Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the Security Council Consultations regarding Syria-Chemical Weapons, 15 April 2020

Let me begin by thanking the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Ms Izumi Nakamitsu, for a detailed and factual briefing.

We would also like to thank the Director-General of the OPCW for his 78th monthly report and have noted that due to recent developments regarding the outbreak of COVID19, the Director-General has postponed all scheduled deployments and missions, including those to Syria.

Mr President,

South Africa reiterates our position that we condemn any use of chemical weapons. No cause can ever justify the use of any weapon of mass destruction by any actor under any circumstances.

The use of chemical weapons undermines the international norm against the production, use and stockpiling of chemical weapons established under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The alleged use of chemical weapons by a State Party to the Convention is a very serious matter that would constitute a material breach of obligations under the Convention.

Mr President,

South Africa strongly supports multilateralism and the international rule of law, which includes the non-discriminatory and consistent application of the provisions of relevant multilateral instruments and the preservation of the international norm against weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons.

South Africa remains committed to its international obligations as a State Party to the CWC and as a member of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.  We have taken note of the IIT report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria and will thus work with the Executive Council of the OPCW and the Conference of the States Parties to the CWC in examining the Investigation and Identification Team’s (IIT) report.

It is imperative that CWC States Parties continue to have confidence in the OPCW as the only technically competent international authority in its area of work and that there should be no political interference in its work. South Africa will continue to work towards preventing the politicisation of the relevant multilateral instruments, whilst at the same time holding States Parties accountable for any non-compliance with their obligations, based on incontrovertible evidence.

We welcome the ongoing consultations between the Declaration Assessment Team (DAT) and the Syrian Government and await its outcome. It is, however, regrettable that after almost five years, the relevant outstanding issues identified by the OPCW have not been resolved yet.  It is important that the work in this area is concluded as soon as possible. In this context, we urge both parties to continue to work together to resolve all outstanding matters without further delays.

In conclusion, Mr President, South Africa wishes to reiterate that the only sustainable solution to the Syrian question remains the achievement of a political solution through an inclusive Syrian-led dialogue aimed at achieving a political resolution reflective of the will of the Syrian people.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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