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Official speeches and statements - May 22, 2018

Published on May 22, 2018

1. International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons - Closing speech by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs (Paris - May 18, 2018)

We’re meeting today in an emergency session to discuss ways and means to respond to a major challenge: the return of chemical weapons use to the forefront of the international arena. The horrors of the last century made those weapons of terror a taboo subject. But, as shown by the attack plot thwarted a few days ago by the French security services, terrorism can now also take on a chemical form.

On January 23, we made clear commitments to combating impunity for those who use chemical weapons, because impunity in this area simultaneously creates a feeling of injustice and undermines the foundations of our collective security.

Since then, not only have our commitments been honored but our partnership has also broadened. Indeed, nine countries have joined us. I want to pay tribute here to this choice and this commitment to reason and humanity. From the outset, we wanted our partnership to be inclusive. Before the press gathered here, I’d like once again to formally invite all those countries that reject impunity for the use of chemical weapons to join us.

In rallying together, we’re sending a clear message: there will never be impunity for those who gas combatants or civilians.

In five years, 10 years, 15 years, the perpetrators of such crimes will have to face justice and answer for their crimes. We owe this to the victims; we also owe it to ourselves, in order to ensure our collective security. Our international partnership has contributed to this straightaway.

Our urgent mobilization this week follows two major attacks: one in Salisbury in the United Kingdom on March 4 and the other in Douma, Syria, on April 7.

We’ve just had a most fruitful discussion about them, at a plenary session. Despite those two attacks being different in terms of their location and the methods used, they nevertheless have one thing in common: they both seriously undermine the foundations of our collective security by normalizing the use of those weapons. We must understand exactly what we’re facing. In 2018, a new-generation military toxin was used in peacetime, in a public space and on the European continent, which suffered so much from the use of such weapons in the last century.

Above all, we assessed the events in Syria. In Douma, a whole population, including women and children, was gassed. These barbaric acts violate the fundamental principles of the rules of war; these atrocities trample on some of the oldest and most universal international conventions.

So we must take action. The excellent discussions we’ve just had were an opportunity for us to reach agreement on the operational measures to take. We’ll take action, firstly, to ensure the international community rebuilds a mechanism tasked with ascertaining, in the event of a chemical attack, who the perpetrators are. This mechanism existed for Syria, but its action was constantly hindered by the Russian veto at the Security Council. Only a tiny minority of countries - those which have used those weapons or which choose to protect the people who have used them - can be satisfied with such a situation.

For our part, we’re on exactly the same wavelength: it’s important to decide as quickly as possible to rebuild a mechanism for investigating and identifying those responsible for using those weapons. This mechanism must be autonomous in its methods; it must be free of interference by states; it must be made up of experts also chosen without states’ intervention; and it must obviously be the only mechanism with the power to ascertain responsibility.

We agreed on the possibility of creating this mechanism under the aegis of the OPCW, whose reputation needs no further demonstration. I’d also like to welcome the presence here of a team from that organization, which has played an active role in our work.

Because of the urgency of the situation, an extraordinary session of the Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention should be held as soon as possible. It will note that the vast majority of countries share our concerns and that we’re ready to decide to act accordingly.

Together, in keeping with our commitments, we’ve been working to share all the information we have available about the chemical attacks that took place. We’ve done so in particular with the UN mechanisms tasked with investigating all the crimes committed in Syria.

I particularly want to thank Mrs. Marchi-Uhel, Head of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism [for Syria], Mr. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Chairman of the Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry, and the OPCW’s representatives for their effective, resolute contribution to our work. Their presence here symbolizes the complementary relationship between international organizations and states which want to cooperate fully to guarantee the effectiveness of law and justice.

We also looked at the single, consolidated list, published on our website, of persons and entities involved in these attacks.

France is going to make public this evening a watchlist focusing on 50 people it deems highly likely to have helped develop Syria’s chemical program.

In the same way, in accordance with what we pledged right here, France has today adopted new decisions to freeze assets, applying to 12 individuals and entities involved in the transfer of sensitive material to Syria’s main military chemical research center, CERS.

Finally, we believe that over the longer term, it’s important for the OPCW to be given a mechanism which would authorize inspections everywhere in Syria, including at non-declared sites, since it declares it has nothing to hide.

Our partnership has existed barely four months. It has already demonstrated its usefulness and effectiveness. We devised it as an operational instrument combining in an unprecedented way a response to the threat of chemical proliferation and a desire for international justice to be delivered. We shall continue to move forward along this path, on which international security and stability depend, alongside all those who choose to join us. I’ll let Boris Johnson say the final few words.

2. International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons - Ministerial declaration (Paris - May 18, 2018)

We, the participating States to the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons, condemn in the strongest terms the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons, the re-emergence of which we deplore.

