Given gaps, inconsistencies, Syria’s declarations on chemical weapons programme not considered ‘accurate and complete’

11 December 2020

Outstanding issues related to Syria’s initial declaration of its chemical weapons stockpile and programme cannot be considered “accurate and complete”, the head of the world body monitoring States’ implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention told the Security Council on Friday.

“Considering the gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies that remain unresolved, the declaration submitted by Syria still cannot be considered accurate and complete, said Fernando Arias, Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

‘Not possible’ to establish weapons use

Updating the Council on recent activities, he said the Secretariat on 2 October released two reports of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Syria, on the alleged use of chemical weapons in Aleppo in November 2018, and in Saraqib in August 2016. 

The reports concluded that it was not possible for the Fact-Finding Mission to establish whether chemicals were used, or likely used, as a weapon in those incidents.  It is continuing to analyse information collected from its most recent deployments in eight different cases.

He went on to explain that the 23rd round of consultations between the Declaration Assessment Team and Syria took place in Damascus, from 22 September to 3 October. 

During its deployment, the Team collected samples, verified the destruction of objects previously observed as undestroyed, and discussed the current status of all outstanding issues.  The findings were reported to the Executive Council in October. 

Issues outstanding

Afterwards, he said three issues relating to Syria’s initial declaration were closed, while 19 remained outstanding.  One of these, pertains to a chemical weapons production facility declared by Syria as never having been used for the production of chemical weapons. 

However, he said a review of all the information and materials gathered by the Team since 2014, including samples, indicates that production and/or weaponization of chemical warfare nerve agents took place at this facility. 

The Secretariat therefore is requesting Syria declare the exact types and quantities of chemical agents produced, and/or weaponized at the site in question, in line with the Convention.

UN disarmament expert updates

Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said her Office on 2 December received information from Syria on issues related to chemical weapons, which it studied carefully and sent to the OPCW Technical Secretariat. 

Regarding the OPCW Executive Council decision on 24 July 2014, she said the Technical Secretariat has maintained remote monitoring systems in four underground structures in Syria. 

It deployed to Syria between 15 and 18 November 2020 for its final visit to these structures and observe the removal of monitoring equipment.  Syria was informed that these areas should be sealed as part of a destruction plan.

 

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