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Statement to the Fifty-Second 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
The Hague, Netherlands
March 4, 2008

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Director-General, distinguished delegates:

In this, our last Executive Council meeting before the Review Conference, I would like to express my thanks and deep appreciation to two individuals who have worked so diligently this past year to advance the work of this organization. The first is the chairman of our working group for the Review Conference, Ambassador Lyn Parker, who organized meetings throughout the year on broad issues important to the Review Conference, and then began drafting report text and working with everyone toward consensus. We thank him for his patient leadership and never-failing sense of humor as we work through a large array of issues in preparation for the Conference. The second individual is our dedicated EC chairman, Ambassador Romeo Arguelles, whom we hold in high esteem. He has so deftly led us through the Council sessions this past year and helped us reach consensus decisions every time. His absence will be deeply felt, yet we warmly wish him well as he moves on to other duties.

For the week ahead, as always, I pledge my personal commitment and that of my delegation to work closely with Chairman Arguelles and the other members of the Council to make this a productive and successful session.

It is always a sad moment when good friends and expert colleagues conclude their work on the Executive Council. Profound thanks to each and every one of you for your contributions to the EC and the OPCW this past year. For those members remaining on the Council, we appreciate your expertise and dedication, and we look forward to another year of collaborating together to achieve common goals. We look forward to electing a new set of officers for the Council, whose energy and expertise will be critical to continuing to move our work forward. We appreciate their willingness to serve, and certainly wish them all the best in taking on these challenging roles in the year ahead. There will also be several openings for facilitators in the months ahead, and we hope that some of our best delegates will volunteer their service to the organization by taking up these duties that contribute so significantly to achieving the goals of our organization.

We warmly welcome the Republic of the Congo, the newest state to join the Chemical Weapons Convention, bringing our number to 183. We are pleased that several other states are also close to accession, including Iraq, Guinea Bissau, Lebanon, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas. We urge them to take the final steps and become full members as soon as possible. It remains vitally important that the remaining states outside the Convention ratify or accede to it so that the entire world can reap its benefits – a total ban on an entire class of weapons, the destruction of all existing chemical weapons, and the promotion of trade in chemicals and international cooperation in chemical activities not prohibited by the Convention. The essential goal of universality is within our grasp, but we must continue to pursue the few states that have not yet joined the international community in ratifying this Convention.

We note with appreciation that many countries are working on their implementing legislation, and we encourage their efforts in completing this obligation. For those that have not yet undertaken to draft national legislation and obtain approval, it is very important to begin the process of fully implementing the Convention in each domestic legal system. As always, the Technical Secretariat and other States Parties, including mine, stand ready to assist when needed.

Since the last EC, the United States has successfully passed the half-way point in our destruction program. More than 50 percent of our entire chemical weapons stockpile has been destroyed. We take great pride in this achievement as we continue to destroy the rest of the stockpile as quickly and safely as possible. As we noted at EC-51 in November, the United States completed the destruction of the last remnants of U.S. binary chemical weapons at the Pine Bluff Binary Destruction Facility – all the munitions, parts, components, and chemicals associated with the most modern chemical weapon system ever developed by the United States. During the destruction informals yesterday, Mr. Jean Reed, the Special Assistant for Chemical and Biological Defense and Chemical Demilitarization Programs, described the strides we are taking in chemical weapons destruction. Compared to the schedules at the time of our extension request, Tooele is approximately 9 months ahead of schedule. Our Umatilla facility is roughly 4 years ahead of schedule. These accomplishments demonstrate our unwavering commitment to the goals and objectives of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Among the items on our agenda this week is a discussion of the report from the visit last October by representatives of the Executive Council to the Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility in the United States. We hope that delegations have had the opportunity to read the report, which carefully and factually documents the visit and the chemical weapons destruction program in the U.S., along with some of its challenges. We are looking forward to the next visit in this series to the Russian Federation later this year.

At the Review Conference next month, all of us must re-dedicate ourselves to the object and purpose of the Chemical Weapons Convention, to its full implementation, and to the importance of compliance with our obligations. We should strongly reaffirm the commitments our nations made in joining the Convention to exclude completely the possibility of the use of chemical weapons – including absolutely rejecting the use of chemical weapons by any state, group or individual, including the use of industrial chemicals as weapons.

The Review Conference follows on the heels of the historic milestone we celebrated this past year -- the 10th anniversary of the Convention. The Review Conference provides an opportunity to review our accomplishments and shortcomings to date, particularly in the past five years, and to plan for the next five years.

Possibly the most significant chemical weapons threat to develop since Entry Into Force of the Convention is the use of chemical weapons by terrorists, as exemplified by the chlorine attacks in Iraq in 2007. The declaration and routine verification provisions of the Convention are designed to detect militarily significant quantities of agent, not to detect or deter small-scale production or improvised use of industrial chemicals by non-state actors. Nevertheless, the Convention and the OPCW do offer tools that can help States Parties in addressing this emerging threat:

  • The requirement that States Parties put in place effective national implementation measures to prevent individuals from producing, stockpiling or using chemical weapons or assisting, encouraging or inducing, in any way, others to do so--and programs to assist them in putting such measures in place;
  • The requirement that States Parties cooperate and provide legal assistance to each other in addressing such issues;
  • Those assistance provisions under Article X that may mitigate or help to mitigate the effects of a terrorist chemical weapons attack in some cases, and
  • Forums for exchanging experiences and sharing best practices.

