entities using or allowing the use of chemical weapons.
In 2013, while the Syrian conflict has been raging for two years, first suspicions on the use of sarin gas by the Syrian regime emerged. Several Syrian cities, including Saraqeb and Jobar, in the west of the country, were struck in April.
In August 2013, Damascus suburb’s Ghouta was the target of large-scale chemical attacks, killing many civilians. The September 2013 report of the United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons confirms the large-scale use of chemical weapons. The details provided in the report and the known state of the Syrian chemical program show without doubt that the Syrian regime perpetrated those war crimes.
Since 2014, allegations of chemical attacks in Syria, including chlorine and mustard gas, have increased and have been investigated by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ mechanisms (OPCW) and the United Nations to confirm they occured and identify those responsible.
On 4 April 2017, another attack was perpetrated in Khan Sheikhoun (northern-west Syria). The use of sarin gas was confirmed by an investigation conducted by France, released a few weeks after the attack, and then by the OPCW in its report from June 2017. For France, the responsibility of the Syrian army in this attack is no doubt.
In 2013, following the chemical attack in Ghouta, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2118, which sets up a mechanism for the dismantling and monitoring of the Syrian chemical program. In case of non-compliance, a Security Council referral mechanism allows the Council to adopt measures under Chapter VII. Regarding the dismantlement program, a part of chemical stocks declared by Damascus was evacuated outside the Syrian territory for destruction. France reiterated its request to the Damascus regime to comply with its international obligations by declaring and dismantling all its chemical capacities.
Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack showed that Damascus regime still fails to comply with the international obligations, as highlighted in the national evaluation presented by France on 26 April 2017.
In response to persistent allegations of chemical attacks in Syria, the OPCW created in April 2014 a Fact Finding Mission (FFM) to identify cases of use of toxic chemicals in Syria. This Mission established with no doubt that sarin gas, a war neurotoxic, had been used during the 4 April 2017 attack on Khan Sheikhoun.
Furthermore, in 2015, the Security Council adopted resolution 2209, condemning the use of chlorine in Syria and setting up an OPCW-UN Joint Investigation Mechanism (JIM) (resolution 2235). The JIM is mandated to identify those responsible for those chemical attacks. It issued two reports in August and October 2016, concluding that the Syrian regime and Daesh were responsible for four reported case of use of chemical weapons. Its mandate was unanimously renewed for one year by the Security Council in November 2016, with resolution 2319. The JIM will also be in charge of identifying those responsible for the chemical attacks in Khan Sheikhoun.
In February 2017, following the JIM conclusions, the adoption of a Security Council resolution establishing a sanctions regime against both Syrian regime and Daesh, failed due to the Russian and Chinese vetoes. Two months later, in April 2017, the adoption of the Security Council resolution condemning the Khan Sheikhoun attack also failed after a Russian veto. France called again all Security Council Member to take responsibility and condemn violations of international laws and to fight against impunity.
France policy is also reflected in other fora, in particular within the OPCW, with a simultaneous action in favor of disarmament that is the destruction of existing chemical weapons and the fight against proliferation.