We reaffirm our condemnation in the strongest possible terms of the use of chemical weapons by anyone, under any circumstance, emphasizing that all uses of chemical weapons anywhere, at any time, by anyone, under any circumstances are unacceptable, and contravene international standards and norms against such use.

We reiterate our strong support for the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction, an essential pillar of the international counter proliferation architecture and the rules based international order on which we all rely. We call upon all States to ratify or accede to and fully implement the Convention without delay. We pledge our unequivocal support to the work of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). And we reaffirm the importance of full respect for the 1925 Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare; with the Geneva Conventions; with UN Security Resolutions (UNSCRs) 2314 (2016), 2235 and 2209 (2015), 2118 (2013), 1540 (2004), and 2325 (2016). We also recall UNGA resolution A/72/43 (2017), as well as Human Rights Council (HRC) Resolution S-17/1 (2011).

We condemn the repeated use of chemical weapons in Syria by the Syrian armed forces and by Daesh [so-called ISIL] as confirmed by the OPCW-UN Joint Investigation Mechanism. Use of such weapons continues to kill and wound large numbers of men, women and children, including in the currently investigated attack on April 7, 2018 in Duma. Substantive information on the latter, from a number of sources, was presented on the highly likely responsibility of the Syrian armed forces and security forces.

We condemn the use of a nerve agent on March 4, 2018 in the city of Salisbury in the United Kingdom, against a British and a Russian citizen, which put in danger a British police officer and dozens of civilians. We share and agree with the United Kingdom’s analysis that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack and that there is no plausible alternative explanation.

We condemn the use of a chemical weapon - nerve agent VX - in a fatal incident on February 13, 2017 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

We condemn the use of propaganda, false and fabricated news stories or other such tools and campaigns designed to deliberately create misinformation about chemical weapons attacks and to avoid attribution and accountability.

We deeply regret the non-renewal of the mandate of the OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) last November. Russia’s opposition to the renewal of this mandate in the UN Security Council deprived the international community of an essential instrument of investigation, attribution and deterrence against those responsible for the chemical attacks in Syria. We call on Russia to reconsider its position so that new attribution mechanism may be established.

We regret that no measure has so far been adopted by key international bodies to hold to account the perpetrators involved in chemical attacks.

We believe that it is the responsibility of all States parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, to uphold it as a foundation of the international disarmament, non-proliferation and broader security architecture, and to do everything possible to stop and prevent such heinous attacks that undermine human dignity. We join in the fight against the impunity currently enjoyed by those who use and develop these inhumane weapons that the international community has been working to ban since early last century, a work solidified with the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997.

In response to the most recent use of chemical weapons, we have convened this urgent meeting of the participating States of the Partnership on May 18, 2018 following the recent cases of use of these weapons in Salisbury and Syria. We have exchanged our assessments of the situation and have worked to further strengthen our cooperation in order to support international organizations, in particular OPCW, and dedicated mechanisms in their activities to combat impunity for the use of chemical weapons.

We discussed ways to strengthen the longstanding international norm against the use of chemical weapons, in particular to make all necessary means available for the development of effective, impartial and independent attribution arrangements to identify those responsible for chemical attacks.

We have also explored possibilities of reinforcing the OPCW’s capacity and tools to strengthen its verification regime, and call on States Parties to the Convention to work to that end at the fourth Review conference.

We believe that capacity building efforts are essential to assist States Parties in implementing their obligation under the Convention as mentioned in the Declaration of principles. To that end, we commit to engage and identify synergies with related initiatives, including the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction.

National sanctions have been adopted by some participating States and additional sanctions were announced at the meeting for publication on the partnership website, as appropriate.

We commend the work of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, including its Declaration Assessment Team and Fact Finding Mission.

We also welcome the International Impartial and Independent mechanism (IIIM) to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011, and the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, which continue to contribute substantively to work investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Given the gravity of the situation, we support the call for a special session of the Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention in The Hague next month to work on supporting the Convention and its implementing body, the OPCW. We call on all States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention to support the holding of this meeting and to work together to strengthen the ability of the OPCW to promote the implementation of the Convention, including exploring options for attributing responsibility for chemical weapons attacks.

We founded this Partnership on January 23, 2018 to strengthen our cooperation to protect the Chemical Weapons Convention, to help identify those responsible for chemical weapons use as a step towards bringing them to justice, and to support the work of dedicated OPCW and UN bodies working in this field.

More than 30 states drawn from all geographical regions have joined the partnership to date. We welcome the growing membership of the Partnership, and the many countries not yet members that share our concerns. We solemnly call upon those who have yet to do so to join our International Partnership against impunity for the use of chemical weapons to send a clear message that they join our common refusal to accept impunity for anyone, anywhere responsible for the use of chemical weapons and are committed to putting an end to their use.

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