OPCW Syria chemical weapons report unsurprisingly contentious during UNSC video conference

NEW YORK – On 8 April, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) accused Damascus of using prohibited chemical weapons in its attack on the town of Al-Latamena in the Hama countryside, prompting the United Nations Security Council to hold a closed-door video session on Wednesday, 15 April,  in which Britain, Germany, and Estonia criticized the lack of accountability in Syria over accusations of a chemical attack in 2017.

Ambassador Jürgen Schulz, Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany to the U.N., said that accountability is necessary and impunity for these heinous crimes is not an option.

The Estonian Ambassador to the U.N., Sven Jorgensen, stressed that the use of chemical weapons could not be tolerated. Jorgensen called for the need to hold Syrian officials accountable in order to avoid continuing what he described as atrocities and expressed regret at the lack of full cooperation from the Syrian Government in this regard.

British Ambassador to the U.N. Jonathan Allen said the Syrian authorities had not answered questions raised about its chemical weapons program since its disclosure, adding that Syria continued to violate its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and Security Council resolutions. Allen noted that Syria’s use of chemical weapons contradicted its claims to have completely destroy its chemical weapons stockpile in 2017.

During the session, Russian Permanent Representative to the U.N. Vassily Nebenzia reiterated Moscow’s rejection of the OPCW report, stressing that the Syrian Government had in the past shut down its military chemical weapons program and completely destroyed its chemical arsenal.

Nebenzia stated that the report is biased and contains flaws and loopholes, noting that this document is based on information and statements collected remotely from groups opposed to the Syrian Government and completely ignores the statements provided by Damascus.

Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, described the conclusions of the latest investigation as “very regrettable”, stressing that the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances is totally unacceptable and it is necessary to hold those involved accountable.