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Transcript of Remarks at Security Council Press Stakeout - Elimination of Chemical Weapons in Syria

Thematic issues

  • Chemical weapons
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Iraq
  • Israel
  • Justice
  • Mali
  • Palestine
  • Syria

UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL

Remarks to the press by the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations, Gary Quinlan, following UN Security Council consultations on the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria.

Transcript, E&OE

AMBASSADOR QUINLAN: Good evening. As you know, this afternoon
the Council has done a couple of things.

As I indicated this morning, we had the adoption, reading out of a Presidential Statement on developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That text is available – I don't need to say anything more about that apart from the fact that it is a strong statement, a clear statement. It makes very clear the expectations of the Council in respect of what is happening, particularly in relation to the security situation, but also the campaign against the FDLR, and also the ADF, the extremist group, jihadist group, operating in and causing so many problems in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There are many other elements but I'd draw particular attention to those two.

We've just completed our monthly review of progress in the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons program and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General Sigrid Kaag, who is currently in Beirut, updated us by VTC on her ongoing work; working closely, of course, with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons based in The Hague to ensure that Syria completes the elimination of the program.

I think it's worth recalling what the UN and the OPCW have achieved since the Security Council adopted 2118 on 27 September last year – coincidentally when Australia last chaired the Council. Syria declared over 1300 tonnes of chemical materials and by 23 June this year, those chemicals had been removed from Syria for destruction overseas and a small portion, quite a small portion, was destroyed by Syria in country. The removal process which involved 20 movements was a difficult task to complete given the volatile security environment as well as slow rolling, frankly, from the Syrian regime so it was a task that required the constant vigilance of the Council and the OPCW Executive Council to ensure that all of those declared chemicals were taken out of the hands of the Syrian regime. Now 98% of the declared chemicals have been destroyed on the ship, the US ship the Cape Ray and in facilities in the UK, Finland, the United States and Germany. So we're very close to completion of their elimination; but the chemicals have been removed – it's just a very small portion that have yet to be destroyed overseas. And frankly that is a fairly remarkable achievement and reflects very clearly on the unity and purpose among Member States when we adopted the resolution last September but also in following it up consistently.

A number of countries, of course, have contributed to this process. There was over $60 million to fund the destruction process which was provided by a large number of countries and there was significant in-kind contributions, including the US ship Cape Ray and the Norwegian and Danish vessels, the naval escorts which were provided by Russia, China and the United Kingdom.

And this is an important disarmament success story, but it's not over yet. There is still, I have to say, significant work and that work was the focus of the Council's consideration today. Ms Kaag updated us on preparations to commence the destruction of the 12 remaining production facilities – there are seven hangers and five underground tunnels that need to be destroyed. Destruction is scheduled to commence later this month and likely to be completed, probably, around the summer of next year, 2015. We also have a report on preparations to destroy a further facility declared by Syria, in addition to those twelve which was a ricin production facility which we had not known about at an earlier stage.

Ms Kaag addressed the on-going work to resolve concerns about the completeness of what Syria initially declared to us, and subsequent disclosures to the OPCW by Syria in relation to its CW program. And of course she underlined the need to address promptly and transparently all remaining concerns. The comments of Council members reaffirmed the importance of Syrian cooperation, obviously to resolve those matters. The OPCW team which is looking at the declaration and implementation of that declaration is in Damascus this week and there was a strong sense or message among many Council members that those consultations really do need to show substantial progress.

Finally I should say that Council members also discussed the OPCW Fact Finding Mission's second report which found systematic use of chlorine as a weapon. Ms Kaag advised that the OPCW is preparing a further report on that issue and Council members expressed support for the work of the OPCW in continuing its investigations. And of course many Council members expressed great concern over the use of chlorine and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

I think that's really all I will report on Syria CW but I'm available for a few questions.

JOURNALIST: Mr President, you mentioned the Syrian regime
several times. Are you speaking in your national capacity, in your Australian
regime's capacity, or in the international, as President of the Security Council?

