Swedish statement at the UNSC Briefing on Threats to international peace and security: the situation in the Middle East
National statement delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on Threats to international peace and security: the situation in the Middle East, 13 April 2018, New York.
Thank you Mr President,
And thank you very much Secretary-General for his briefing today, for your efforts and for your good offices.
Last weekend, reports once again began to emerge of horrifying allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, this time in Douma, with reports of a large number of civilian casualties.
Like many others, we were alarmed by these extremely serious allegations and we called for an immediate, impartial and thorough investigation to establish the facts.
In that regard, we welcome the fact that the OPCW's Fact-Finding Mission has been deployed to Syria. Full access and co-operation by all parties must now be ensured.
I want to reiterate here again that we will spare no effort to combat the use and proliferation of chemical weapons by State or non-State actors anywhere in the world.
We unequivocally condemn in the strongest terms the use of chemical weapons, including in Syria. It is a serious violation of international law, it constitutes a threat to international peace and security, and their use in armed conflict is a war crime.
The international disarmament and non-proliferation regime must be safeguarded. This is best achieved through true multilateralism and broad international consensus.
We share the outrage and the frustration of many in this Chamber about chemical weapons use in Syria. Those responsible for such crimes must be held accountable. We cannot accept impunity.
The conflict in Syria is in its eighth year and we are at a dangerous moment. We fully share the deep concern expressed by the Secretary-General about the risks of the current impasse, the need to avoid the situation to escalate and spiralling out of control and to pay further attention to the divides, tensions and fault lines in the region as described again by the Secretary-General this morning.
We remain deeply disappointed that the Council was unable to agree and move forward on a substantial, swift, and unified response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria. We deeply regret that Russia once again used its veto and blocked the Council from taking action this week. Over the last number of days, we have tried to ensure that all peaceful means to respond seriously be considered. We are working tirelessly to ensure that no stone is left unturned in efforts to find a way forward in this Council. The Secretary-General offered to support such efforts through his good offices. This is an opportunity that should be seized. That is why we yesterday circulated yet another proposal that asks for four things.
Firstly, it condemns in the strongest terms any use of chemical weapons in Syria and it expresses alarm at the alleged incident in Douma last weekend – because the use of chemical weapons constitutes a serious violation of international law.
Secondly, it demands full access and cooperation for the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission - because we need facts and evidence about what happened in Douma last weekend.
Thirdly, it expresses the Council's determination to establish a new impartial, objective and independent attribution mechanism, based on a proposal by the Secretary-General, - because the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks must be identified and held to account and to that end we need a new mechanism.
Fourthly, it requests the Secretary-General to dispatch, immediately, a high-level disarmament mission to Syria - because we need to resolve all outstanding issues on chemical weapons and rid Syria once and for all of all possible chemical weapons that might still exist in the country. Such a mission would add political and diplomatic leverage to the necessary technical and professional work of the OPCW.
So, we call on members of this Council to muster the political will and to adhere to the appeal by the Secretary-General in order to come together and move forward.
The use of chemical weapons is a serious threat to international peace and security. It is indeed deplorable that this Council has not yet been able to come together and agree on a timely and firm response.
Even though the use of chemical weapons in itself violates international law, any response must comply with international law and respect the UN Charter.
The time has now come to urgently revert to a political process, under UN auspices, for a political solution in line with resolution 2254; and for Syria and the Astana guarantors to move forward with no further delay and live up to their commitments; for resolution 2401 demanding a cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access to be fully and urgently implemented. This is the only way to end to the suffering of the Syrian people and put an end to this brutal seven year-long conflict.
We strongly believe there is a way for the Council to shoulder its responsibilities in accordance with the UN Charter. We believe there is still a way for the Council to come together and that we need to ensure that we have exhausted every peaceful effort and diplomatic option to stop further atrocities being carried out in Syria; to hold those responsible to account; to come to terms once and for all with this chemical weapons issue in Syria; to cease hostilities and find a political solution.
Thank you very much, Mr President.