The First Review Conference noted that the OPCW was established as a forum for consultation and cooperation among States Parties, and that this framework could be used to exchange experiences and discuss issues related to the terrorist Chemical Weapons threat. The full and effective implementation of all Convention provisions by States Parties is a key contribution to efforts to deny terrorists access to weapons of mass destruction, as was recognized by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540. However, my government believes that consultation and cooperation among States Parties can also help to mitigate this threat. It is time to make better, more concerted use of the tools in the Convention, and of the OPCW as a forum, to address the threat of terrorist use of toxic chemicals.

The destruction of chemical weapons remains fundamental to the Convention, and its importance will, quite appropriately, be a key theme in the upcoming Review Conference. The United States is absolutely and irrevocably committed to completing our own destruction as rapidly as possible without compromising safety. When we were granted our extended deadline, we committed to work to improve our rate of progress. Since then, we have passed our revised 45 percent milestone six months ahead of schedule, and, as Mr. Reed described yesterday, we are continuing to make excellent progress. We are confident that the other possessor states are equally committed to their obligations in this regard; indeed, two of them are drawing quite close to joining Albania in completing destruction of their stockpiles.

The treaty entails much more than destruction of existing stockpiles of weapons, however. Non-proliferation is also a fundamental part of our Convention, with all States Parties having agreed they will not develop, produce or transfer chemical weapons or allow any group or individual to do so in their territory or places under their jurisdiction or control. All States Parties have taken on solemn obligations and commitments under the Convention, including the development of effective national implementation measures.

Effective national implementation has been a priority in the OPCW for some time now. While the broad political effort must be maintained, my government believes that it is time to add a new level of cooperation among States Parties. We would like to see the annual two-day meeting of national authorities broadened into a week-long meeting of national implementation professionals with a yearly focus or theme, presenting briefings and comparing experiences on, for example, domestic law enforcement issues associated with the Convention, methods of outreach to industry, or national methods of overseeing imports and exports of toxic chemicals.

As the world’s chemical industry evolves, verification must evolve with it, consistent with the Convention. There have been significant changes in the industry since entry into force. My government believes that the Review Conference should request the Director-General to study how these changes in the chemical industry may affect the reliability of traditional indicators of chemical weapons production; the efficacy of inspection procedures, equipment and frequency; and the relevance of sampling and analysis, so that verification remains effective, now and in the future.

By the same token, we need to evolve our approach to Other Chemical Production Facilities. What have we learned to date? We have learned, on the one hand, that a subset of these facilities increasingly incorporate technologies and features that are highly relevant for the Convention. But we have also learned that the OCPF category also captures facilities that are not relevant at all. We strongly support the Technical Secretariat’s ongoing effort to revise the “product group codes” currently used for OCPF declarations to make them more useful. But we believe that the Review Conference should go further, requesting the Director-General to study and report on ways to focus the OCPF category, including by means of exemptions for certain classes of plants that have been found to be of no relevance, to focus our effort on facilities that are relevant.

The Review Conference will also provide an opportunity to assess the institutions that help us to carry out the work of the Convention. We agree with the Director-General’s assessment that a “gradual shift” in the focus of verification will be called for as stockpile destruction winds down, and we should be looking and thinking ahead to meet this eventuality. We should reaffirm the commitment for the Technical Secretariat to maintain highly qualified inspectors and staff, while also maintaining expertise and institutional memory as the technical capabilities needed begin to shift.

The United States would like to see the important work of the Scientific Advisory Board supported by a stronger process, including improvements in the formulation of requests for study by the Board and in how its recommendations are received and reviewed. We continue to support increased funding under the regular budget for the SAB to allow two meetings per year, instead of the current single meeting, and the provision of some funding for temporary working groups. The Review Conference should also endorse the important work of this body -- the Executive Council – and that of the Conference of the States Parties, and stress the necessity of strong political leadership in overseeing the work of the Organization.

The 10th anniversary celebrations provided valuable exchanges with industry, academic experts and non-governmental organizations on current chemical issues. We would support increased, ongoing informal contacts by the Secretariat and delegations with these outside organizations on issues that are directly related to the Convention, but always within available financial resources.

Finally, one element essential to the Review Conference that is on our agenda this week in the Executive Council is the preliminary agenda for the Conference. Many delegations have been engaged in extensive discussions on the draft agenda. What is critically important and vital to our success in this Second Review Conference is that we all solemnly pledge our agreement, notwithstanding the agenda, that any member state may bring its important concerns before the Conference and discuss issues freely, whether a specific agenda item exists or not. The agenda must not be used to suppress or limit discussion or text that is relevant. The broad categories of the convention that form the skeleton of the preliminary agenda should allow all of us to raise our issues, engage in discussion, and come to consensus positions that can be reflected in the final Political Declaration and the Report of the Review Conference. Let us begin in earnest this week by agreeing to the agenda, thus freeing ourselves to go ahead with the real business of the Review Conference, and setting the stage for the second major review of the work of this Organization that will guide us in the coming years.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to request that this statement be circulated as an official document of the 52nd Session of the Council.

Released on March 7, 2008

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