Swedish Statement at the UN Security Council Briefing on the Middle East, Syria [chemical weapons]
National statement delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on the Middle East, Syria (chemical weapons), 6 September 2018, New York.
I thank the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs for her briefing.
During the conflict in Syria, we have witnessed numerous systematic and flagrant violations of international law, including violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of international human rights law, by all parties to the conflict, particularly from Syrian forces.
Chemical weapons have been used repeatedly. We condemn in the strongest terms such use. It is a serious violation of international law and it constitutes a threat to international peace and security. Such use in armed conflict amounts to a war crime.
The proliferation and use of chemical weapons by State and non-State actors alike must end and those responsible for such crimes must be held accountable. Impunity is not an option. We therefore supported the decision of the Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, at its special session, to put in place arrangements to identify the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. While a mechanism established by this Council would have been preferable, the issue was too important to be allowed to be blocked indefinitely. This does not, as have been stated by several this afternoon, relieve this Council from its responsibility.
Let me make a few remarks with regard to the latest progress report on the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria from the OPCW Director-General.
Firstly, we note that the Declaration Assessment Team is analysing the response by the Syrian authorities to the questions regarding the outstanding issues related to its chemical weapons declaration. Let me emphasise that all open issues must be closed without further delay. All remaining chemical weapons must be declared and destroyed in line with resolution 2118. We urge the Syrian authorities to co-operate fully and actively with the OPCW so that the accuracy and completeness of its declaration can ultimately be verified.
Secondly, we would like to reiterate our full support for the OPCW and our complete confidence in the independent, impartial and professional work of its Fact-Finding Mission (FFM). We look forward to the up-coming reports regarding a number of pending investigations, including the final report on the alleged attack in Douma.
Finally, we note the intention of the Director-General to issue a second progress report, ahead of the October session of the OPCW Executive Council, on the implementation of the decision of the Special Session of the Conference on States Parties regarding attribution for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. We look forward to the Security Council being kept informed on this important matter.
We are alarmed by the signs of a possible military offensive in north-western Syria. Idlib is a de-escalation area, established by the Astana guarantors. However, one after the other of the de-escalation areas have turned into escalation areas. A full-scale military offensive would lead to a humanitarian catastrophe. Idlib is different from other areas. There is nowhere to flee. There are three million civilians living there, including one million children.
All parties, including Syrian allies, need to be reminded of their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian objects; and to comply with the principles of distinction, proportionality and avoidance of unnecessary suffering.
We therefore urge all parties to abide by the de-escalation agreement in Idlib and the Astana guarantors to uphold their commitments regarding de-escalation and humanitarian access. We must ensure that Idlib will not become the next Aleppo or Eastern Ghouta. It is vital that Russia, Turkey and Iran find a way during their meeting tomorrow to avoid further escalation. This Council also has a preventive role to avoid a disaster and together with Kuwait and all other members we stand ready to explore all meaningful options to prevent further violence.
In this regard, let me express our alarm about allegations that chemical weapons may be used again and remind all parties of the clear and absolute prohibition on the use of chemical weapons under any circumstances.
It is more critical than ever to avoid escalation and revert to the track of diplomacy for a political solution, in line with resolution 2254. We reiterate our total support for the UN-led political process and the indefatigable efforts of Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura. A sustainable political solution is the only way to end the suffering of the Syrian people from more than seven years of conflict.
I thank you Madam President.