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

Map of Syria

IAEA Board of Governors Meeting, Agenda Item 4c: 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, November 25, 2021

Good morning, Mr. Chair, Your Excellencies, and Distinguished Colleagues, 

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.    

This past June marked a decade since this Board adopted a resolution finding Syria to be in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement and calling on it to urgently cooperate with the IAEA to remedy its noncompliance.  Over the past decade, the Agency has repeatedly affirmed its 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.  The DG’s August report again reaffirms the Agency’s 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.   

Instead of cooperating in good faith with the IAEA, Syria has spent the last decade stonewalling its 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 has full confidence in the independence, impartiality, and professionalism of the Secretariat in drawing safeguards conclusions based on all the information available to it.  We urge all Member States to reject efforts by Syria and its patrons to distract from Syria’s failure to fulfill its obligations.      

We must not lose sight of the extreme seriousness of Syria’s noncompliance.  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.  The imperative for Syria to address all of the IAEA’s remaining 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 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.  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 NPT.   

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. 

Chair, 

As Syria continues its obfuscation and empty rhetoric, the DG has reiterated his willingness to work with Syria to resolve all outstanding concerns.  We urge Syria to heed the DG’s call and 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.  Until Syria provides such cooperation, it is essential that the Agency continue to keep the Board apprised of developments, and that 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.