Statement by Turkey at the UN Security Council on Chemical Weapons in Syria

Bilge Koçyiğit Grba 03.06.2021
Mr. President,

At the outset, I would like to congratulate you on your assumption of the Presidency of the Council during this month.

I thank the Director General of OPCW, Mr. Fernando Arias and High Representative Izumi Nakamitsu for their informative briefings. Our further appreciation to Director Arias for the comprehensive and meticulous responses that he provided for the questions from the Council.

Mr. President,
It has been almost eight years since the adoption of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013). Yet we are still discussing the gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies in the Syrian regime’s declaration. Regime’s refusal to completely and accurately declare its chemical weapons programme constitutes a serious violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The 92nd monthly report of the OPCW Director General provides yet another record of this alarming situation. Presence of an undeclared chemical weapons production facility is not only a source of grave concern. It also raises serious doubts about the regime’s real intentions. There is no plausible explanation why the regime still fails to declare the chemical warfare agents produced and/or weaponised at this site. This is clearly in violation of its obligations.

Moreover, the Analysis of the samples collected during the 23rd round of inspections by Declaration Assessment Team (DAT) revealed the existence of a chemical warfare agent previously not declared by the regime. DAT’s analysis hints at further undeclared production activities by the regime.

Instead of clarifying existing discrepancies and inconsistencies, regime keeps piling up new items on the long list of outstanding issues regarding its chemical weapons declaration. Regime’s defiant behaviour cannot be condoned or tolerated. This Council must enforce regime’s full cooperation with the OPCW and ensure immediate and complete declaration of its chemical weapons programme.

Mr. President,

In response to the Syrian regime’s non-compliance with its obligations, the OPCW Executive Council adopted a landmark decision in July 2020, which required the Syrian regime to declare the chemical weapons it used during the Ltamenah attacks in 2017 and the production facilities they are developed, as well as the chemical weapons it currently possesses. This Executive Council decision which Turkey supported, set clear and verifiable parameters for action and required the Syrian regime to return to full compliance with the Convention within 90 days. It also urged the regime to resolve all of the outstanding issues regarding its initial declaration.

Yet, continuing blatant defiance of its legal obligations, regime refused to abide by the requirements of this decision, which triggered further measures. Accordingly, the decision adopted with overwhelming majority during the second part of the OPCW 25th Conference of State Parties provided a response in the face of Syrian regime’s persistent non-compliance with its obligations. Turkey co-sponsored this decision as an important step towards ensuring accountability in Syria.

Mr. President,

Establishing truth is of paramount importance for our joint efforts to achieve peace and justice in Syria. Investigations by the Fact Finding Mission (FFM) and the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) on the chemical weapons use in Syria are crucial in this regard.

The IIT has a unique role in identifying the perpetrators of chemical weapons use. We welcome its growing cooperation with IIIM. In our fight against flagrant impunity we must employ all possible avenues effectively.

The regime’s denial to grant visa to the IIT is another violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. This is also a clear attempt to hide the truth. The Syrian regime never intended to stop using chemical weapons against its own people. As we all know, IIT identified that on 4 February 2018 chlorine was used by the regime air force in an attack against civilians in Saraqib. With this latest IIT report, it has now been proven that the Assad regime is responsible for at least eight chemical weapons attacks. We strongly condemn continued use of chemical weapons by the regime.

Mr. President,

Taking this opportunity, I would like to reiterate our full support to the OPCW Director General, Technical Secretariat and its investigative bodies. The professionalism, impartiality and expertise of OPCW is commendable. Targeting the integrity and credibility of the OPCW is not acceptable. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts. Creating an alternate reality and polarization in this file only undermines the global norm against chemical weapons use and emboldens the perpetrators. The cooperation between the UN and OPCW remains essential for a robust non-proliferation regime. We must all strive to enhance this cooperation and stand against attempts to undermine it.

Mr. President,

I would like to conclude by reiterating our strong condemnation of repeated and well-documented chemical attacks by the Assad regime against its own population. Regime’s violation of international law and crimes against humanity cannot go unanswered. Ending impunity is a pressing task for the international community, particularly the Security Council. This is the only way to honour the victims of chemical weapons attacks and achieve peace in Syria. The Council must be unified in urging the regime for swift and tangible cooperation with the OPCW without further delay. This is also key to prevent the recurrence of chemical weapons use in Syria. In this respect, we would like to highlight once again the responsibility of those who have influence over the Syrian regime.

Thank you