A senior UN official cautioned on Tuesday that the Syrian regime has not yet fulfilled its commitment to provide the UN’s chemical weapons watchdog with comprehensive information regarding the extent and operations of its chemical program.
The last round of consultations between the regime and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) declaration assessment team was in February 2021, and subsequent efforts to organize an additional round of talks have been unsuccessful.
The regime pledged last year to hand over information on its chemical program to the OPCW, but Adedeji Ebo, the UN’s deputy to the high representative for disarmament affairs, told the UN Security Council that the UN has “yet to receive from the Syrian Arab Republic any declarations or document requested.”
That includes an explanation of its activities at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, an organization accused of leading the regime’s development of non-conventional weapons, and a declaration of nerve agents at another site that the regime denies produces chemical weapons, said Ebo.
“Full cooperation by the Syrian Arab Republic with the OPCW technical secretariat is essential in closing all outstanding issues, considering the identified gaps, inconsistencies, and discrepancies that remain unresolved at this time,” he said.
“The OPCW technical secretariat assesses that the declaration submitted by the Syrian Arab Republic still cannot be considered accurate and complete in conduct in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC),” he added.
The regime signed the CWC in October 2013, two months after a chemical attack on an opposition-held Damascus suburb killed hundreds of victims. The UN concluded in 2014 that the attack involved the use of the nerve agent Sarin.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US’ UN envoy, said Syria’s decision to sign the CWC was an effort to create a smoke screen to obscure its chemical activities.
“We now know that the regime never planned to comply with the CWC, and that it willfully hid chemical weapons from the OPCW,” she said.
“The UN and OPCW’s investigative mechanisms confirmed Syria used chemical weapons against its own people in nine subsequent attacks. The Assad regime has repeatedly lied to the international community and the investigators examining these incidents,” she added.