Explanation of Vote – UNFC October 2023
“Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction”
Delivered by the United States on behalf of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Cyprus, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom
I am delivering this explanation of vote on behalf of 35 countries and my own country on draft resolution 99(L): “Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction.”
Our respective countries voted in favor of this resolution, as we believe it accurately reflects the objectives and goals of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and key developments of the past year. It welcomes the opening of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)’s Centre for Chemistry and Technology and notes that although the CWC’s Fifth Review Conference did not achieve consensus on a final document, most issues received very broad support and that a wide range of delegations undertook efforts toward a consensual outcome.
The resolution welcomes the OPCW’s confirmation that the last chemical munition of the United States declared chemical weapons stockpile was irreversibly destroyed. It underlines that the end of destruction of all declared chemical weapons stockpiles is an important milestone and a critical step towards permanently eliminating all chemical weapons.
The resolution also highlights the sad truth that the threat of continued use of chemical weapons is real and, unfortunately, it continues to grow. It provides a factual accounting of the repeated use of chemical weapons, including the conclusions reached in the third report of the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team (IIT), dated 27 January 2023. The resolution supports the courageous work of the Technical Secretariat of the OPCW in its impartial efforts to implement the IIT’s mandate – to follow the evidence and identify those responsible for the use chemical weapons.
Mr. Chairman, as we celebrate the OPCW’s confirmation that all CWC States Parties’ declared stockpiles of chemical weapons have been destroyed, we remain steadfast in defending and preserving the CWC, and the norm against the use of chemical weapons. We are determined to see an end to the threat and use of chemical weapons and hold to account the few who seek to normalize the use of chemical weapons.
It is regrettable that we must yet again express condemnation for the use of chemical weapons. This resolution rightfully highlights the grave concerns of chemical weapons use as previously seen in Syria, Malaysia, Iraq, the United Kingdom, and Russia with the poisoning of Mr. Alexei Navalny. It remains unfortunate that a few countries prefer to look the other way or simply state that facts on chemical weapons use in this resolution must be deleted – as if to “whitewash” away the instances of CW use and pretend they never happened. The United States and those states aligned with this statement will never allow that to happen. Chemical weapons use will not be tolerated, and there must be no impunity. We recall in that regard commitments by participating States to the International Partnership Against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons and that participating States encourage others to join.
Mr. Chairman, nearly every country in the world is party to the CWC, and the vast majority of these nations comply with their obligations. We understand that South Sudan is on the path towards CWC accession, and we applaud that decision. Syria, however, has flouted its international obligations by repeatedly using chemical weapons against its own people. It is not politicization to state the facts. The IIT, and the former OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism, have now attributed a total of nine separate chemical weapons attacks to Syria. We anticipate the release of the forthcoming IIT report on the use of chemical weapons in Marea, Syria, in 2015.
More than ten years since Syria’s accession to the CWC, the international community continues to call on the Syrian authorities to immediately resolve the discrepancies in its CWC declaration, as a critical step to work toward the verified elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons program.
Similarly, the Russian Federation must comply with its CWC obligations. The international community has been waiting for over three years now for Russia to provide a full accounting for the poisoning of Mr. Navalny with a Novichok nerve agent on Russian territory. Let us also never forget Russia’s attempted assassination of the Skripals in Salisbury, UK, with a Novichok nerve agent. Russia must explain these uses of chemical weapons.
Since Russia’s February 24, 2022, unjustifiable and unprovoked further invasion of Ukraine, Russia – with zero evidence – has continuously and falsely accused Ukraine of using, or planning to use, chemical weapons against Russian troops. We call on Russia to immediately end this war of aggression and further call on Russia in the strongest possible terms to refrain from any acts in violation of the Convention, including use of riot control agents as a method of warfare– expressly prohibited under the CWC.
Mr. Chairman, all States Parties to the Convention are bound by its obligations. If we fail to act, others may be emboldened to use chemical weapons in the future. We must continue to condemn in the strongest possible terms all uses of chemical weapons by any State or non-State actor, and to hold all those who would use such weapons accountable.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.