Chemical weapons in Syria: measure the gravity [fr]
Security Council - Chemical weapons and Syria - Speech by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - 7 November 2017
"That means the Mechanism cannot and should not become hostage to political quarrels, or worse, tactical games" François Delattre, 7 November 2017.
At the outset, allow me to thank Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, and Mr. Edmond Mulet for their very enlightening briefings, as well as for their outstanding work.
A few days ago, the report of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism (S/2017/904, annex) established the responsibility of the Syrian regime for the chemical attacks in Khan Shaykhun in April 2017 and that of Da’esh in Umm Hawsh in September 2016. The report’s conclusions are clear and unambiguous. They are consistent with the assessment published by France in April after the attack on Khan Shaykhun. On behalf of France, I salute the exemplary professionalism of the Mechanism’s team, which conducts its work in complete independence and with the utmost thoroughness.
The facts that have been established are, we know, extremely serious. To those who claim to have doubts, I wish to recall that it has been four years since the independent investigative mechanisms came to the same conclusions. The Joint Investigative Mechanism has already determined the responsibility of the Syrian regime and of Da’esh for attacks committed in 2014 and 2015. Today, once again, the Mechanism has been able to comment unambiguously on the parties responsible for the attacks under investigation, after an irrefutable process.
If we stick to objective observation of the facts, the reality is that the Damascus regime has never fully complied with its international obligations, despite the commitments it made. Month after month, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has continued to inform us of grey areas in the declaration submitted by Syria in 2013 on its chemical stockpile. Those doubts, which focus on the Syrian regime, underscore the cynicism and duplicity of the Damascus regime. That regime has cooperated with the investigative mechanisms in ways that allow it, at the very least, to lie about the nature of its stockpile and, at the worst, to pursue a chemical programme. Above all, that regime has not hesitated to use those weapons against its own people. The massacre of Khan Shaykhun, like so many others, has been a tragic reminder for us. The Mechanism only highlighted the regime’s responsibility in that regard, just as it confirmed that chemical terrorism has become a reality.
Now that the truth has been clearly established, now that no one can say that they did not know, our collective responsibility is to identify and punish those responsible for those abject acts. There will be no lasting peace in Syria while there is impunity. Beyond Syria, everyone sees that the future of the international non-proliferation regime is at stake today.
While the international non-proliferation regimes have not equalled the achievements of previous decades, let us not let the most successful of those — the chemical non-proliferation regime — be undermined by divisions and manoeuvres. It would be a deadly precedent for the other non-proliferation regimes and an irresponsible stance for which we will all pay a heavy price. The use of chemical weapons by anyone is a moral abomination that goes against the most basic principles of humanity; to look away and accept the use of chemical weapons in Syria without response would be to give a blank check or a green light to the proliferation and use of such weapons elsewhere, and would create fertile terrain for the chemical terrorism that we all fear.
At the joint initiative of Russia and the United States, we created the Joint Investigative Mechanism in order to transcend our political disagreements and to establish the truth. That was why we did it. Let us not then renege on our pledge or our commitments at the hour of truth.
The Mechanism is not a tool of the West. Rather, it is one that is shared by the community of nations as a whole, and one that we have the duty to strengthen. That means the Mechanism cannot and should not become hostage to political quarrels, or worse, tactical games. To weaken the Mechanism is to play with fire and to risk undermining the chemical non-proliferation regime that we built together stone by stone. The Mechanism must be able to continue its activities, without preconditions and without any interference.
Let us assume collectively and individually the heavy responsibilities that we face. France, as a permanent member of the Security Council, understands well its own responsibilities. We will not yield in the fight against impunity or on the issue of the full and complete dismantling of the Syrian chemical programme. I call on everyone to do the same and to support the draft resolution presented by the United States on the renewal of the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism.
Let us take careful measure of the gravity of the moment so that we can come together for the service of the values, instruments and law that underlie our collective security. The immensity of the stakes demands it and compels us to do so.