UN Security Council endorses expeditious destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons programme

25 Mar 2014

UN Security Council endorses expeditious destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons programme

27 September 2013 - Deeply outraged by the use of chemical weapons on 21 August in a Damascus suburb, as concluded by a United Nations investigation team, the Security Council this evening endorsed the expeditious destruction of Syria's chemical weapons programme, with inspections to begin by 1 October, and agreed that in the event of non-compliance, it would impose "Chapter VII" measures.

Unanimously adopting resolution 2118 (2013) in a fast-breaking evening meeting, the Council determined that the use of chemical weapons anywhere constituted a threat to international peace and security, and called for the full implementation of the 27 September decision of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which contains special procedures for the expeditious and verifiable destruction of Syria's chemical weapons.

Specifically, the Council prohibited Syria from using, developing, producing, otherwise acquiring, stockpiling or retaining chemical weapons, or transferring them to other States or non-State actors, and underscored also that no party in Syria should use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer such weapons.

Also by the text, Syria should comply with all aspects of the OPCW decision, notably by accepting personnel designated by OPCW or the United Nations and providing them with immediate and unfettered access to — and the right to inspect — any and all chemical weapons sites.

Further, the Council decided to regularly review Syria's implementation of the OPCW Executive Council decision and the present resolution, requesting the OPCW Director-General, through the Secretary-General, to report to it within 30 days and every month thereafter. Fully endorsing the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012, the Council called for the convening, as soon as possible, of an international conference on Syria to implement that Communiqué.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the resolution's passage as "the first hopeful news on Syria in a long time", but said, even amid that important step, "we must never forget that the catalogue of horrors in Syria continues with bombs and tanks, grenades and guns". He said the plan to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons was "not a license to kill with conventional weapons".

Stressing that the perpetrators of the chemical attacks in Syria must be brought to justice, he said a United Nations mission had returned to complete its fact-finding investigation. The team would conclude its work next week and he would promptly transmit a report to all Member States.

He pressed the Council to capitalize on its new-found unity by focusing on two other equally crucial dimensions of the conflict: the dire humanitarian situation and the political crisis. For their parts, the Syrian sides must engage constructively towards the creation of a democratic State, while regional actors must challenge those who sought to undermine that process.

In the debate that followed, Council members praised the text for placing binding obligations on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, requiring it to get rid of its "tools of terror". United States Secretary of State John Kerry said that that regime bore the burden of meeting the terms of the resolution.

At the same time, Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, emphasized that the responsibility for implementing the resolution did not lay with Syria alone. The text had not been passed under the Charter's Chapter VII, nor did it allow for coercive measures. It contained requirements for all countries, especially Syria's neighbours, which must report on moves by non-State actors to secure chemical weapons.

Also speaking in today's debate were the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, France, Azerbaijan, Republic of Korea, China, Guatemala, Morocco and Argentina, as well as the Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs of Pakistan. The representatives of Rwanda, Togo and Australia also spoke.