Syrian Chemical Weapons Report
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
17 September 2013
Thank you to the Secretary General and Dr Sellstrom and his team for their report – undertaken despite significant risks to their personal safety. Your commitment to ensuring a scientifically rigorous process is deeply appreciated, and yesterday and today you have presented to the international community a compelling and deeply disturbing, report. As you said in briefing the Security Council, “the results are overwhelming and indisputable. The facts speak for themselves”.
The findings demonstrate unequivocally that the lethal nerve agent sarin was responsible for the deaths of over a thousand Syrians, including hundreds of children. My own country continues to assess that the Syrian regime is responsible.
This is a truly deplorable act, a grave breach of international law for which the perpetrators must be held accountable. Australia’s view for some time has been that the situation in Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court. What the Secretary-General has told us only reinforces that assessment.
We welcome the agreement reached by Russia and the US intended to ensure the destruction of the Syrian CW program. This breakthrough development will, we hope, move us beyond the deadlock we have experienced for too long in the Security Council.
We welcome their agreement to submit to the OPCW’s Executive Council a draft decision setting down special procedures for the expeditious destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, and the stringent verification of that destruction. We encourage action on this as soon as possible and an Executive Council decision over coming days.
Since the Chemical Weapons Convention contains no enforcement mechanism, the Security Council must adopt a strong resolution that reinforces any decision by the OPCW. This must be legally-binding and enforceable to ensure compliance with the timeframes and procedures to be established by the OPCW. There must be consequences for non-compliance.
Of course, the use of chemical weapons remains only one element of the tragedy that has played out in Syria over the past two-and-a-half years. Five hundred Syrians have become refugees in the two hours since the General Assembly has met this afternoon.
Addressing the deplorable humanitarian situation – and ensuring humanitarian access and assistance –remains a priority for Australia and we want to see action in the Security Council on that very soon. We strongly support the Secretary-General’s call this afternoon for humanitarian pauses to allow the wounded to be evacuated and assistance provided to those in need. This is an immediate priority in areas where fighting is ongoing. But the terrible fact is almost one third of Syria’s population – 7 million people – need help.
Ultimately, as we know, only a political solution can resolve the crisis in Syria. We therefore encourage all efforts toward convening Geneva II. The spirit of cooperation and compromise evident on Syria in recent days must be sustained to end the needless suffering of the Syrian people.