Didier Reynders on Syria

date: 10 September 2013

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders was interested to learn of the Russian proposal to neutralise Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal through diplomatic channels. This suggestion is currently being examined by the United States.

In this context, Minister Reynders points to his declaration before Parliament during which he urged that Syria become a member of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). When a country becomes a member of the organisation, it must renounce the use, possession and production of chemical weapons. The Minister wishes to repeat that for this conflict Belgium has always been of the opinion that a solution can only be found through the close collaboration of all members of the UN Security Council.

Furthermore, the Minister unconditionally supports the proposal of the Secretary-General of the United Nations providing for an immediate call on the Security Council to impose on Syria the obligation to sign and ratify the OPCW. Such an approach would allow for the rapid and verifiable destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile and its purpose-built delivery systems. The required first step here is to draw up a comprehensive inventory of the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal.

The current situation on the ground, however, makes it difficult to implement such a disarmament programme. Nevertheless, Minister Reynders calls on all parties involved in the conflict to work closely with the international community to make this possible.

Such an agreement is the best way to ensure that the Syrian population will not once again be the victim of a horrifying chemical attack. However, this does not in any manner whatsoever mean that those responsible for ordering and carrying out the previous attacks should go unpunished. An international investigation must apportion blame and the perpetrators of these war crimes must be called to account before international tribunals.

This option would not have been possible had it not been for the strong diplomatic and military pressure applied by various countries, first and foremost the United States and France. Now that the international community appears to be heading towards a credible settlement, this pressure must not in any case decrease. For this reason, Belgium fully supports the efforts of its allies to maintain credible pressure so as to arrive at a diplomatic and humanitarian solution.