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

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

U.S. statement as delivered by as delivered by Alternate Permanent Representative Keith Anderton
Vienna, Austria, March 11, 2020

Thank you, Madam Chair,

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

Nearly nine years have now passed since this Board, acting on the basis of the IAEA’s technical assessments, found Syria to be in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement under the NPT. Since that time, the facts surrounding Syria’s noncompliance have remained clear, unambiguous, and – regrettably – unchanged. The Agency has repeatedly reaffirmed its 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 Agency continues to report that Syria has failed to heed the calls of the DG and the Board for it to cooperate with the Agency to address outstanding questions regarding the Dair Alzour reactor 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 and not lose sight of the seriousness of the Agency’s findings regarding the Dair Alzour reactor. Indeed, we must remain focused amidst Syria’s continued intransigence and delay. The reporting from the Directors General over the past decade is clear, factual, and points to an unmistakable reality – that, as of 2007, Syria was working covertly with North Korea to build an undeclared reactor ideally suited to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. The resolution of outstanding questions at Dair Alzour remains essential to ensure that the Agency can provide assurances to the international community that the Syrian nuclear program is exclusively peaceful today. 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.

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. Therefore, 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 continued refusal to cooperate on this issue 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.

For over a decade, deception and delay have underpinned Syria’s cynical response to efforts to resolve its noncompliance with its safeguards obligations. Calls to reduce the frequency of Agency reporting or remove Syria from the agenda for Board meetings send a dangerous signal that states that violate their safeguards obligations need only wait for the Board to lose interest. The Board must instead remain prepared to consider further action as necessary, including potential action under Article XII.C of the Statute.

For Member States that find it inconvenient to discuss Syria’s noncompliance at every 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 regarding Syria’s safeguards implementation 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.