Thursday, June 17, 2021
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Nearly 8 Years On, ‘Gaps, Inconsistencies, Discrepancies’ Remain Over Syria Chemical Weapons Declaration


The Security
Council
heard new evidence in longstanding international
efforts to eradicate Syria’s chemical weapons programme on
Thursday, including the results of an investigation into the
possible of use of chlorine gas in the city of Saraqib in
2018, as the UN’s top disarmament official provided her
regular briefing to ambassadors.

Izumi
Nakamitsu
, the United Nations High Representative for
Disarmament Affairs, updated members on recent developments
in the work of the Organisation for
the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
(OPCW) in Syria. Those
efforts were first mandated by the Council in resolution
2118
(2013), which explicitly called for the destruction
of Syria’s chemical weapons programme.

As of May
2021, she said, outstanding gaps, inconsistencies and
discrepancies remain in those efforts, meaning that
Syria’s declaration to the OPCW cannot be considered
accurate and complete.

New findings

Ms.
Nakamitsu outlined several recent findings. One was the
detection of a chemical warfare agent – found in samples
collected in late 2020 from several large volume containers
– whose production had not been previously
declared.

According to the OPCW, she said,
explanations provided by Syria regarding the contents of the
samples “are not sufficient to explain the results”, and
the chemical’s presence may imply undeclared production
activities.

The OPCW has opened a new outstanding
issue on that matter, which will be discussed during the
next round of its Declarations Assessment Team’s
consultations, in mid-May.

Chlorine attack

Ms.
Nakamitsu also relayed the findings of an investigation
carried out by the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification
Team into incidents in the city of Saraqib, on 4 February
2018.

At the time, the OPCW concluded that chlorine
released from cylinders “was likely used as a chemical
weapon” in Saraqib’s Al Talil
neighbourhood.

Providing further information on
Wednesday, Ms. Nakamitsu said the OPCW’s
recent investigation
concluded that “reasonable
grounds” exist to believe that a military helicopter
belonging to the Syrian Arab Air Force dropped at least one
cylinder into the city on that date, releasing toxic
chlorine gas.

‘Concerning’ gaps

Describing
the number of outstanding issues in the OPCW Syria portfolio
as “concerning,” Ms. Nakamitsu reiterated her call on
Damascus to fully cooperate with the OPCW.

She warned
that all perpetrators must be held accountable, adding that
the global community cannot tolerate impunity for those who
use weapons outlawed globally for nearly three
decades.

“The confidence of the international
community in the complete elimination of Syria’s chemical
weapons programme depends upon these issues being
finalized”, she
stressed.

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