IAEA Board of Governors Meeting – Agenda Item 8(b) – Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic
U.S. Statement as Delivered by Lucy M. Chang, Councelor for Nuclear Affairs
Vienna, Austria, September 14, 2022
The United States thanks the Director General for his report and commends the DG and 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 the DG’s latest report are all too familiar. For the 11th consecutive year, the DG has reaffirmed the Agency’s May 2011 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.
Once again, the report confirms that Syria continues to ignore the repeated calls of the DG and the Board for it to cooperate with the IAEA to address outstanding questions regarding the Dair Alzour facility and related sites, and that Syria has not engaged substantively with the Agency about these sites since June 2008. 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 committed to full cooperation with the IAEA. We appreciate the updates contained in the DG’s latest report and welcome the DG’s overtures over the last year, including his May 16, 2022, letter 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 regret that Syria has once again failed to respond.
The Syrian regime’s failure to respond to the DG’s 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 – and 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.
We must not lose sight of the ongoing seriousness of this issue. 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. In this regard, we welcome the recent joint statement issued by 52 Parties at the 10th NPT Review Conference meeting last month, 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.
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.