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Syria - Chemical Weapons

UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL

Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

 

Adoption of this Security Council resolution is an historic moment for the Council and – we hope – will mark a turning point in the Council’s approach to the Syrian conflict.  It shows that the Council can take decisive and united action and can use its authority to help shape a stable and secure future for all Syrians.

We thank Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary of State Kerry – and their teams – for their perseverance.  And we thank the Secretary-General and Dr Sellstrom – and their teams – for the effective work they have done, often in very difficult circumstances, to present an unequivocal conclusion to the Council that chemical weapons were used on 21 August in Damascus.

As we know, the resolution does a number of important things.  For the first time it makes clear that the use of chemical weapons anywhere constitutes a threat to international peace and security.  This statement from the Council strengthens a fundamental norm of international relations that we have had for 90 years – that the use of chemical weapons by anyone in whatever circumstances is abhorrent and constitutes a very serious breach of international law.  This statement should act as a strong deterrent to anyone who might contemplate using chemical weapons in the future.

The resolution imposes legally-binding obligations on Syria to secure and destroy its chemical weapons.  The Syrian authorities must now cooperate unconditionally with the OPCW and the UN and put all of Syria’s chemical weapons and related materials and equipment fully under international supervision and control and ensure their complete, final, verifiable and enforceable destruction.  The Council has decided that there will be consequences under Chapter VII if Syria does not comply.  It is our collective responsibility to remain vigilant in assessing Syria’s compliance with this resolution.

Importantly, the resolution also reaffirms that those who have perpetrated this mass atrocity crime against their own citizens must be held accountable for their actions.  Australia’s assessment is that the evidence available shows that it was the Syrian authorities who were responsible for this crime.  This incident has confirmed what Australia has said for a long time – that this Council should refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

The historic significance of today’s resolution goes well beyond chemical weapons.  It has been fifteen months since the Geneva communiqué on Syria’s political transition was agreed.  Now, for the first time, it has been endorsed by the Security Council.  We must build on this as a matter of urgency.  We need to bring the Syrian parties together so that they can agree on a cease-fire and a credible political transition.

Whatever the importance of tonight’s decision, however, the terrible fact is that Syrians themselves – and their neighbours, and the global community – face an ever-accelerating humanitarian catastrophe – what the Secretary-General called tonight this “catalogue of horrors”: over two million Syrian refugees; five million internally displaced; eight million in need of assistance; over a third of Syria’s housing destroyed.  The Council needs to address this humanitarian crisis more decisively – and now.  As Foreign Minister Asselborn has mentioned it is the intention of Australia and Luxembourg to circulate a text shortly which will give strong support to the work of humanitarian agencies and sets out clearly the concrete steps which all parties in Syria must take to address the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people.  I ask all of my Council colleagues to consider this draft favourably once it is circulated with a view to the Council taking a decision early next week.  Each day we delay creates another 6000 refugees.

 

27 September 2013

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