IAEA BoG – U.S. on Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement 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 submitted to the Board
Vienna, Austria, June 17, 2020

Madam Chair,

The United States thanks the Director General (DG) for his update. We commend the DG and the Department of Safeguards for their unwavering commitment to implementing the Agency’s verification responsibilities in Syria and to keeping the Board well informed through regular, factual reporting.

We deeply regret that, for yet another Board cycle, Syria has refused to heed the Board and DG’s calls for it to cooperate fully with the Agency to remedy its noncompliance and to resolve longstanding safeguards questions surrounding the Dair Alzour reactor and related sites. More than nine years have passed since the 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 remain clear and unchanged. The Agency has repeatedly reaffirmed its May 2011 assessment that the Dair Alzour facility 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’s findings in this regard point to a clear and deeply unsettling 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.

Rather than cooperating and providing the information and access needed to address these serious concerns, Syria’s response has been marked by obstruction and obfuscation. As confirmed by the Agency’s latest written report, Syria has not cooperated substantively with the Agency regarding the Dair Alzour site and related locations since June 2008, proffering instead a litany of half-truths and conspiracy theories meant to impugn the independence of the Agency. For our part, 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. 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 refusal to fulfill its obligations.

Madam Chair,

The Agency and the Board of Governors must not lose sight of the ongoing seriousness of this issue. The resolution of outstanding safeguards questions surrounding the Dair Alzour facility and any possible still undeclared nuclear material meant to be associated with that facility is essential to ensure that the Agency can provide assurances to the international community that the Syrian nuclear program is exclusively peaceful today and into the future. It is also critical to maintaining the credibility of the IAEA safeguards system and upholding the integrity of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Compliance by all states with their obligations under the NPT 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.

Madam Chair,

The path to achieving progress on this issue is clear. There is one Member State responsible for the lack of action on this file, and one state that can bring about meaningful progress. 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. Until Syria is willing to provide such cooperation, it is essential that the Agency continue to provide regular updates to the Board and that the Board remain seized of this issue and be prepared to consider further action as necessary, including potential action under Article XII.C of the Statute and Articles 18 and 19 of Syria’s safeguards agreement. 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.

We look forward to continued updates from the DG 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.

The United States hopes Syria will see the opening of the tenure of a new Director General as an opportunity for Damascus to review its stance and hopefully take tangible steps toward finally resolving this issue in a way that provides the necessary international assurances.

Thank you, Madam Chair.