On January 23, while traveling in Paris, France, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson participated in the launching conference of the “International Partnership Against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons.” This partnership, which was initiated by France, represents a political commitment by participating countries to hold to account those responsible for the use of chemical weapons.
The launch of this partnership comes as international community faces a critical juncture in the fight to uphold the international norm against chemical weapons use. Repeated obstruction by some countries at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations have undermined the ability of the international community to hold accountable those who use chemical weapons.
At the launching conference and signing ceremony, Secretary Tillerson commented on Russia's responsibility for the ongoing use of chemical weapons in Syria. Secretary Tillerson pointed to the recent attacks in East Ghouta noting that the attacks “raise serious concerns that Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime may be continuing its use of chemical weapons against its own people.” He continued, “Whoever conducted the attacks, Russia ultimately bears responsibility for the victims in East Ghouta and countless other Syrians targeted with chemical weapons since Russia became involved in Syria.”
Secretary Tillerson noted that since April 2014, there has been mounting evidence that Syria continues to illicitly possess chemical weapons and use them against its own people. The Secretary outlined Russia’s continued failure to live up to its commitments stating, “There is simply no denying that Russia, by shielding its Syrian ally, has breached its commitments to the United States as a framework guarantor. It has betrayed the Chemical Weapons Convention and UN Security Council Resolution 2218, and on these occasions has twice vetoed UN Security Council resolutions to enforce the Joint Investigative Mechanism and continue its mandate.”
The Secretary continued, “Russia’s failure to resolve the chemical weapons issue in Syria calls into question its relevance to the resolution to the overall crisis. At a bare minimum, Russia must stop vetoing and at least abstain from future Security Council votes on this issue."
Under the partnership, participating States will work together in six core areas, as stated by its Declaration of Principles. Secretary Tillerson highlighted these core areas as he noted the 25 participating countries will use partnership to “facilitate greater information sharing about chemical weapons use, including sanctions information to collect and preserve such information and to strengthen the capacity of states to hold responsible parties accountable.”
As he concluded his remarks, the Secretary said, “This initiative puts those who ordered and carried out chemical weapons attacks on notice. You will face a day of reckoning for your crimes against humanity and your victims will see justice done. ”
Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.com.
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