Salisbury: the OPCW results confirm the British conclusions [fr]
Salisbury - Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 18 April 2018
I thank the United Kingdom for this very timely update on the circumstances of the chemical-weapons attack in Salisbury on 4 March. I also thank the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Mrs. Nakamitsu, for her very clear briefing.
The day after the hostile act of 4 March, France expressed its full solidarity with the United Kingdom, and I wish to reiterate it here today. We unreservedly shared the British analysis that, on the one hand, it is highly probable that the Russian Federation is responsible for the attack and, on the other hand, there are no other plausible explanations for the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal and his daughter. We have drawn the necessary conclusions.
I commend the United Kingdom’s commitment to transparency and the way in which it has conducted this matter, in full accordance with the relevant provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention. I recall in this regard that the Convention requires States to conduct their own investigations of an event occurring on their national territory and that the Technical Secretariat of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is to play an independent and impartial assistance role. These provisions have been fully followed and respected in the matter before us today. I also reiterate our full support for the Director-General and the Technical Secretariat teams, whose commitment and professionalism I commend.
The OPCW results, as they have been presented to us, now speak for themselves. They confirm the British conclusions. A high-quality chemical agent, Novichok, considered to be militarily produced, was indeed used in Salisbury against Sergei Skripal and his daughter. The characteristics of this chemical agent, independently identified by each of the OPCW laboratories, and in particular its high level of purity, testify to a know-how that only a State could master. Its manufacture and handling require equipment and expertise that cannot be improvised.
In the light of these elements, possible motives and precedents on British territory, the United Kingdom legitimately asked the Russian Federation to answer a series of questions. These questions have all remained unanswered for over a month now. We therefore call on Russia once again, since it claims to want to cooperate, to respond to the British questions without delay. Russia must provide all necessary clarifications on the possible development of such a chemical-weapons programme.
The increase in number of chemical attacks appalls the conscience of the world, violates the law and threatens our security. It is not only a major affront to the international community and to the Security Council; it also raises the risk of a terrible regression for all of us. Indeed, let us make no mistake. In Salisbury, Douma and elsewhere, the oldest and strongest foundations of our collective security have been deliberately violated, and thus put at risk, while the forums charged with speaking out and enforcing the law are systematically hampered. That is the heart of the matter.
Let us make no mistake. Those who obstruct our action, who violate and deceive with respect to their commitments, who deliberately carry out disinformation campaigns and distort the facts with a view to dividing and disorienting public opinion are responsible for a serious normalization of the use of chemical weapons. Furthermore, they contribute to the risk of undermining the non-proliferation regime at a time when they should be its guarantors.
France, which suffered first-hand the devastating effects of chemical weapons during the First World War, will never allow their use to go unpunished, whether in Syria, Europe or elsewhere. Any time a chemical weapon is used, regardless of where and by whom, all light must be shed on that use and those responsible must be held accountable. However, that is not enough. We must do everything we can to curb the serious threat of the normalization of the use of chemical weapons. That should be our shared priority. That is the whole purpose of the partnership we launched in Paris, which 28 States and organizations have chosen to join, including four this past week alone. Faced with such a threat to our collective security, there can be no room for impunity. That is also the whole point of our action on the Syrian dossier.
The repeated use of chemical weapons undermines international law and challenges our ability to safeguard the values, principles and rules that underpin the United Nations and our work. Because the very foundation of our security is threatened and because we must live up to our commitments and responsibilities, there is no other acceptable or possible option than to come together to restore the essential taboo prohibiting the use of chemical weapons. Let us walk that demanding path together. The international community can rest assured of France’s commitment to that end, alongside all its partners.