Meeting pursuant to document S/2018/218 dated 13 March (letter of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom)

Statement by Karel J.G. van Oosterom,
Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations in New York.

New York, 14 March 2018

The Kingdom of the Netherlands supports the remarks by the Representative of the United Kingdom, who brought to our attention the urgent matter before us today.

I would like to underline three points:

  1. Solidarity with the United Kingdom;
  2. Concern over the use of a chemical weapon;
  3. The need for accountability.

1. Solidarity

My first point: solidarity. Until the beginning of this month, it was hard to imagine a more peaceful place in the world than Salisbury – a quiet, historic town among the rolling hills of southern England.

Then, the peace was brutally disturbed. A man and his daughter were poisoned. With the use of a nerve agent.

The United Kingdom was shocked.

The world was shocked.

And the Kingdom of the Netherlands was shocked.

On behalf of my government, our Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok has strongly condemned the attack and has expressed our solidarity with the United Kingdom.

People in the Netherlands feel for Yulia and Sergey Skripal, and we hope for the recovery of all the victims.

We fully understand the outrage of the UK authorities. We also understand why this new incident is particularly painful for the people of the United Kingdom, who still have vivid memories of the brutal murder of Mr. Litvinenko, with the use of radioactive polonium, in the heart of London.

Now the United Kingdom finds itself confronted with a new and different case, of which the full details are yet to be determined. But one thing is beyond doubt already: no state can or should accept attacks taking place on its sovereign territory. The United Kingdom can count on the full solidarity of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

2. Chemical weapons

My second point: the use of a chemical weapon. We express our grave concern over the type of weapon that was used in this attack: a military grade nerve agent. A substance that no regular criminal could easily get his hands on.

This is the first time since the end of the Second World War that a nerve agent has been used in Europe. The recklessness of this act is beyond words. This nerve agent was used in a public space with many unsuspecting civilians around. It could have had even more horrible effects than has been the case. And I would also like to reiterate that any use of chemical weapons is abhorrent.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands regards this as a threat to international peace and security. Therefore, it should be a matter of concern for this Council. We commend the United Kingdom for bringing it to our attention.

After the recent chemical weapons attacks in Syria, the attack in the UK is another warning to the world that we must step up our vigilance to prevent the use of these weapons of mass destruction. We underline the important role of the OPCW in The Hague in this regard.

3. Accountability

This brings me to my third and final point: accountability. There can be no impunity for this crime.

My government stated that the Kingdom of the Netherlands fully supports the UK in its quest for the truth. We call on all other countries to do so as well.

The UK authorities had urged the Russian Federation to provide answers to the questions that they have by yesterday. We can understand why, after Russia’s failure to do so, prime minister May announced bilateral measures earlier today.

We see no reason for Russia to continue to refuse the UK’s request. Nor do we see any legitimate reason why anyone should try to delay, sidetrack, second-guess or discredit the investigation carried out by the UK authorities.

The international community cannot shrug its shoulders over this crime, as if nothing happened. The United Nations, this Council, and all member states should cooperate with the United Kingdom as it further investigates this gruesome act.

The perpetrators should be brought to justice.

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