World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


Efforts of UN to Eliminate Syriacn Chemical Weapons

Efforts of the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to Accomplish the Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons

Remarks
Thomas M. Countryman
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Washington, DC
March 26, 2014

________________________________________
Chairman Menendez, Ranking Member Corker, and Members of the Committee; thank you for the opportunity to testify today about international efforts to support the United Nations (UN) and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the complete and verifiable elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons program. While we have made important progress in the past months toward the elimination of Syria’s chemicals weapons program, considerable work remains to be done to ensure the Asad regime can never again use these terrible weapons against its own people, or threaten our regional and international partners with them.

Just last year, the regime did not even publicly acknowledge that it possessed chemical weapons, despite having used them on multiple occasions, including in attacks that killed over 1,400 people. Today, OPCW inspectors on the ground in Syria, with UN support, have conducted full inspections of Syria’s declared chemical weapons-related sites, and have verified the functional destruction of the chemical weapons production, mixing, and filling equipment at those sites. In addition, as of today, more than 49 percent of Syria’s declared chemical weapons materials slated for destruction outside of Syria have been removed, including all of Syria’s declared sulfur mustard agent, and the OPCW has verified the destruction in Syria of 93 percent of Syria’s declared isopropanol, a binary component of the nerve agent sarin. But that’s not good enough. Syria has yet to remove 65 percent of its most dangerous (Priority 1) declared chemicals. We must continue to work with the international community to maintain pressure on the Asad regime to remove all of these chemicals as urgently as possible.

The international community has established a firm legal framework, through UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2118 and decisions of the OPCW Executive Council, to ensure that this immense undertaking is completed in a transparent, expeditious, and verifiable manner, with a target for destroying all of Syria’s declared chemicals by June 30 of this year.
The progress made in the past months has been achieved by diplomacy backed by a willingness to use military force. It remains critically important, as this process continues, that members of the international community continue to monitor closely the Syrian regime’s compliance with its Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)-related obligations. Syria’s obligations are clear, and we will continue to underscore the importance of the Asad regime’s continued cooperation. The Security Council decided in UNSCR 2118 to impose Chapter VII measures in the event of non-compliance with the resolution.

While we have made progress, the task before us remains considerable. After months of Syrian foot dragging, we have made clear to the Asad regime that the internationally agreed upon schedule for chemical weapons destruction is simply not up for negotiation; the regime has all the equipment that it needs and has run out of excuses. We remain focused on underscoring the need for Syria to move forward rapidly with transporting chemical weapons materials to the port of Latakia for removal, consistent with its responsibilities under the CWC and UNSCR 2118. The next few weeks are critical in the removal effort, and we and the rest of the world are watching. We have, of course, also been in contact with Syrian opposition leaders, updating them throughout this process, and confirming their commitment that they will not interfere with the activities of the international elimination effort.

With the continuing support of the international community, and the dedicated commitment of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission, we believe the Syrians are capable of completing the removal effort by late April. The international community continues to work toward the June 30 target date for the complete elimination of the program. While Syrian delays have placed that timeline in some danger, we continue to believe they remain achievable.

The path ahead is not an easy one. Syria has missed several intermediate target dates, including most recently the target date for the destruction of chemical weapons production facilities. The regime must meet all chemical weapons destruction obligations, including for the physical destruction of chemical weapons production facilities, consistent with the CWC. The OPCW is currently advising Syria on an appropriate facilities destruction plan. It is essential that Syria accept its recommendations, and submit a revised facilities destruction plan for consideration by the OPCW Executive Council at its next scheduled meeting.

The United States and the international community have provided extensive assistance to the international effort to eliminate the Syrian chemical weapons program. There are no more excuses on the part of the Asad regime for not meeting the agreed timeline. We continue to encourage all countries to make whatever contribution they can to this important undertaking – whether that contribution is financial, technical, or in-kind – to enable the OPCW and UN to complete their missions. The United States has led by example in providing tens of millions of dollars in assistance to the OPCW-UN Joint Mission, including the provision of containers, trucks, forklifts and other materials necessary for the safe transportation of chemical weapons materials in Syria. The State Department’s Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund has provided eight million dollars in financial and in-kind assistance to the OPCW inspection team, including armored vehicles, training, protective equipment, and medical countermeasures. Most significantly, the United States is also contributing unique capabilities to the elimination effort through the Department of Defense’s provision of a U.S. vessel, the Motor Vessel (M/V) Cape Ray, equipped with deployable hydrolysis technology to neutralize at sea Syria’s highest priority chemical weapons materials (sulfur mustard agent and the sarin precursor chemical, DF).

