IAEA Board of Governors Meeting – Agenda Item 5(b) –
Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the (Syrian Arab Republic)
U.S. Statement as Delivered by Ambassador Laura S.H. Holgate
Vienna, Austria, November 16, 2022
The United States thanks the Director General for his update. We commend the DG and the Department of Safeguards for their enduring commitment to addressing Syria’s safeguards noncompliance, despite ongoing obstruction by the Assad Regime.
This June marked 11 years since this Board adopted a resolution finding Syria to be in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement and calling on it to urgently cooperate with the IAEA to remedy its noncompliance. Unfortunately, the Assad regime’s response over the past decade has been anything but urgent and cooperative. As the DG’s latest report makes clear, Syria has not engaged substantively with the IAEA regarding the Dair Alzour site and related locations since 2008 and has not provided any concrete evidence that would call into question the IAEA’s technical assessment that the facility destroyed in September 2007 at Dair Alzour was very likely a nuclear reactor that should have been declared to the IAEA and which the Agency assessed to have features comparable to the gas-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor at Yongbyon in the DPRK. Instead, the Assad regime has spent the last decade stonewalling the IAEA’s investigation, while proffering a litany of half-truths and conspiracy theories to divert attention and discredit the Agency’s findings, all while cynically claiming to be cooperating with the IAEA.
The DG’s latest report confirms that Syria has not even responded to a May 16, 2022, letter from the Director General proposing a focused dialogue with Syrian authorities to review the Agency’s 2011 technical assessment with an aim toward cooperatively and constructively addressing outstanding issues. We welcome the DG’s continued willingness to engage and urge Syria to heed the DG’s call.
The Assad regime’s stubborn, systematic refusal to cooperate with the IAEA should be a matter of serious concern for all Member States. As long as safeguards-relevant questions remain regarding the possibility of undeclared nuclear material or fuel cycle activities in Syria associated with the clandestine reactor project at Dair Alzour, the IAEA will not be in a position to provide necessary assurances to the international community that the Syrian nuclear program is exclusively peaceful today and into the future. Resolving Syria’s safeguards noncompliance is crucial to re-establishing the necessary international verification assurance in Syria, preserving the credibility of the IAEA safeguards system, and upholding the integrity of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The Syrian regime’s failure to respond to the DG’s most recent offer only serves to underline that the most significant barrier to resolving this issue remains its own utter refusal to engage substantively with the Agency, notwithstanding its repeated claims to the contrary. We encourage all Member States – particularly those with influence – to urge the Syrian regime to provide the Agency with access to all sites, information, materials, and persons necessary to resolve all outstanding questions regarding the Dair Alzour site and three other locations identified by the Agency as having a functional relationship to the Dair Alzour site. All Member States should soundly reject efforts by the Assad regime and its patrons to distract attention and spread misinformation that calls into question the independence, impartiality, and professionalism of the IAEA Secretariat.
Until Syria provides the necessary cooperation, it is essential that the Agency continue to keep the Board apprised of developments, and the Board must remain seized of this issue and consider further steps as necessary, including potential action under Article XII.C of the Statute and Articles 18 and 19 of Syria’s safeguards agreement. We look forward to continued updates from the DG and request that this issue remain on the agenda for the Board’s next regularly scheduled meeting, and for all future meetings until the Agency is able to confirm that Syria’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful and the Board has determined that Syria’s noncompliance has been resolved.
Thank you, Chair.