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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) > Releases > Remarks > 2002

Statement to the Thirty-first Regular Session of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

Ambassador Eric M. Javits, Head of U.S. Delegation
Remarks to the Executive Council of the OPCW
The Hague, The Netherlands
December 10, 2002

Remarks as delivered

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Director-General, Distinguished Delegates:

Let me open by warmly welcoming you back to the chair.  Mr. Chairman, my delegation pledges you our full support in making this Council session a success.  Given the Director-General's expressed desire for a new spirit of cooperation between the Technical Secretariat and the Member States, and among the Member States themselves -- a desire this delegation shares -- we are optimistic that progress can be made on several agenda items in this session.

Mr. Chairman, recently an Executive Council trip to the Russian Federation’s chemical weapons destruction facility at Gorny was undertaken to assess the state of construction and preparations for operation of the facility there.   We found that trip useful in preparing members to make an informed decision on the date for Russia's 1% destruction deadline.  We thank all those, including yourself, who made it possible.

Mr. Chairman, we read your report of the Executive Council trip to Gorny with great interest.  Certainly, much progress has been made in the facility's construction since the Council's visit in March 2000.  Nevertheless, it remains uncertain whether the facility will begin destruction operations this calendar year.  Consequently, it is not clear that the proposed deadline of April 29, 2003 for destruction of the first 1% of the Russian stockpile can be met. Before that determination can be made, we first need to know when the facility will commence operations.  Secondly, we need to know whether it will be possible to operate at the planned rate -- something that will require a little time to learn.  We say this not as any sort of aspersion on the Gorny facility or its operators, but based on our own experience that CW demilitarization is often more complicated or time-consuming in practice than plans anticipate. 

As a result, Mr. Chairman, we believe the Council should take up the question of the date for the one-percent deadline, perhaps in a special meeting or session, after destruction operations at Gorny are underway.  We can then project more accurately what is realistic.

Mr. Chairman, preparations for the Review Conference have been a major focus of intersessional work in recent months. Thanks to the capable stewardship of the Chairman of the Working Group on the Conference, Ambassador Davérède, we have had useful discussions of the substantive issues that the Group believes are likely to be considered by the RevCon next spring.  From those discussions, Mr. Chairman, it is clear that some issues will need further attention over the coming weeks.

Mr. Chairman, we recently had a productive informal consultation on the Verification Implementation Report under your chairmanship.  At that time, a number of delegations expressed views on how future VIR's might be made more valuable to member states.  We trust that the Technical Secretariat will make constructive efforts to accommodate those views and make the VIR a more useful document.  We look forward to seeing a 2002 VIR published early next year that is thorough, factual, analytical, and impartial: a critical tool for capitols as they assess the operation of the Convention's verification regime.  Working together, the Technical Secretariat and Member States can develop a document that is responsive to the needs of the end users and that sets a new standard for verification reporting.  We also want to take this opportunity to express appreciation for the updates that the Technical Secretariat provides orally at each Council Session, which provide timely information on recent developments.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, we would like to address one item that is not on the agenda, but is of immediate importance to the sound operation of the OPCW: the question of the implementation of Staff Regulation 4.4(b) concerning the tenure of Technical Secretariat staff members.  We welcome the Director-General’s initiative in confronting this matter by circulating his paper and statement on this delicate issue. The United States has always advocated, and continues to advocate, a truly non-career organization.  However, right from the start we recognized the need to phase in such a policy in a practical way, given that most of the Technical Secretariat's staff was hired in a narrow window of time. 

The Director-General has the responsibility of moving ahead with a pragmatic approach to staff tenure that keeps the Organization running smoothly.  Such an approach must on the one hand respect the commitment to a non-career organization, and on the other hand, the need for practical solutions that respect legal, financial, and operational realties. We applaud him for moving ahead with a constructive interim approach.

It is certainly unfortunate that the Director-General has been put in this position, however.  It is high time for the Council itself to confront this issue and to provide the necessary guidance on a starting date for the limited tenure policy, and on any necessary transitional measures to avoid disruption in the work of the Technical Secretariat.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


Released on December 16, 2002

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