Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Opening remarks at joint press conference with Ahmed Üzümcü, Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, The Hague (Netherlands), 08 April 2013

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and Director-General Mr. Üzümcü.

First of all, let me express my sincere thanks to the Government of the Netherlands for their leadership and valuable contribution in addressing global challenges. Yesterday I paid tribute to Her Majesty Queen Beatrix. This morning, I had a meeting with Foreign Minister [Frans] Timmermans, and this afternoon, I will have a meeting with Prime Minister [Mark] Rutte.

I particularly commend the Government of the Netherlands for its active role in advancing the rule of law in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured to be the first United Nations Secretary-General to participate in this Review Conference of the landmark Chemical Weapons Convention. I thank the OPCW Director-General, Mr. Üzümcü, for his leadership and strong commitment to rid our world of chemical weapons.

At the opening session, I extended my full support for his leadership and the vital work of the organisation for the prohibition of chemical weapons.

The Chemical Weapons Convention is a historic achievement in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation.

With robust monitoring and verification mechanism, it has achieved remarkable progress in eliminating chemical weapons. Our goal is now within reach.

However, progress in achieving the total destruction of chemical weapons must be complemented by universality of the Convention. That is why I urged the eight remaining countries* outside the Convention to join the rest of the international community without delay.

The Director-General and I also reviewed the latest developments with regard to the fact-finding mission to investigate the allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. As you know, I announced my decision to establish a United Nations investigation based on the authority given by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council resolutions. Member States can bring to my attention allegations of possible use of chemical weapons.

The Governments of Syria, France and the United Kingdom have presented allegations with supporting information and requested a speedy investigation. A number of other countries have also issued statements or sent me letters supporting a full and expeditious investigation.

As I stated at the Review Conference this morning, my position is clear. All serious claims should be examined without delay, without conditions, without exception.

In this regard, I am grateful to the relevant organizations for supporting this investigation. The OPCW’s technical support is critical. Mr. Üzümcü, Director-General, has ensured his organisation’s full support, as has WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan, with whom I discussed this matter just a few days ago in Madrid.

Yesterday, upon arrival in The Hague, I met Mr. Åke Sellström, the Head of the investigation team. He assured me that he and his colleagues are ready to deploy. I can announce today that an advance team is now on the ground in Cyprus, the final staging point to undertake the mission in Syria.

Following our meeting yesterday, Mr. Sellström, he is also now on his way to Cyprus today.

I can report that the United Nations investigation mission is now in a position to deploy in Syria in less than 24 hours. All technical and logistical arrangements are in place.

This is yet another indication of my strong commitment to investigate all possible uses of chemical weapons in Syria.

Now all we are waiting for is the go-ahead from the Syrian Government for a thorough investigation to determine whether any chemical weapons were used in any location.

Ultimately, this is about the wellbeing of the Syrian people who have suffered enough already.

The longer we wait, the harder this essential mission will be.

Thank you very much. I am ready to answer your questions.