U.S. Statement to the IAEA Board of Governors: Syria

IAEA Board of Governors Meeting
November 23-24, 2017

Agenda Item 4(c)

Implementation of the NPT safeguards agreement in the
Syrian Arab Republic

U.S. Statement as delivered by U.S. Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Nicole Shampaine


Mr. Chairperson,
The United States thanks the Director General for his update on Syria and for his steadfast commitment to addressing Syria’s ongoing safeguards noncompliance. We deeply regret that the Assad regime continues to obstruct the Agency on this important issue, rather than engaging in good faith to resolve the international community’s legitimate concerns regarding Syria’s undeclared nuclear activities.

Mr. Chairperson,

Unfortunately, very little has changed in the six years since the Board found Syria to be in noncompliance with its NPT safeguards agreement. The Director-General has consistently reaffirmed the Agency’s May 2011 assessment that the Syrian facility destroyed in September 2007 at Dair Alzour was very likely a nuclear reactor that Syria was obligated to have declared to the IAEA, and which had features comparable to the gas-cooled, graphite-moderated, plutonium-production reactor at Yongbyon in the DPRK. No evidence has been provided or plausible arguments made by any party that would call into question this assessment of Syria’s covert nuclear activities in cooperation with the DPRK.

Regrettably, over the same period, Syria’s approach toward this issue has also remained unchanged. Syria has publicly professed a willingness to address all remaining issues, but in reality has refused to engage with the IAEA on any concerns related to the key sites in question, including the Dair Alzour facility and three other sites related to the reactor. As the Director General’s latest report confirms, Syria has not engaged substantively regarding these issues since June 2008 – more than nine years ago. Instead, Syria continues to deny and delay – portraying itself as the victim of a political smear campaign and fabricating conspiratorial allegations against other Member States.

The IAEA has refuted every new and alternative explanation provided by the Syrian government regarding the nature of the facility at Dair Alzour. On technical grounds, the Agency long ago rejected the notion that the processed uranium discovered by the IAEA at the Dair Alzour site was introduced by the munitions used to destroy the reactor, as both the physical form and chemical composition of the uranium samples were not consistent with uranium-based munitions.

Syria and its patrons regularly point to routine safeguards activities at Syria’s declared facilities as evidence of Syrian cooperation, cynically arguing that routine safeguards implementation at declared facilities somehow absolves the Assad regime of responsibility for its past undeclared nuclear activities. Syria and its defenders also continue to cite the security situation in the country, as if the regime’s brutal campaign of violence against the Syrian people were an adequate excuse for its continued refusal to meet its international obligations. And yet, the regime has demonstrated an ability to engage with some international organizations amidst the conflict, including by providing access, when it finds such cooperation to be in its interests. On the issue of its noncompliance with nuclear obligations, however, Syria has made clear by its actions that it has no intention of working constructively to address this issue. Instead, relying on the protection of its patrons, Syria is content to indefinitely obstruct the IAEA until the Board loses interest in its still-unresolved noncompliance.

Mr. Chairperson,

We cannot allow noncompliance by any country to merely fade into our collective memory or be brushed under the rug for political expedience. Safeguards noncompliance is a serious matter, and cannot be written off simply with the passage of time or intransigence of the noncompliant state. All outstanding questions regarding Syria’s undeclared nuclear activities must be answered to the satisfaction of the Agency and this Board before Syria can return to compliance. The lack of progress on this issue and Syria’s transparent effort to delay indefinitely should be cause for more scrutiny by the Board, not less. This requires regular reporting from the Secretariat and discussion of the issue at every Board meeting. Reducing the frequency of Agency reporting and removing Syria from the Board’s agenda would send a dangerous signal that states in noncompliance need only wait for the Board to lose interest.

Mr. Chairperson,

There is only one path to resolving these concerns – Syria must cooperate with the Agency without further delay and provide it with access to all information, sites, materials, and persons necessary to verify the exclusively peaceful nature of its 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 be prepared to pursue 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 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. In the meantime, we look forward to continuing updates from the Director General.

Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.