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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Statement to the Thirty-Ninth Meeting of the Executive Council

Robert P. Mikulak
U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons 
The Hague, Netherlands
February 21, 2014


Mr. Chairman,

At the last meeting of this Council, the United States expressed deep concern that the effort to remove chemical agent, key precursor chemicals, and other chemicals from Syria had seriously languished and stalled. Many members of this Council expressed the same concerns. Along with the United States, they called upon the Syrian Government to accelerate and expeditiously complete the relocation of these chemicals to the port of Latakia for removal and destruction.

In the three weeks since this Council last met, there has been progress in eliminating the isopropanol in Syria and in transporting limited quantities of the stabilizer hexamine to Latakia. The fact remains, however, that 95.5 percent of Priority One chemicals – CW agent and key binary precursors – remain in Syria as well as 81.1 percent of Priority Two chemicals, well beyond the dates set for removal by the Executive Council. And the Syrian Government continues to put its energy into excuses, instead of actions.

Regrettably, this Council at its January 30th meeting failed to address Syria’s unacceptable delay in completing removal of all designated chemicals. Why? Because a single member of this Council put its own political agenda above the welfare of the people of Syria and the international community. This lapse in leadership was unworthy of this Council and an affront to the dedicated efforts of the OPCW Technical Secretariat and the OPCW-UN Joint Mission to remove chemical weapons from the military arsenal of the Assad regime.

Mr. Chairman,

While this Council was silent, the growing concern of the international community thankfully found its voice at the UN Security Council. On February 6th, the Security Council publicly addressed the Syria CW situation. In particular,

-- The Security Council noted growing concern, with respect to the decision of OPCW Executive Council EC-M-34/DEC.1, dated 15 November 2013, about the slow pace of the removal of the chemical weapons from the territory of Syria, which has placed efforts behind schedule;

-- The Security Council called upon the Syrian Arab Republic to expedite actions to meet its obligation to transport, in a systematic and sufficiently accelerated manner, all relevant chemicals to Latakia for removal from Syrian territory, and in this regard noted the Secretary-General and Joint Mission’s call for the Syrian Arab Republic to intensify its efforts to expedite in-country movements of chemical weapons material;

--The Security Council noted the Secretary-General and Joint Mission's assessment that the Syrian Arab Republic has sufficient material and equipment necessary to carry out multiple ground movements to ensure the expeditious removal of chemical weapons material, and noted the substantial international support already provided for the removal of chemical weapons materials from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic;

--Finally, the Security Council expressed its commitment to continue to closely monitor compliance with resolution 2118 (2013) with less than five months until the date for completing destruction of 30 June 2014 established in the OPCW Executive Council decision of 15 November 2013, which is a deadline that Security Council members remain committed to seeing met.

Mr. Chairman,

The United States fully supported the press elements by the UN Security Council chairman on February 6th and reaffirms that position today. In that regard, I would like to underscore the final element and make clear the position of the United States. It was the decision of this Council on November 15th that destruction -- not just removal -- of Syrian chemical weapons must be completed by June 30, 2014. Despite Syria’s inaction, the experts in the OPCW’s Operational Planning Group agreed last week that completion of removal and destruction by June 30, 2014 is indeed achievable if action is taken by Syria now.

The international community has put into place everything that is necessary for transport and destruction of these chemicals. Sufficient equipment and material has been provided to Syria. The ships to carry the chemicals away from Syria are waiting. The U.S. ship to destroy CW agent and precursors is now in the region and waiting. Commercial facilities to destroy other chemicals have been selected and contracts awarded; they are waiting. And yet Syria continues to drag its feet.

Mr. Chairman,

The Council should endorse all of the statements made by the President of the UN Security Council on February 6th, and reaffirm the June 30, 2014, date for removal and destruction of all Syrian chemical weapons. Further, this Council should reject Syria’s delaying tactics and insist that an expedited removal schedule be adhered to by the Syrian Government that will provide the international community sufficient time to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons by June 30, 2014.

Mr. Chairman,

At our meeting on January 30th, the United States called this Council’s attention to another serious issue – the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons production facilities (CWPF). Syria has proposed that seven hardened aircraft shelters and five underground structures previously used in connection with the production of chemical weapons be “inactivated,” by rendering them inaccessible. As detailed in a U.S. national paper and underscored by other members of this Council, Syria’s proposed measures would be readily and easily reversible within days. Thus, they clearly do not meet the requirement that such facilities be “physically destroyed” under the Convention and as implemented by the other States Parties that have declared chemical weapons production facilities. In an effort to resolve this impasse, the United States has engaged Syrian officials at the OPCW on several occasions, most recently a week ago. No progress has been made. Syria has flatly rejected U.S. efforts to find compromises for achieving the “physical destruction” requirement.

Mr. Chairman,

The deadline set by this Council for the destruction of Syria’s twelve chemical weapons production facilities is March 15 – just three weeks from today. Apparently, the Syrian Government intends to ignore yet another requirement set by the Council. This Council, however, cannot ignore the completion dates it established in its consensus decisions.

The United States believes the Council needs to address this issue, and we are considering a draft decision for the Seventy-Fifth Session of the Executive Council to address this impending situation. The United States believes this decision needs to have two principal components:

-- First, with respect to the seven hardened aircraft shelters, this Council should require that Syria by March 15 collapse the roofs using precision explosives. The United States has carefully analyzed this approach and concluded that it would meet the Convention standard for physical destruction in an expedited and cost-effective manner.

-- Second, with respect to the five underground structures, this Council, noting the additional technical challenges they entail, should extend the deadline for destruction but only on the condition that specified measures be undertaken by Syria first to inactivate them and then to physically destroy the entire underground structure.

Mr. Chairman,

In about ten days, this Council will convene in regular session and the Syrian CW situation will dominate our deliberations. This intervening period provides an opportunity for the Syrian Government to chart a new course – one that would allow Syria to meet its obligations in accordance with the decisions of this Council and UN Security Council resolution 2118. Over the next ten days, Syria should take the following actions to demonstrate its commitment to complying with its obligations. Syria should begin making substantial and systematic deliveries of liquid Priority One agent and precursors to Latakia. Syria should revise its 100-day transport schedule to embrace the recommendations developed by the OPCW, the UN, and others in the Operational Planning Group to expedite removal. And finally, Syria should withdraw its proposal to merely inactivate its CWPF aircraft shelters and underground structures, and agree to a true destruction plan.

Mr. Chairman,

If Syria does not soon undertake decisive action to fully comply with its obligations, this Council at its March regular session should require Syria to meet the expedited schedule for removal developed by the Operational Planning Group, with the goal of ensuring that the June 30th deadline for removal and destruction will be met. Further, the Council should adopt a decision to reinforce the Convention's requirement that Syrian CWPF aircraft shelters and underground structures be physically destroyed. We must take seriously the decisions of this Council and the requirements of the Convention, even if the Syrian Government does not.

Mr. Chairman,

The weeks ahead will be critical for the success of this historic endeavor. The United States urges Syria to finally make a course correction and fully comply with its obligations. If not, this Council, and indeed the broader international community, will need to consider the steps that will need to be taken to ensure that the promise of our September 27, 2013, decision and UN Security Council resolution 2118 are realized, and chemical weapons are forever removed from the hands of the Assad regime.

Mr. Chairman,

I request that this statement be made an official document of the meeting and posted on the OPCW website and external server.

Thank you, Mister Chairman.

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