I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro* and Albania*, as well as Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
Russia has called for this informal meeting in the Security Council to discuss how to uphold the chemical weapons non-proliferation regime. The timing is right because the second part of the 25th Conference of State Parties of the OPCW is under preparation, but the narrative is not.
The discussion should not be about defending states that come under investigation of the OPCW, but about protecting people against attacks with chemical weapons, and about holding those responsible for the attacks accountable. It should be about defending a key instrument of the global non-proliferation and disarmament architecture, the Chemical Weapons Convention. It is one of the most successful global disarmament regimes. It has ensured the destruction of more than 98% of the world's declared stockpile of chemical weapons. The near universal respect for this convention has spared the world enormous human suffering.
The reports from the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) on the use of chemical weapons in Syria (from 8 April 2020 and 12 April 2021) are stark reminders of the realities when the CWC is not respected:
- On 24, 25 and 30 March 2017 sarin and chlorine were used against civilians in Ltamenah in Syria
- On 4 February 2018, chlorine was used in an attack against civilians in Saraqib in Syria.
In both instances, the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) concluded that the Syrian regime was responsible for the use of chemical weapons.
The European Union reiterates that any use of chemical weapons anywhere, at any time, by anyone, under any circumstances is unacceptable. We are deeply concerned to see the continued use of chemical weapons in Syria, Malaysia, UK, and most recently in Russia against Alexei Navalny. Those responsible for the use of chemical weapons must be held accountable. Always. And this meeting should focus on the message, and not attack the messenger.
The OPCW and its Technical Secretariat have played an indispensable role in ensuring the effective implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the European Union acknowledges the OPCW´s professionalism, impartiality and independence. We have full confidence in its capacity to implement the decisions and tasks given by the States Parties and we reiterate our firm support.
The role of the OPCW is closely linked and complementary to the work of the UN, as underlined in UNSC resolution 2118 (2013) and the UNGA Resolution 75/265 (2021) and it has the clear backing of the UN member states. We appreciate the willingness of the Director-General of the OPCW, Fernando Arias, to deliver comprehensive briefings to this Council when he is called upon. This has ensured transparency and openness on the work of the OPCW and reinforced the link between the two organisations.
In more than 90 meetings in this Council, we have been reminded of Syria’s failure to live up to its fundamental responsibilities under the CWC, the gaps and inconsistencies in its initial declarations and the undeclared facilities. This is characteristic of Syria’s lack of cooperation with the OPCW since the adoption of the United Nations Security Council resolution 2118 more than seven years ago. Syria’s refusal to faithfully deliver the requested information cannot and must not remain unanswered. It is now up to the International Community to take appropriate action.
The CWC is clear: in these circumstances, Article XII of the Convention stipulates that the Conference of State Parties may suspend the rights and privileges of the State Party concerned, as recommended by the OPCW Executive Council. That is the most important decision to be adopted at the 25th Conference of State Parties of the OPCW on 20 – 22 April.
Accountability is essential to prevent the re-emergence of chemical weapons. The use of chemical weapons by anyone – be it a State or a non‐State actor – anywhere, at any time and under any circumstances is a violation of international law and can amount to the most serious crimes of international concern ‐ war crimes and crimes against humanity.
We remain steadfast in defending the Organisation against disinformation and deliberate and baseless attacks on its integrity and credibility.
The European Union and its Member States will continue to work on national and international levels to address chemical weapons attacks and other atrocity crimes committed by the Syrian Arab Republic.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.