IAEA Board of Governors Meeting, Agenda Item 4b: Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic
U.S. statement as delivered by Ambassador Jackie Wolcott
Vienna, Austria, November 19, 2020
The United States thanks the Director General for his update and for the Agency’s steadfast commitment to resolving Syria’s safeguards noncompliance and keeping the Board informed through regular, factual reporting.
More than nine years have passed since the Agency first concluded in May 2011 that the facility destroyed in September 2007 in the Syrian province of Dair Alzour was very likely a nuclear reactor that should have been declared to the IAEA, and which had features comparable to the gas-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor at Yongbyon in the DPRK. The DG’s September 2020 report on Syria once again reaffirms the Agency’s technical findings in this regard and confirms that Syria has not engaged substantively with the Agency about the Dair Alzour facility and related sites since 2008. Rather than engage constructively, Syria continues to proffer unconvincing half-truths and conspiracy theories meant to impugn the integrity and independence of the Agency.
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. We urge all Member States to firmly reject efforts by Syria and its patrons to discredit and politicize the Agency’s technical conclusions. Such efforts are nothing more than a transparent attempt to shift blame and distract attention from Syria’s significant failure to fulfill its obligations.
We must not lose sight of the extreme seriousness of these concerns. The Agency’s reporting indicates that, as of 2007, Syria was working with North Korea to build an undeclared reactor ideally suited to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. Resolving all outstanding safeguards questions regarding this matter is essential to ensure that the Agency can provide assurances to the international community that the Syrian nuclear program is exclusively peaceful today and into the future. It is also critical to maintaining the credibility of the IAEA safeguards system and upholding the integrity of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In that regard, we recall the joint statement issued by 52 NPT Parties at the 2019 NPT Preparatory Committee meeting. This statement emphasized that full compliance with obligations under the NPT and IAEA safeguards agreements is at the heart of the shared security benefits enjoyed by all NPT Parties and called on Syria to cooperate with the IAEA without further delay.
The path to resolving these concerns is clear. Syria must provide the IAEA 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. Until Syria provides such cooperation, it is essential that the Agency continue to keep the Board apprised of developments. It is also essential that the Board remain seized of this issue and be prepared to consider further action 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, Madam Chair.