IAEA Board of Governors Meeting, Agenda Item 8(d) : Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic
U.S. statement as delivered by Ambassador Laura S.H. Holgate
Vienna, Austria, June 8, 2922
The United States greatly appreciates the ongoing professional and impartial efforts of the Director General, the Deputy DG for Safeguards, and their staff to keep the Board informed through consistent and factual reporting. We thank the Director General for his recent update and for the Agency’s longstanding commitment to resolving Syria’s safeguards noncompliance.
As the Director General has reported, as of 2007 Syria was working with North Korea to build an undeclared reactor ideally suited to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. The Director General reported that environmental samples taken by the Agency at the Dair Alzour site in June 2008 contained particles of anthropogenic uranium.
In 2011, the Board adopted a resolution finding Syria to be in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement due to Syria’s undeclared construction of a nuclear reactor ideally suited to plutonium production. For over a decade, the Board has called on Syria to urgently cooperate with the IAEA to remedy this noncompliance. The Agency has never wavered from its 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, with features comparable to the gas-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor at Yongbyon in the DPRK. The DG’s annual updates consistently reaffirm these findings, emphasizing that Syria has not productively engaged with the Agency regarding the Dair Alzour facility or related sites since 2008.
While much time has passed since Syria’s deception was first discovered, we must not lose sight of the severity of Syria’s noncompliance as they continue to deceive us. 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. Syria must address the IAEA’s outstanding questions about these matters not merely to resolve historical questions or close out a procedural process. As long as safeguards-relevant questions remain regarding the possibility of undeclared nuclear material or activities in Syria associated with the clandestine reactor project, the IAEA cannot provide necessary assurances to the international community that the Syrian nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.
Instead of cooperating in good faith with the IAEA, the Syrian regime has continued to stonewall the investigation and dismiss the Agency’s findings. The United States has full confidence in the independence, impartiality, and professionalism of the Secretariat in drawing safeguards conclusions. We strongly urge all Member States to reject efforts by the Syrian regime and its supporters to distract from Syria’s refusal to fulfill its safeguards obligations.
We recall the joint statement on Syria’s NPT and IAEA safeguards noncompliance issued by 52 Parties at the 2019 NPT Preparatory Committee meeting. In that statement, NPT Parties 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 delay.
Despite the Syrian regime’s continued false denials, the DG has maintained his readiness to work with Syria to resolve all outstanding concerns. We urge Syria to take the DG’s offer and provide the Agency with access to all sites, information, materials, and persons necessary to resolve the Board’s questions about the nature of its nuclear program, including the three sites identified by the Agency as having a functional relationship with the Dair Alzour site. It is crucial the Agency continues to keep the Board apprised of developments, and that the Board remains seized of this issue, until Syria provides such cooperation.
We request Syria’s noncompliance remain on the Board’s agenda until the Agency can confirm that the Syrian nuclear program is exclusively peaceful, and the Board has determined that Syria’s noncompliance has been resolved. Should Syria persist in its noncompliance, the Board should consider next 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 on this matter.
Thank you, Chair.