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Boris Johnson - Foreign and Commonwealth Office

I wish to make a statement about the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the steps Her Majestys Government is taking to respond to the situation.

This Government wholeheartedly condemns the use of chemical weapons, by anyone, anywhere. It is appalling that three years after the Ghouta attacks in 2013, where hundreds died from exposure to nerve agent, Syrian civilians continue to be the victims of chemical weapons.

In 2013, following concerted international pressure, Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and declared a stockpile of 1300 tonnes of chemical weapons and precursors. These have been destroyed by the international community. The UK contribution to this effort included the safe destruction, by incineration, of approximately 200 tonnes of chemical precursors. However, Syria has yet to satisfy the international community and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that the declaration it made of its chemical weapons programme is complete and accurate. The OPCW have stated that Syrias declaration contains gaps, inconsistencies and inaccuracies which need to be answered. We continue to press for the Syrian regime to provide the required level of cooperation and transparency for the OPCW to be able to resolve these issues.

The UN Security Council has made clear repeatedly, in resolutions 2118 (2013), 2209 (2015), and 2235 (2015), that there would be consequences for those responsible for using chemical weapons in Syria. The Security Council thus sent a clear signal that all chemical weapons attacks in Syria must cease. Despite this there have been frequent allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria, including in Aleppo earlier this month.

The UK has been at the forefront of international efforts to ensure that reports of attacks are properly investigated and those responsible identified. In August 2015 the UN Security Council established the UN/OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) to identify to the greatest extent feasible individuals, entities, groups, or governments who were perpetrators, organisers, sponsors or otherwise involved in the use of chemicals as weapons, including chlorine or any other toxic chemical, in the Syrian Arab Republic. The UK argued for the establishment of the JIM and has strongly supported its work, including providing 500,000 to help it become operational. This was in addition to our contribution in excess 3.5 million to the OPCW, including 2 million to the OPCWs Syria Trust Fund, for destruction and verification activities.

In its report of 24 August the JIM focussed on nine incidents in Syria, between 2014 and 2015, which the OPCW had identified as involving chemical weapons. The report confirmed what the UK and others have strongly believed for a long time, that the Syrian regime is directly responsible for chemical weapons attacks. Specifically, the JIM concluded that attacks in Sarmin and in Talamenes were the responsibility of the Syrian regime. This is the first time either the UN or OPCW have publicly attributed use of chemical weapons to the Syrian regime.

The JIM concluded that one incident, involving sulphur mustard gas, was the responsibility of Daesh (an attack in Marea in August 2015). The use of chemical weapons by Daesh is completely unacceptable. The UK continues to play a leading role in efforts to defeat Daesh and prevent its further use of chemical weapons, including through the Global Coalition.

The UK is working with international partners, including other members of the Security Council, to ensure there are consequences for those responsible for using chemical weapons and to send a clear message that such attacks are completely unacceptable and must stop.


Alok Sharma - Foreign and Commonwealth Office

On 9 September North Korean state media claimed that the country had successfully conducted its fifth nuclear test at 00:30 GMT (09:00 Pyongyang). The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation reported seismic signatures from a location close to where North Korea conducted its January nuclear test. We assess that the seismic event was caused by a nuclear test. The magnitude of this latest test was slightly larger than the one that occurred in January.

This nuclear test is a serious violation of UN Security Council resolutions 1718, 1874, 2087, 2094 and 2270. The Democratic Peoples Republic of Koreas nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programmes continue to pose a significant threat to international security and regional stability, and hinder the prospects for lasting peace on the Korean peninsula.

On 9 September the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), issued a statement strongly condemning the nuclear test as a grave violation of UN Security Council Resolutions. The Foreign Secretary has spoken to his counterparts in Japan and Australia to discuss the nuclear test and the international response and we are in close touch with other partners, including the United States and the Republic of Korea.

The UK strongly supported the UN Security Councils swift condemnation of this nuclear test in an emergency session on 9 September. The UN Security Council agreed that this test was a clear violation of existing Security Council Resolutions, and that there should be a robust response including immediate work on further significant measures.

I summoned the North Korean Ambassador to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 12 September in order to underline, in the strongest terms, the UKs firm condemnation of this nuclear test and to make clear to North Korea that it must engage constructively with the international community or it will face an increasingly tough international response. Amid reports of widespread hardship and human rights violations, the priority must be the health and welfare of the North Korean people rather than continuation of the nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

We continue to urge the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea to return to credible and authentic multilateral talks on its nuclear programme, to abide by its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and to permit full access by the International Atomic Energy Agency.


Sir Alan Duncan - Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, which sets out the worldwide approach to landmine removal, the UK is required to clear all mined areas under its jurisdiction or control. In the case of the Falkland Islands, I am pleased to announce that the Government has decided to provide a further 20m to this process. As a result, thousands of landmines will be cleared in the next phase of work making safe dozens of areas which have been unusable since the mines were laid during the 1982 conflict.

This significantly increased funding will build on previous demining projects, which have so far cleared more than 30 minefields. The latest phase of work will be jointly funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Ministry of Defence. It will see teams of expert contractors clear 46 minefields and carry out surveys to prepare for the clearance of another 27 over the next two years, as the UK continues to work towards fully clearing mines from its territories.

The UK is committed to meeting its international obligations under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention and to doing its part to uphold the rules-based international system. This project is just one of many UK demining projects around the world.


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