The confidence of the international community in eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons production depends on its Government’s swift action to resolve all new and outstanding issues in light of fresh reports and a recent decision at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs told the Security Council today during a videoconference meeting.
Briefing the 15-member organ on the implementation of Council resolution 2118 (2013) on the elimination of the chemical weapons programme of Syria, Izumi Nakamitsu said that while the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has affected OPCW deployments to Syria, its Technical Secretariat and the Declaration Assessment Team have continued their work, despite travel restrictions. Providing highlights of new reports and findings, she said the Technical Secretariat insists that Syria must declare all chemical warfare agents produced or weaponized at a former chemical weapon production facility and informed the Government that a new outstanding issue would be opened and discussed during consultations with the Declaration Assessment Team. The Team had detected a neat chemical warfare agent from samples taken from storage containers at a declared facility in September 2020, the production of which Syria has not declared. After the team analysed information Syria had provided on samples, it assessed that the explanations were not sufficient to explain the results, as the presence of the substance at this facility may imply undeclared production activities.
Raising deep concerns about the second Investigation and Identification Team report, she said findings involving a February 2018 incident in Saraqib indicated reasonable grounds to believe that a Syrian Arab Air Force helicopter dropped at least one cylinder that released chlorine gas, affecting 12 individuals. Regarding unresolved issues, she said the Technical Secretariat continues to assess that Syria’s declaration is not accurate nor complete and called on the Government to resolve these matters. Results of two facility inspections in November will be imminently discussed, but other deployments remain dependent on the evolution of the pandemic, she said, noting that Syria has yet to provide sufficient information to be able to close a 2018 inspection at the Barzah facilities.
Turning to the OPCW fact-finding mission, she said it continues to study chemical weapon use in Syria and is addressing a variety of incidents as it engages with the Government and other States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention). It recently deployed to Syria to collect information and conduct interviews regarding an incident that occurred in Kafr Zita, Hama, in October 2016.