U.S. Statement to the IAEA Board of Governors: Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic

Member State Representatives meet before the IAEA Board of Governors

U.S. Statement as delivered by U.S. Ambassador Jackie Wolcott

IAEA Board of Governors Meeting

Agenda Item 4(c): Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic

Vienna, November 23, 2018


Thank you Madam Chair,

The United States thanks Director General Amano for his update and for his continued commitment to ensuring that all outstanding questions regarding Syria’s ongoing safeguards noncompliance are fully addressed. We applaud the DG and Secretariat for their unwavering professionalism in implementing the Agency’s safeguards responsibilities in Syria, despite more than a decade of obstruction and obfuscation by the Assad regime and its patrons.

Madam Chair,

The fundamental facts underlying Syria’s safeguards noncompliance remain clear, unambiguous, and – sadly – unchanged. The Agency has repeatedly reaffirmed its May 2011 technical assessment that the Syrian facility destroyed in September 2007 at Dair Alzour was very likely a clandestine nuclear reactor that should have been declared to the IAEA. The Agency’s assessment in this regard was based on a broad spectrum of information, including on-site verification and environmental sampling, commercial satellite imagery, procurement information, and information provided by member states. The Agency has further assessed that the Dair Alzour facility had features comparable to the gas-cooled, graphite-moderated, plutonium-production reactor at Yongbyon in the DPRK. The Agency’s findings in this regard point to an unsettling reality that has been apparent for many years – that, as of 2007, Syria was working covertly with North Korea to build an undeclared nuclear reactor ideally suited for the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Despite the seriousness of these findings, Syria has repeatedly demonstrated over the course of the past decade that it has no intention of working cooperatively with the Agency to address these concerns. Instead, the Assad regime is content to indefinitely delay and obstruct substantive discussion of this issue, relying on the protection of its patrons, with the hope that the Board will eventually lose interest in the file. Rather than cooperating in good faith with the IAEA, Syria has sought to portray itself as the victim of a political smear campaign while spreading false, repeatedly debunked allegations against other member states. One of the oldest of these baseless assertions is that the anthropogenic, or chemically processed, uranium particles discovered by the IAEA at the Dair Alzour site were introduced by the munitions used to destroy the facility. The IAEA has repeatedly refuted this assertion based on the “morphology and distribution” of the uranium particles found at the site. That certain member states continue, for political reasons, to assert these unfounded claims is deeply regrettable.

Syria has, of course, provided no evidence to support its unsubstantiated claims, aside from occasional statements calling into question the independence and reliability of the Secretariat in drawing its safeguards conclusions. Of course, as the Director General’s latest report and his opening statement this week confirm, Syria has provided no new evidence to the IAEA that would call into question the Agency’s assessments regarding Dair Alzour. In fact, Syria has not provided any substantive information to the Agency regarding the Dair Alzour facility or related sites since May 2008 – more than 10 years ago. If Syria is indeed, as it so often portrays itself, merely a victim of false accusations, it has shown a shocking lack of interest in either demonstrating the veracity of its claims or attempting to counter the Secretariat’s fact-based assessments.

Madam Chair,

Despite the Assad regime’s stonewalling, this Board cannot allow safeguards noncompliance by any country to merely fade into our collective memory or be written off with the passage of time. Compliance by all states with their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and IAEA safeguards agreements is essential to the shared security benefits enjoyed by all NPT Parties. As such, all cases of noncompliance must be treated with the utmost seriousness and urgency. The lack of recent developments on this issue should be cause for increased scrutiny of this issue by the Board, not less. This requires continued, regular reporting from the Secretariat, and discussion of the issue at every Board meeting. Reducing the frequency of Agency reporting or removing Syria from the Board’s agenda, as some have suggested, would send a dangerous signal that states that violate their safeguards obligations need only maintain their intransigence and then wait for the Board to lose interest.

Madam Chair,

There is only one path to resolving these concerns – Syria must cooperate with the Agency and provide it with full 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. The ongoing conflict and instability in Syria caused by the Assad regime are no excuse for the regime’s failure to cooperate. Until Syria cooperates fully with the Agency to address these concerns, the Board must remain seized of this matter and be prepared to consider further action as necessary, including potential action under Article XII.C of the Statute. We encourage all Board members, and particularly those with influence on the Assad regime, to urge Syria to cooperate fully with the IAEA to address these longstanding concerns without delay.

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 continued updates from the Director General.

Thank you, Madam Chair.