IAEA Board of Governors – U.S. on Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in Syria

IAEA Board of Governors Meeting, Agenda Item 4(c): Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic

U.S. statement as delivered by Ambassador Jackie Wolcott
Vienna, Austria, November 21, 2019

Madam Chair,

The United States thanks the Acting DG for his work and commends the Department of Safeguards for its continued commitment to resolving Syria’s safeguards noncompliance.

The contents of the Acting DG’s August 19 report and his update to the Board, while familiar, remain deeply concerning and must not be ignored. For the eighth straight year, the DG has reaffirmed the Agency’s May 2011 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. The report further confirms that Syria has continued to ignore the calls of the DG and the Board for it to cooperate with the Agency to address outstanding questions regarding the Dair Alzour facility and related sites, and has not engaged substantively with the Agency about these sites since June 2008.

Madam Chair,

The Agency and the Board of Governors must remain vigilant, despite Syria’s delay tactics, and not lose sight of the seriousness of the Agency’s findings regarding the Dair Alzour reactor. The DG’s reporting over the past decade points to an unequivocal reality – that, as of 2007, Syria was working covertly with North Korea to build an undeclared reactor ideally suited for the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. The resolution of outstanding questions at Dair Alzour remains essential to ensure that the Agency is able to provide assurances that the Syrian nuclear program is exclusively peaceful. It is also critical to maintaining the credibility of the IAEA safeguards system and the NPT itself. Compliance by all states with their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and IAEA safeguards agreements is essential to the shared security benefits enjoyed by all NPT Parties. As such, we welcome the joint statement issued by 52 NPT Parties at the 2019 NPT PrepCom meeting, which called upon Syria to cooperate with the IAEA without further delay.

We urge all Member States to reject efforts by Syria and its patrons to discredit and politicize the Agency’s conclusions regarding this issue. Such efforts represent nothing more than a blatant attempt to shift blame and distract attention from Syria’s continued refusal to cooperate with the Agency. For our part, the United States has full confidence in the independence, impartiality, and professionalism of the IAEA Secretariat in drawing safeguards conclusions based on all the information available to it. In particular, we note that the circumstances that brought Syria’s noncompliance to light have no bearing on the technical assessments underpinning the Board’s 2011 resolution, and do not remove the urgent need for Syria to cooperate with the Agency.

Madam Chair,

Syria must cooperate with the Agency without further delay and provide it with access to all information, sites, materials, and persons necessary to resolve questions about the peaceful nature of its nuclear program, including the three sites identified by the Agency as having a functional relationship to the Dair Alzour site. Routine safeguards implementation at declared facilities does nothing to resolve noncompliance by the Assad regime resulting from its undeclared nuclear activities.

Until Syria cooperates fully with the Agency to address these concerns, the Board must be prepared to consider further action as necessary, including potential action under Article XII.C of the Statute. Reducing the frequency of Agency reporting or removing Syria from the agenda for Board meetings would send a dangerous signal that states that violate their safeguards obligations need only wait for the Board to lose interest.

For Member States that find it politically inconvenient to discuss this issue on a quarterly basis at the Board meeting, we would note that there is only one Member State responsible for the lack of action on this file and one state that can bring our discussion to a close. We look forward to continued updates from the DG and request that this issue remain on the Board’s agenda for its 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, Madam Chair.