Extreme vigilance with regard to the use of chemical weapons in Syria [fr]
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council – 5 November 2018
I would like to thank the Chinese presidency for convening this meeting, as well as Under-Secretary-General Izumi Nakamitsu for her very informative briefing. Today I will discuss three points — the situation on the ground, the importance of remaining mobilized in the face of the re-emergence of chemical weapons and the problem of Syrian chemical weapons in particular.
On the ground, our priority is maintaining a long-term ceasefire in Idlib. The Istanbul summit on 27 October resulted in a clear commitment by the four participants to support the sustainable implementation of the ceasefire in Idlib. The idea is removing for the long term the threat of a major offensive that would have disastrous humanitarian, migratory and security consequences. The summit’s road map is therefore clear and we will continue to support the ongoing efforts to stabilize the situation and enable Turkey to separate terrorists from other groups. We must also do everything we can to ensure the protection of civilians, including humanitarian and medical personnel, as well as to ensure comprehensive, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access throughout Syria by the most direct routes and in the most effective way.
The Istanbul communiqué also outlines our collective demand that any use of chemical weapons be banned. To cite its very clear message, the summit’s participants “[r]eaffirmed their strongest opposition to the use of chemical weapons by any party in Syria and called for strict compliance by all parties with the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction”.
While the regime has continued its deceitful propaganda campaign of blaming others for the chemical attacks, I should emphasize the importance of maintaining our extreme vigilance with regard to the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Any resort to such weapons will not go unanswered.
As President Macron hosts a ceremony in France a few days from now marking the 100th anniversary of the armistice of 11 November 1918, we must be able to assume our collective responsibility to history by ensuring that the barbaric use of chemical weapons that occurred during the First World War, so deeply etched in our collective memory, is never repeated. In view of the re-emergence of chemical weapons in Syria and elsewhere, a united and mobilized Security Council is therefore an absolute necessity. The decision of the States parties to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), adopted in June in accordance with the rules of the Organization, has enabled the international community to strengthen its capabilities, providing it with improved tools for deterring the use of chemical weapons and in particular aimed at designating its perpetrators more effectively. It is now necessary to translate that decision into the Organization’s means, especially with regard to the upcoming deadlines this month in The Hague.
We should make it clear that failing to invest in strengthening the existing institutions would jeopardize the non-proliferation regime, which is at the heart of our collective security, and at a time when that regime, with its highly developed chemical-weapon component, is being put to the test. That is a scenario that we cannot allow to happen. In particular, we call on everyone to support all investigative mechanisms established in The Hague, Geneva and New York in the difficult task that lies ahead. That is the goal of the initiatives that we have put forward, from the partnership in the fight against impunity for the use of chemical weapons to the establishment of a European Union sanctions regime. For that reason, we also support strengthening the OPCW’s verification and inspection capabilities.
My third point is that strengthening those verification measures is all the more necessary in view of the continuing uncertain state of Syrian stockpiles. The continued use of chemical weapons in Syria confirms the existence of chlorine and sarin stockpiles, and yet there has been little progress for months on Syria’s initial declaration of its stocks in 2013, which is still full of inconsistencies. That à la carte approach by the Syrian regime is not acceptable and demands our collective vigilance. It is essential that the regime’s supporters get it to cooperate fully.
In conclusion, with regard to the broader Syrian conflict, the threat of the use of chemical weapons and the country’s instability will not end as long as the regime refuses to engage with Staffan de Mistura’s political process, whose framework was established in resolution 2254 (2015). The Istanbul communiqué also establishes a clear goal with regard to that, a meeting of a constitutional committee by the end of the year. Together with the members of the small group on Syria, France will spare no effort in that regard. The United Nations has established a third list, which it has reviewed in dialogue with all stakeholders on several occasions. All conditions have been met so that the United Nations can convene a constitutional committee and finally implement the entirety of resolution 2254 (2015), which serves as our common guiding light now more than ever, in particular with regard to the holding of free and fair elections under the supervision of the United Nations in a safe and neutral environment. That is the only way to reach a lasting solution to the conflict.