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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) > Releases > Remarks > 2004

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

Ambassador Eric M. Javits, Head of the U.S. Delegation
Opening statement to the Executive Council of the OPCW
The Hague, The Netherlands
June 29, 2004

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

I am pleased to welcome you to the chair for the first time as Chairman of the Executive Council. As all of us are aware, the Chairman’s responsibilities are occasionally frustrating, sometimes quite delicate, and always important. I have every confidence that you will skillfully handle any and all challenges that arise, and that your tenure as Chairman will be marked by meaningful accomplishments. I pledge the full cooperation and support of the United States delegation, not only at this Session, but throughout the period of your chairmanship.

Nonproliferation is one of the cornerstones of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). I am sure that every delegation here is aware of the historic commitment made this April in unanimously adopting UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which in our view, is an appropriate response to a very clear and present threat to global peace and security. The fundamental objective of this important resolution is to keep weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery out of the hands of terrorists and rogue regimes.

The resolution requires states to enact effective export and trans-shipment controls, criminalize the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and secure all related materials within their borders. By calling on UN member states to adopt and to enforce effective legal and regulatory standards to prevent proliferation, UNSC Resolution 1540 is an important affirmation of the work being done in the OPCW under its Action Plan on National Implementation Measures which calls for States Parties to fully implement their obligations under the Convention, an important element that addresses the proliferation threat.

There has been substantial activity to carry out the Article VII Action Plan, which sets a deadline for States Parties to enact domestic legislation that implements the requirements of the Convention and to establish a national authority. This plan is consistent with the goals set out in UNSC Resolution 1540. States Parties and the Technical Secretariat (TS) are working hard to ensure that the milestones set out in the Action Plan are met.

We are encouraged by States Parties’ active engagement in the numerous national implementation and national authority conferences that have been held around the world. We believe that this effort will help advance the implementation of the CWC and we encourage it to continue. The United States, as always, stands ready to help nations fulfill their Article VII obligations. We have continued to pursue bilateral contacts, coordinate efforts with the Technical Secretariat, respond to inquiries from States Parties, and participate in regional workshops. Work must continue in order for States Parties to fulfill their obligations by the 10th Conference of the States Parties, in accordance with the Plan of Action.

Likewise, progress is being made on achieving universality, and we urge re-doubling of efforts in this area with the Technical Secretariat and Member States working in close coordination. We note with satisfaction the recent accession of Rwanda, the Marshall Islands, and St. Kitts and Nevis and we are encouraged by the recent universality conferences in Ethiopia and Malta. We look forward to welcoming others as States Parties, including Iraq, now that sovereignty has been restored to it and once their duly elected government is in place. The United States wants to reinforce, however, the need for follow-up action and continued coordination within the TS with regard to local efforts to encourage States not-party to join the CWC. Increased cooperation and coordination will help strengthen our ability to achieve universal adherence to the Convention, and thus bring us that much closer to the global elimination of the chemical weapons threat.

Two important items before the Council this session, Mr. Chairman, are the separate requests from Libya and Albania for extension of their intermediate destruction deadlines. Any request for extensions to the deadlines for chemical weapons destruction is a serious issue and must be carefully considered by this Council. However, we ask that other Council members take into account the unique circumstances of these two States Parties and recall that these two extension requests mirror previous extension requests approved by the Council. It’s worth noting that both countries will remain obligated by the treaty to meet the April 29, 2007 deadline for destruction of all chemical weapons. We call on the Council to consider and approve the respective extension requests at this session.

Of special interest, Mr. Chairman, the Council will soon be asked to consider the issue of making an Article XV technical change to paragraph 72 of Part V of the Verification Annex that would permit new States Parties to request conversion of a chemical weapons production facility for peaceful purposes. As the Council is aware, the deadline for completing conversion of chemical weapons production facilities expired on April 29, 2003. Libya has indicated that it would like to convert the Rabta chemical weapons production facility so that it can be used to produce low cost pharmaceuticals to treat AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis throughout the African continent and the developing world. The United States supports Libya in its request to convert Rabta, on both ethical and humanitarian grounds. However, the conversion must be fully consistent with the Chemical Weapons Convention and transparent to all States Parties. If the deadline is not modified, or left unaddressed, this could serve as a disincentive for some non-state parties to accede to the Convention.

The United States has been working closely with the United Kingdom, Italy, Libya and others on a joint proposal for making the technical change. Our proposal allows the Executive Council to set the deadline for submission of a request to convert a chemical weapons production facility, and the Conference to establish the earliest practicable deadline for completion of the conversion. This approach is based, in part, on similar CWC provisions for destruction of chemical weapons and chemical weapons production facilities when deadlines have expired for an acceding State. During this process, we considered many options on how to proceed and believe that, on balance, our joint proposal is the best available approach. Our joint proposal will work not just for Libya but for all future acceding States who may possess a chemical weapons production facility and legitimately wish to convert it for purposes not prohibited by the Convention. We are committed to the principle of “equal treatment;” that what applies to Libya shall also apply to future acceding States.

