Implementation of the NPT safeguards agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic

IAEA Board of Governors Meeting
March 06-10, 2017

Agenda Item 5(c)

Implementation of the NPT safeguards agreement in the
Syrian Arab Republic

U.S. Statement as delivered by
Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Andrew J. Schofer


Thank you Chair,

The United States thanks the Director General for his update and for his ongoing commitment to addressing Syria’s safeguards noncompliance.  It is regrettable that Syria continues to show no interest in resolving this serious issue.

Mr. Chairman,

Nearly six years have passed since this Board passed a resolution finding Syria to be in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement.  This noncompliance stemmed from the construction of an undeclared nuclear reactor at Dair Alzour.  Since that time, the facts remain unchanged.  The IAEA has repeatedly reiterated its assessment that the Syrian facility destroyed in September 2007 at Dair Alzour was very likely a clandestine nuclear reactor.  This facility should have been declared to the Agency.  It had features comparable to the gas-cooled, graphite-moderated, plutonium-production reactor at Yongbyon in the DPRK.  These findings point to a clear and unsettling reality – Syria was covertly building an undeclared nuclear reactor ideally suited for the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.

We regret that, despite the seriousness of these allegations and the broad information on which they are based, Syria has continually refused to cooperate with the IAEA to address the international community’s well-founded concerns regarding its clandestine nuclear activities.  Instead, as noted in the Director General’s August 2016 report, Syria has not engaged substantively with the Agency regarding these concerns since 2008.  Syria’s continued intransigence in this regard is deeply troubling.  The ongoing unrest in Syria is no excuse for Syria’s refusal to cooperate.  The Asad regime has repeatedly demonstrated an ability to engage substantively with international organizations amidst the conflict when it finds such cooperation to be in its own interests.

Syria’s ongoing noncompliance is a matter of serious concern and cannot merely be written off because of the passage of time.  In fact, the lack of recent developments on this issue is cause for increased scrutiny by the Board, not less.  This requires continued, detailed reporting from the Secretariat.  Syria should not be removed from the agenda for Board meetings.  Nor should the frequency of reporting from the Secretariat on safeguards implementation in Syria be reduced, as some have suggested.  Either step would send a dangerous signal that states that blatantly violate their safeguards obligations need only wait for the Board to lose interest.

Mr. Chairman,

We cannot allow unresolved cases of noncompliance to fade into our collective memory.  There is only one path to resolving these concerns – Syria must cooperate with the Agency.  Such cooperation should provide the Agency with access to all information, sites, materials, and persons necessary to verify the exclusively peaceful nature of Syria’s nuclear program.  This includes access to the three sites identified by the Agency as having a functional relationship to the reactor at Dair Alzour.  Until Syria cooperates fully with the Agency to address these concerns, the Board must remain seized of this matter and prepared to consider further action as necessary.

We request that this issue remain on the Board’s agenda for its next regularly scheduled meeting, and for all future meetings, until fully resolved.  The Agency must be able to confirm that Syria’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful and this Board must determine that Syria’s noncompliance has been resolved.  In the meantime, we look forward to continued, detailed reporting from the Director General.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.