While U.S. contributions to the elimination efforts are significant, this is ultimately a mission that reflects a remarkable international division of labor. Many of our international partners are participating and providing financial and in-kind assistance that is critical to the effort’s success: Danish and Norwegian ships (with Finnish and British support) are removing chemical weapons materials from the Syrian port of Latakia. Russia and China are assisting with security in Syrian territorial waters for the port loading operations. Italy has agreed to provide a port
to allow transloading operations from the Danish cargo ship to the Cape Ray. The United Kingdom has agreed to destroy nerve agent precursor chemicals through commercial incineration. Germany has agreed to destroy the by-product resulting from neutralization of the sulfur mustard agent aboard the M/V Cape Ray as an in-kind contribution. Countries like Japan, Canada, the European Union and many other states have made generous financial contributions. Companies in the United States and Finland have been awarded contracts from the OPCW for the destruction of the remaining materials.

As the removal and elimination process continues, we will also continue to fully support the OPCW’s verification and inspection efforts, to ensure the accuracy and completeness of Syria’s declaration. We have never taken the Asad regime at its word, and will continue to press for a robust verification regime to ensure the absence of undeclared materials and facilities. We approach this process with our eyes wide open, and will insist on international verification.

The path ahead will not be smooth, given the unprecedented scope and timeline for the mission. But we remain resolute in addressing these challenges, given the high stakes for the Syrian people, the region, and the world. Thank you again for the opportunity to discuss this important issue with you. I look forward to your questions and to consulting with you closely as we continue our efforts to verifiably eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons program.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Yemen: Killing Or Maiming An Average Of Eight Children A Day

Killing or maiming an average of eight children a day, ‘brutal’ Yemen conflict must end – UNICEF More>>

Changing Habits/behaviours Key To Overcome Vaccine Hesitancy

Vaccine hesitancy can be caused by factors such as negative beliefs based on myths, misinformation. Fear of needles can be a factor for refusal. Photo: PAHO/WHO More>>

Burundi: Ban Condemns Assassination Of Senior Army Officer

Refugees from Burundi in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Photo: OCHA/Naomi Frerotte United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the assassination Burundi’s former Army Chief of Staff, Colonel Jean Bikomagu, who ... More>>

Deadly Industrial Explosions In Northern China

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and the injuries to scores of people as a result of deadly explosions in Tianjin, China. More>>

UN Urges Action To Tackle Deepening Refugee Crisis In Greece

A group of Syrian refugees arrive on the island of Lesbos after travelling in an inflatable raft from Turkey, near Skala Sykaminias, Greece. Photo: UNHCR/A. McConnell More>>

Probe Into Those Responsible For Chemical Weapons In Syria

The US Vessel Cape Ray, on which all 581 metric tonnes of a precursor chemical for sarin gas were removed from Syria and safely destroyed as the ship sailed in international waters in 2014. Photo: US Dept. of Transportation More>>

Myanmar Election: UNICEF Urges Prioritisation Of Children

With 99 days to go before Myanmar elections, UNICEF urges candidates make children the clear winner More>>

Liberia Thousands Of Unregistered Children Born During Ebola Crisis

Thousands of unregistered children born in Liberia during Ebola crisis at risk of exploitation – UNICEF More>>

UN Refugee Agency Envoy Angelina Jolie Visits Myanmar

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt (left) in Myitkyina township, Kachin State, Myanmar, meeting with some of the 100,000 displaced people who currently live there. Photo: UNHCR/T.Stoddart More>>

As Health Needs Rise In Somalia, Funding Hits New Low

As health needs rise in Somalia, funding hits new low, cutting off 1.5 million from care – UN More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news