Statement by the Permanent Mission of South Africa to the United Nations, during the Security Council Open Video Teleconference (VTC) Meeting on Syria - Chemical Weapons, 10 September 2020

Thank you, Mr President,

Allow me to thank Ms Izumi Nakamitzu (High Representative for Disarmament Affairs) for her briefing to the Security Council, and the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (the OPCW) for his 83rd Report.

I would like to begin by reiterating South Africa’s 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. South Africa remains committed to its international obligations as a State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and as a member of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (the OPCW).

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 norms against weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons.

The use of chemical weapons undermines the international norms against the production, use and stockpiling of such weapons, established under the Chemical Weapons Convention. In South Africa’s view, the alleged use of chemical weapons by a State party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, is a very serious matter that would constitute a material breach of obligations under the Convention.

In order to ensure that States Parties adhere to their obligations, it is imperative that they have full faith and confidence in the work and processes of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. As the only technically competent international authority in this area, there can be no political interference in its work.

States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention should therefore unite in preserving the international norm against chemical weapons and the provisions of the Convention, along with its consistent and non-discriminatory implementation.

As indicated on a number of occasions, South Africa will continue to work for the depoliticisation of the relevant management and decision-making structures established under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and also towards ensuring that States Parties are held accountable for any violations of their obligations, based on credible and irrefutable evidence.

South Africa has taken note of the decision by the Executive Council of the OPCW, regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria. South Africa reiterates its position that this decision is premature and blurs the important distinction between the investigation process by the IIT and decision-making by the Executive Council on the finding of the report.

It therefore represents a missed opportunity to ensure both procedural and substantive fairness in dealing with this important matter. However, we welcome further discussions on this matter in November this year at the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

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

We should endeavour to approach the situation in Syria in a holistic manner, where the political, humanitarian and chemical weapons tracks, all converge in a single unified path, to long-term peace, security and stability for Syria.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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