Statement by Ambassador Christoph Heusgen in the Security Council VTC meeting on Syria (Chemical Weapons), December 11

11.12.2020 - Speech

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When I was preparing for today's meeting, I was looking through the press clippings and saw one from today about two Russian diplomats that were expelled from the Netherlands yesterday. They actually worked for Russian spy agencies and they were caught stealing high tech information from the Netherlands. These reports mentioned four Russian spies that were caught red-handed two years ago, when they parked their truck outside the OPCW building and tried to hack the OPCW. We heard a very long statement by the Russian Ambassador this morning, but he didn't mention anything about Russia's hacking in all of this. Germany has been in the Security Council for two years, and in all of these meetings over the last two years, Russia has been undermining the OPCW.

Today is another example. I find it very treacherous that the Russian Ambassador takes offense at the understanding that questions on the issue would be dealt with in the closed session and that we were only to expect statements today. I would like to thank OPCW Director-General Arias for his statement, and I would assume that this is Russian intimidation to try to catch you off guard.

If Russia was really interested in the substance, they would not have stopped all the efforts over the years to find the evidence. They wouldn't block the verification mission. They wouldn't block accountability. After two years on the Council, we must say that the Russian efforts to undermine the OPCW have failed. The OPCW remains a very strong, very respected organization. It functioned well, despite all the constant efforts to undermine it or, to quote the Russian Ambassador, despite the smear campaign that is being led against the organization.

Mr. Arias, in difficult times, you have done a very good job. I would like to thank you also in the name of the German Government for your personal commitment and that of the Technical Secretariat, in all your efforts to uphold the Chemical Weapons Convention. My thanks also goes to Izumi Nakamitsu.  I have a lot of admiration for you and how you always hold your unwavering position defending the global norm of non-use of chemical weapons.

Mr. President, after 7 years and 86 progress reports, little progress has been made on the Syrian chemical weapons file. For 7 years, the Syrian regime has stalled and obstructed investigations. The regime has failed to make the declaration of its CW program and arsenal that can hold up to scrutiny. We heard today from the briefers that 19 questions remain unanswered. Among those are questions relating to a production facility of chemical weapons  and we must not take this lightly. The regime has refused to cooperate with the fact finding mission and the IIT teams. The regime has chosen to ignore the decision by the OPCW's Executive council. Even worse, after Resolution 2118 in 2013 the Syrian regime has continued to use chemical weapons against its own people in country, in Khan Shaykhun and Ltamenah as we heard today.

Mr. President, Germany will appeal to those remaining in and those joining the Council to continue to stand up for international law and the Chemical Weapons Convention. Don't succumb to the war of attrition that is being waged here. Germany, from outside the Council, will continue to support the OPCW and strive for accountability. We will support the OPCW attribution mechanism, which from our perspective is key. The Director-General in his intervention confirmed that the use of nerve agents is equivalent with violating the Chemical Weapons Convention. This re-emergence, as we've seen in Syria and in the terrible cases of The Skripals and Mr. Navalny must not be tolerated. There can only be just and lasting peace in Syria if the perpetrators of these most heinous crimes are identified and brought to justice. National jurisdictions in Germany and elsewhere are starting to fill the current void. The Office of the Federal Prosecutor in Germany is collecting information on the use of chemical weapons. Just recently, civil society organizations filed charges on the chemical weapons attacks in Ghuta and Khan Shaykhun country. Mr. President, there is a ray of hope!

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