Ban calls for total elimination of chemical weapons within five years

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opens the Third Review Conference of the States Parties of the Chemical Weapons Convention in The Hague. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

8 April 2013 – Warning that the fog of war must never again be composed of poison gas, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today appealed to the 188 States Parties to the United Nations-backed treaty outlawing chemical weapons to do all in their power to bring on board the eight nations that still have not signed on.

Eight countries remain outside of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) – Angola, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria – and Mr. Ban has repeatedly urged them to join.

“I urge all of you who are in a position to do so to show political leadership and encouragiLet me reiterate my conviction: As long as chemical weapons exist, so, too, does the risk of their use - by accident or design. There are no right hands for the wrong these countries to join the Convention,” he told Third Review Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention in The Hague today.

“Nothing can justify the possession of this heinous category of weapons of mass destruction. Nothing,” he said, noting that 80 per cent of declared chemical weapons stockpiles have already been destroyed thanks to CWC. He voiced the hope that the 100 per cent target will be reached by the next review conference in five years’ time.

Mr. Ban’s words gained added urgency following allegations that chemical weapons have been used in the Syrian conflict, and he announced today that arrangements are now ready for an advance UN-team to investigate the reports in the Middle Eastern country, where over 70,000 people have been killed and more than three million displaced since the uprising against President al-Assad began in March 2011.

“We know that until the last stockpiles have been destroyed – and until the Convention is binding worldwide – the threat posed by chemical weapons will remain. Look no further than today’s headlines,” he said.

“Let me reiterate my conviction: As long as chemical weapons exist, so, too, does the risk of their use – by accident or design. There are no right hands for the wrong weapons,” Mr. Ban added, noting that the probe of allegations in Syria would be the first into the use of weapons of mass destruction in the 21st century.

He called on the Parties to focus us on three issues: to build on CWC’s achievements so that it remains an effective bulwark against the re-emergence and proliferation of chemical weapons, including to terrorists; to forge a stronger partnership with the chemical industry to address safety and security issues; and to make full use of the treaty’s robust and reliable monitoring and verification mechanism.

“With that expertise, your Organization can play a constructive role in the process of establishing a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction,” Mr. Ban declared, referring to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the implementing body of CWC, which entered into force in 1997.

“Let me take this opportunity to express my sincere hope that that important conference convene without further delay,” he added.

An international conference on setting up a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, which was initially planned for December 2012 in Helsinki, Finland, was postponed last year at the request of the United States, Russia and United Kingdom – the three depositary States of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – which felt that conditions were not being met for such a conference.

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