Salisbury: there is no place for tactical one-upmanship [fr]
Salisbury - Statement by Mr François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations – 5 April 2018
We are meeting today at the request of a member of the Security Council to discuss the 13 March letter (S/2018/218, annex) written by the British Prime Minister, which concerns a topic that we already met to discuss last month (see S/PV.8203). This meeting comes on the heels of a special meeting of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) held yesterday in The Hague on the same subject, at which Russia’s attempt to have a draft decision adopted was overwhelmingly rejected. That meeting was held even before the OPCW had issued its findings concerning the incident at hand, thereby showing that yesterday’s initiative, like today’s, was a diversionary tactic in an attempt to sow confusion. It is therefore more important than ever to maintain a technical and objective approach to the issue.
Let us return to the facts. They are shocking, they are serious and they are unacceptable. On 4 March in Salisbury, a military-grade chemical agent, identified as belonging to a class of such agents known as Novichoks, was deployed in a public setting, targeting a former Russian intelligence officer and his daughter and contaminating a British police officer and civilians in the area. That was the first verified use of a chemical weapon in Europe since the end of the Second World War. It has been 100 years since the use of military-grade gas wrought destruction on European soil, during the Great War. France has stated at the highest levels of Government its full support for, and its unwavering solidarity with, the Government and the people of the United Kingdom. We renew them today.
While the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down has confirmed that the gas used belongs to the Novichok class and the United Kingdom continues to pursue its investigation in full compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, I would like to reiterate France’s full confidence in the work carried out by British investigators. France stands ready to make its expertise available to the United Kingdom, should it so desire. I also welcome the decision of the Director-General of the OPCW in responding positively to the British request to dispatch an assistance mission to the United Kingdom. The ongoing investigation must be completed independently and without interference. Given the information that the United Kingdom has communicated thus far, we share its assessment that there is no other plausible explanation for the attack than one involving Russia’s responsibility. Although Russia advocates for cooperation, France was surprised by the Russian refusal to answer the United Kingdom’s entirely legitimate questions. We call on Russia to shed light on matters of accountability with regard to the unacceptable Salisbury attack and notify the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons of any programmes that might not have been declared to the OPCW.
The ban on the use of chemical weapons is at the heart of the non-proliferation regime, which underpins our system of collective security. In that context, the full-scale re-emergence of those barbaric weapons in the Middle East, Asia and now in Europe cannot be tolerated. The taboo that we collectively established on the use of chemical weapons has been broken, including in Salisbury. That is an indication of how urgently we must reaffirm and consolidate the absolute prohibition of chemical weapons. The normalization of the use of chemical weapons would signify a victory for barbarity over civilization and an unspeakable regression of the international order. That is why we cannot resign ourselves to such a fate, especially since — let us make no mistake — the normalization of the use of chemical weapons would create fertile ground for chemical terrorism, which we all fear, and, indeed, for which we would all pay the price.
France therefore will never tolerate allowing those who develop or use toxic agents to enjoy impunity. We recall our full support for existing institutions, in particular the OPCW. France will maintain its full commitment to supporting such institutions’ activities with every resource at its disposal. That is the goal of the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons, which we launched last January. The gravity of what is at stake requires us to act. The use of chemical weapons by whomever and regardless of the circumstances runs equally contrary to our universal conscience and the most basic norms of international law.
Again, let us make no mistake: the use of chemical weapons poses a threat that could potentially ring the death knell of the very sustainability of the international regime on the non-proliferation of chemical weapons, which today is the most elaborate and successful of all international non-proliferation regimes. Allowing it to crumble without reacting would translate into accepting the weakening of the entire international regime on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, which we built laboriously together over the past decades and which is the keystone of the international security architecture.
We are therefore in need of Russia’s sincere and resolved commitment. Russia must be part of the solution, not the problem. Russia, which was one of the pioneers of the international non-proliferation regime, should be one of its pillars.
Because the threat is existential for us all, combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction must be more than ever at the heart of the priorities of the Security Council. If there is one area in which the Council has the moral and political responsibility to come together to act, this is it. If there is one area where the Council’s credibility is at stake, and where there is no place for tactical one-upmanship, this is it.