An official website of the United States government

U.S. Statement – Agenda Item 6d – IAEA Board of Governors Meeting
As Delivered by Ambassador Laura S.H. Holgate, Vienna, Austria, June 6, 2023

U.S. Statement – As Delivered by Ambassador Laura S.H. Holgate – Agenda Item 6d – Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic
Vienna, Austria, June 6, 2023




We thank the Director General for his update and for his continued efforts to engage with Syria in good faith.  We regret that the Assad regime persists in its refusal to cooperate with the Agency and meet its obligations.


This meeting marks 12 years since this Board adopted a resolution finding Syria to be in noncompliance with its NPT safeguards agreement for the construction of an undeclared reactor at Dair Alzour and calling on Syria to urgently remedy its noncompliance.  It also marks the one-year anniversary of the Director General’s as-yet-unanswered May 2022 letter to Syria proposing a renewed dialogue on outstanding safeguards issues.  Suffice it to say, the Assad regime’s response to both the Board and Director General has been neither urgent, nor cooperative.  Indeed, Syria has not even offered a perfunctory response to the Director General’s letter from a year ago.


Rather than responding in good faith to the Board and Director General’s calls for cooperation, the Assad regime has stonewalled the Agency, while proffering a litany of half-truths and conspiracy theories that amount to nothing less than an attack on the independence and impartiality of the Agency and have no basis in reality.  It has been aided in doing so by the cynical cover of its patrons and the unfortunate apathy of some Member States for whom the circumstances surrounding the destruction of an undeclared plutonium production reactor seem to matter more than the fact that Syria was building such a reactor in the first place without declaring it to the IAEA and in cooperation with North Korea.


The Assad regime has shown time and time again through its actions and failure to engage with the IAEA that it plans to merely bide its time in hopes that the Board or Director General will lose interest in the issue.  Syria’s refusal to cooperate with the IAEA – even to the extent of not responding to letters from the Director General on this issue – should be a matter of deep concern for all Member States committed to the integrity of the safeguards system.




Despite claims to the contrary, there is no debate about the facts surrounding this case, which are clearly documented in the Director General’s reporting on this issue.  Multiple Directors General dating back more than a decade have reaffirmed the Agency’s technical assessment that the Syrian facility destroyed in September 2007 was very likely a nuclear reactor that should have been declared to the IAEA and which the IAEA assessed to have features comparable to the gas-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor at Yongbyon in the DPRK.  The IAEA has debunked all of the self-serving claims put forward by Syria and its defenders to muddy the water and distract attention from its noncompliance, including the false claim that chemically-processed uranium particles found at the site were introduced by aerial dispersion or by the munitions used to destroy the facility.  Lending any credence to such misinformation amounts to an implicit attack on the independence, impartiality, and professionalism of the IAEA Secretariat.


Syria’s safeguards noncompliance is not merely a historical matter that concluded with the destruction of the facility in question.  There can be no automatic expiration date with regard to questions of undeclared nuclear material and activities.  As long as safeguards-relevant questions remain, including regarding the possibility of undeclared nuclear material or fuel cycle activities in Syria associated with the clandestine reactor project, the IAEA will not be in a position to provide necessary assurances to the international community that the Syrian nuclear program is exclusively peaceful today and in the future.  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 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Addressing this and other cases of noncompliance is also critical to any credible effort to advance the long-term goal of a Middle East WMD-free zone.




In light of Syria’s continued intransigence, the Board must be engaged and poised to act on this issue.  We encourage all Member States – and particularly those with influence over the Assad regime – to urge Syria to provide the IAEA with access to all sites, information, materials, and persons necessary to resolve outstanding questions regarding the Dair Alzour site and three other locations identified by the Agency as having a functional relationship to this site without further delay.  Until Syria provides this cooperation, it is essential that the IAEA keep the Board apprised of developments and that the Board remain seized of this issue.  Should the Assad regime continue on its present course and refuse to take fully corrective action, the Board will need to seriously consider further action in the future 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 Director General and request that this issue remain on the agenda for the Board’s next regularly scheduled meeting, and for all future meetings until the IAEA 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.


US Statement – Ambassador Laura S.H. Holgate – Agenda Item 6d – IAEA Board of Governors Meeting – June 2023 (PDF)