AMBASSADOR QUINLAN: Let's say, the Government in Syria. The
Government in Damascus.

JOURNALIST: I wanted to ask two things. One on the OPCW issue.
Did anyone bring up this reported use of chlorine by ISIS or Daish in Iraq and
also the possibility that ISIS or Daish has helicopters, as some say?

I also wanted to ask you about your meeting with the Palestinian Observer, if you could maybe separately say what you think the next step on… he spoke to us afterwards, what are you going to do as President? Thanks a lot.

AMBASSADOR QUINLAN: Yes, one member of the Council did specifically
mention the possibility that CW could be used by terrorist groups and raised
parenthetically the question about the use of helicopters. I don't want to characterise
who raised what or go into detail about those sorts of discussions but one member
did raise those couple of issues, yes.

JOURNALIST: Is there a next step on the State of Palestine?

AMBASSADOR QUINLAN: We did have a brief discussion at the
end after we'd finished discussions on the chemical weapons program. I reported
to the Council that I had received three letters as President this afternoon
– a letter from Jordan, a letter from the Palestinian – the Permanent Observer,
so from the Jordanian Permanent Representative and the Palestinian Permanent
Observer, and also from the Israeli [Permanent Representative]. So
there are three letters that have come in this afternoon – all related to developments
in Jerusalem. Those letters have now been circulated by me as President to all
members of the Council and those letters, their content obviously will need
to be digested, looked at by all members of the Council and all of us are aware
very much of what's going on on the ground and what's alleged to have gone on
on the ground. And so different governments no doubt will be trying to establish
for themselves as well precisely what has been happening. There was no discussion.
This was only a reporting matter – because these letters have only just been
distributed – only received and then distributed. I did meet earlier before
the session began this afternoon with the Palestinian Permanent Observer, Ambassador
Mansour, and he handed over a copy of his letter at that stage. Obviously it's
up to him to indicate their sense of things. But he pressed the urgency of the
matter, obviously.

Nothing formally has been presented in terms of further action based on those letters to the Council as yet. But if anything does come forward, of course, the Council, I'm sure, will treat that very seriously.

JOURNALIST: Thank you Mr Ambassador. Just as a quick follow-up
on the Palestinians. Ambassador Mansour said that the Palestinians wanted action,
possibly even tonight by the Council. So obviously from what you're saying there's
no chance of that. Is any meeting scheduled tomorrow? We understand that the
Palestinians and the Jordanians may be working on some kind of a text, I don't
know for what.

AMBASSADOR QUINLAN: In relation to that, I can't confirm that's
the case. So you'll need to confirm that directly with the Palestinians and
the Jordanians. If something comes forward and people request a meeting tomorrow
then we'll obviously need to look at that as a matter of priority. Tomorrow,
of course, we have the ICJ elections taking place simultaneously in the General
Assembly and in the Security Council. That does not mean that we could not have
a special meeting if we needed to do so, if it's requested. But at the moment
nothing has been formalised in respect of that.

JOURNALIST: Thank you Ambassador. Back to the Syrian chemical
weapons program. After previous briefing last month or reports for extra objects
of the Syria chemical weapons, can you confirm that there are four extra sites
that were previously undeclared? What's the problem with that?

And also there were reports about possible problems with finding private contractors to destroy these remaining (chemicals). Can you confirm that there are such problems and what are they caused by?

AMBASSADOR QUINLAN: There are additional sites that we've
become aware of since the initial declaration of production facilities – the
12. Everybody in the Council is aware of that – we've been formally briefed
on those. So now the question is sorting out in Damascus precisely what happens
with those; but as I said there's an OPCW team in Damascus right now which is
looking at a range of these sorts of issues, taking the declaration as the starting
point but seeking to resolve any anomalies or later information or amendments
that the Syrians want to make to that declaration. That's really all I can say.

Ok, thanks.

Last Updated: 18 June 2015
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