Below is the text of a letter sent from the Syrian Coalition to the UN Security Council on 11 April 2014.
Download a pdf of the letter here.
11 April 2014
On behalf of the people of Syria and the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, it is my grave responsibility to draw to your attention the Syrian regime’s repeated failure to effectively implement UN Security Council Resolution 2118 and the ongoing need for conclusive verification by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and United Nations (OPCW-UN) Joint Mission to ensure the full and complete destruction of all Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles and production facilities.
Your excellency, in adopting UN Security Council Resolution 2118 (2013), the Security Council unanimously endorsed the decision of the OPCW Executive Council 27 September 2013, which contains special procedures both for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, as well as the stringent verification thereof. As the Security Council concluded, “the use of chemical weapons anywhere constitutes a threat to international peace and security ” (S/RES/2118 OP 1 (2013)).
There is, however, significant reason to believe that the Syrian regime has continued to maintain and deploy illicit chemical weapons in the aftermath of Security Council Resolution 2118’s adoption. Just last month, on 27 March 2014, regime forces were reported to have deployed chemical weapons in Harasta, a suburb of Damascus. According to doctors and surgeons present following the attacks, at least 25 people were treated for symptoms ranging from hallucination, accelerated pulses, difficulty breathing and, in several cases, suffocation.
The Syrian regime’s possible use of chemical weapons demonstrates the urgent need for the OPCW-UN Joint Mission to maintain vigilance in ensuring that all of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles and production facilities are destroyed. Yet this is only possible once all sites and stockpiles are fully declared. It remains unclear whether this is the case.
To ensure the full and effective implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2118, stringent verification and due-diligence by the OPCW-UN Joint Mission are required throughout the oncoming months. As an initial step, the Joint Mission should send without delay a monitoring and inspection team to the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Centre’s facility in Jamraya, which has played in instrumental role in Syria’s chemical weapons production, storage and deployment. Such a mission will allow OPCW-UN monitors to gain a more thorough accounting of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, and any illicit weapons which may not have been declared by regime authorities.
Your Excellency, both the Syrian Coalition and the Free Syrian Army remain committed to the full, immediate and effective implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2118. The Interim Defense Ministry has publicly confirmed the Free Syrian Army’s commitment not to attack convoys on routes used to transfer chemical weapons for delivery to the UN. To ensure that we are fully able to assist in its implementation, however, the OPCW-UN Joint Mission must engage more transparently with our members. Improved methods of communication with the Joint Mission will ensure that the Free Syrian Army is better able to guarantee the safety of chemical weapons convoys and assists effectively in the elimination of Syria’s illegal chemical weapons stockpile.
A particular problem remains our lack of clarity regarding the nature of Syrian convoys. At present, it is impossible for Free Syrian Army brigades to distinguish between regime disposal convoys versus regime military convoys. It is therefore essential that the OPCW-UN Joint Mission provide the Syrian Coalition and its partner, the Free Syrian Army, with precise information on the schedule and routes of all convoys deployed through opposition-held territories. Such information will enable our partners on the ground to better support the safe passage of chemical weapons convoys.
Your Excellency, the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal is an important and worthy goal. Yet it will not end the Syrian crisis. While the Syrian regime distracts and delays in the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2118, it proceeds undaunted in its deployment of barrel bombs, cluster munitions and ballistic missiles. It is these weapons—conventional weapons—which account for more than 99 percent of all those killed throughout the past three years. Members of the Security Council have within their power the mandate not merely to condemn the brutal and illegal deployment of conventional weapons by regime forces, but to stop it. To do so, further pressure by the Security Council is urgently needed to draw this conflict to a close and compel the Syrian regime to negotiate and agree on the establishment of a transitional governing body to pave the path to democracy, as mandated by the Geneva Communiqué of June 2012 as well as by UNSCR 2118 (2013). The people of Syria remain committed to such a transition, as does the Syrian Coalition.
Please accept, your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Dr. Najib Ghadbian
Special Representative of the Syrian Coalition to the United Nations