IAEA BoG – U.S. on Implementation of NPT Safeguards in Syria

Map of Syria.

IAEA Board of Governors Meeting, Agenda Item 6(b): Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic

U.S. statement as delivered by Chargé d’affaires Louis L. Bono
Vienna, Austria, September 15, 2021

Madam Chair,

The United States thanks the Director General for his report and commends the Director General and the Department of Safeguards for their commitment to resolving Syria’s safeguards noncompliance and keeping the Board informed through regular, factual reporting.

Regrettably, the contents of this report are all too familiar. For the tenth straight year, the Director General 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. These findings point to a clear and unsettling reality – that, as of 2007, Syria was working with DPRK to build an undeclared reactor ideally suited to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. The report further confirms that Syria continues to ignore the calls of the Director General and the Board for it to cooperate with the IAEA to address outstanding questions regarding the Dair Alzour facility and related sites and has not engaged substantively with the Agency about these sites since 2008. Instead, Syria 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.

For our part, the United States urges all Member States to reject efforts by Syria and its patrons to shift blame and distract from Syria’s failure to fulfill its obligations. We continue to have full confidence in the independence, impartiality, and professionalism of the IAEA Secretariat in drawing safeguards conclusions based on all the information available to it.

Madam Chair,

Despite Syria’s perennial intransigence and the passage of time, we must not lose sight of the ongoing importance of this issue. The imperative for Syria to address all of the IAEA’s outstanding questions about its undeclared activities is not merely about resolving interesting historical questions or checking a procedural box. As long as safeguards-relevant questions remain regarding the possibility of undeclared fuel cycle activities or nuclear material 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 thus 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. In this regard, we recall the joint statement issued by 52 Parties at the 2019 NPT Preparatory Committee meeting, which 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.

Madam Chair,

As Syria continues its delay, obfuscation, and empty rhetoric, the Director General has reiterated his willingness to work with Syria toward finally resolving the outstanding concerns. We strongly urge Syria to provide the Agency with access to all sites, information, 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. It is essential that the Agency continue to keep the Board apprised of developments until Syria provides such cooperation, and the Board must remain seized of this issue and consider further steps necessary, including potential action under Article XII.C of the Statute and under Articles 18 and 19 of Syria’s safeguards agreement.

We look forward to continued updates from the Director General 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.