Mr. Chairman, the United States, along with our U.K. and Italian colleagues, have spoken with many members of this Council, both in The Hague and in capital, on this important issue. We anticipate formally submitting the request for a technical change to the Director-General by mid-July to account for CWC procedures contained in Article XV. We look forward to further discussing this issue with Council Members. It is our hope and expectation that the Council, at its October session, will be in position to recommend to the Conference the technical change to paragraph 72.

During EC-35, I outlined the priorities of the United States for 2004, and emphasized that a key goal was financial and administrative reform. Consequently, we support two important proposals before the Council for decision at this session. The first is the proposed draft decision to amend the financial regulations of the OPCW, which is the result of outstanding work by the facilitator, Peter van Brakel of Canada. Effective financial management is essential to the functioning of this organization, and the United States is encouraged by and commends the commitment and flexibility States Parties have shown in proposing long overdue reform of key financial regulations.

Second, we strongly support the proposal to reform the Working Capital Fund, which was achieved under the outstanding work of the facilitator, Johan Verboom of the Netherlands. The draft decision to amend the Working Capital Fund will be a significant step forward in ensuring the financial stability of the organization. When combined with the cautious approach to budgeting for Article IV and V income that was introduced with the 2003 budget, it is a pragmatic solution to some of the practical difficulties of OPCW’s financing system. By providing the Organization with greater liquidity, it will also provide an important protection against other unforeseen developments that might otherwise prevent the TS from executing the program of work approved by States Parties.

The United States strongly supports both of these proposals and believes they are critical to ensuring a stable financial situation for the Organization. We believe that the Council should act on both of these decisions without delay, at this Session, so that we can proceed with budget negotiations in the fall, secure in the knowledge that the Organization’s basic financial structure is strong.

As we all know, the Technical Secretariat, with the endorsement of both the Conference of the States Parties and the Review Conference, has been actively exploring means of “optimizing” verification – finding ways to verify destruction more efficiently, without sacrificing effectiveness. We understand that the Technical Secretariat has already implemented such measures in India and Russia. As the State Party that currently has the largest number of CW destruction facilities, we have also worked with the TS on ways to optimize destruction monitoring. Together, we have made important progress, as those of you who attended the informal consultations earlier this week will have heard in some detail. It is our intent to test some of these ideas and approaches at a U.S. CW destruction facility later this year. I want to emphasize our commitment to an open and transparent process. Due to the quantity of TS and U.S. resources that are potentially impacted by this initiative, the TS and the U.S. must work closely together to ensure that an acceptable and feasible approach is developed. The U.S. feels strongly about the need for transparency. We want the Council to understand what is being done at our facilities and to feel confident in its effectiveness. The U.S. looks forward, as I hope you do also, to a thorough report and presentation by the Technical Secretariat on the results of this initiative in a few months’ time.

I have repeatedly noted the importance the United States places on work in the industry cluster. For this Council session, we urge the Council to adopt report language to streamline the process for States Parties concluding Schedule 2 Facility Agreements with the Technical Secretariat. The U.S. also hopes that by the next Council it will be possible to make progress on clarification of transfer discrepancies and a selection methodology for so- called “other chemical production facilities” for inspection.

A recent TS report indicates that only 22% of States Parties submitted their 2003 Annual Declarations on Past Activities within the Convention timeline. We request that the Technical Secretariat continue issuing these reports to ensure that States Parties remain aware of the problem and urge that delegations and the Technical Secretariat vigorously pursue a solution to the problem of late submission of declarations.

There are other long-standing issues, as well, that need political attention. For example, we are concerned that the verification plan for the U.S. chemical weapons destruction facility at Aberdeen, Maryland has been blocked for a year. Also, efforts to reach agreement on sampling and analysis procedures have been stymied by a single issue, which can only be solved politically, not by technical experts. We see no point in continued inconclusive technical discussions on this matter and urge the countries most concerned to work out an acceptable political solution.

Mr. Chairman, let me conclude by reiterating the commitment of the United States to working with you, the Director-General and other States Parties to move ahead on the important work that is before us. UNSC Resolution 1540 is the international community’s affirmation that proliferation of chemical weapons, among other weapons of mass destruction, must be stopped. The robust implementation of the Convention and promotion of an effective Technical Secretariat are key parts of that effort. Under the leadership of the Director-General and your chairmanship, I am sure the OPCW will make a significant contribution to that global effort. Thank you.

Released on July 7, 2004

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