|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Secretary-General Urges Review Conference on Chemical Weapons to Ensure
‘Fog of War’ Will Never again Comprise Poison Gas
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the third Review Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, in The Hague on 8 April:
I am very pleased to join you for this Third Review Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention. I am honoured to be the first United Nations Secretary-General to attend a review conference of this landmark Treaty.
We meet at a critical time and I wanted to be here to extend the full support of the United Nations to the work of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). I also want to commend the Government of the Netherlands for its valuable contributions to advancing the rule of law in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation. That leadership will be further recognized and strengthened when the Government of the Netherlands hosts the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit here in this very building.
Last October, many of us came together at United Nations Headquarters to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention. I called on all countries to work together to eliminate the threat posed by chemical weapons for all people and for all time. All of us there made it clear that there can be no compromise on the road to ensuring a world forever free of chemical weapons. I am here today to reiterate my conviction about the important role of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on that journey. Together, we must ensure that the fog of war will never again be composed of poison gas.
But, let us be clear-eyed about the challenge. There are many lessons to learn and gaps to fill if we are to rid the world of chemical weapons. Thanks to the efforts of so many here in this room and around the world, 80 per cent of the declared chemical weapons stockpiles have been destroyed. I commend those countries that summoned the courage to declare their possession of chemical weapons and live up to their commitment to eliminating them. I also take note of an agreement on the final extended deadline for the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles. It is my sincere hope that we reach the 100 per cent target mark by the next review conference.
Progress in achieving the total destruction of chemical weapons must be complemented by efforts to gain universal adherence to the Convention. Eight countries remain outside the Convention — Angola, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria. I once again call upon each and every one of these countries to join the rest of the international community without further delay. I urge all of you who are in a position to do so to show political leadership and encouraging these countries to join the Convention.
Nothing can justify the possession of this heinous category of weapons of mass destruction. Nothing. 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. The crisis in Syria has entered its third year — without seeing any prospect for a political solution — of horrendous violence and devastating humanitarian consequences. The alarming claims concerning the use of chemical weapons are a further sign of deterioration. As I have said many times, the use of chemical weapons by any side under any circumstances would constitute an outrageous crime with dire consequences, and a crime against humanity.
Syria requested a specialized and independent United Nations investigation into allegations that chemical weapons were used near Aleppo. Other Member States brought to my attention additional locations where chemical weapons were allegedly used and requested me to investigate those incidents. My position is clear: all serious claims should be examined without delay, without conditions and without exception.
After consulting with OPCW and the World Health Organization (WHO), I established a technical mission led by experts. Yesterday, I met the head of our team, Åke Sellström. He assured me that he and his colleagues are ready to deploy. I have been urging the Syrian authorities to ensure that in the days ahead, the team can travel to Syria with full cooperation.
This would be the first probe of allegations of the use of weapons of mass destruction in the twenty-first century. I believe an investigation into the possible use of chemical weapons anywhere will help deter the future use of chemical weapons everywhere.
I count on your continued strong support — and I once again emphasize the responsibility of Syrian authorities to assure the international community of the security of its chemical weapons stockpiles. 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.
As we confront immediate challenges, we are also here to look ahead and lay foundations for the future. Over the next two weeks, you will work to strengthen the mission of OPCW. And you will anticipate future challenges. At this critical juncture, I urge you to focus on three issues.
First, build on the Convention’s achievements and ensure that it remains an effective bulwark against the re-emergence and proliferation of chemical weapons, including to terrorists.
Second, build a stronger partnership with the chemical industry. We must do our utmost to address concerns over safety and security associated with poisonous chemical agents while also reaping the tremendous technological and economic benefits that chemicals can make possible. Today, more than 130 chemical enterprises are participating in the United Nations Global Compact, our corporate citizenship and sustainability initiative. They have pledged to contribute to a better world socially, environmentally and economically. Promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of chemistry is key to the successful future of OPCW.
Third, strengthen your ability to contribute to peace and security. OPCW is equipped with a 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. Let me take this opportunity to express my sincere hope that that important conference convene without further delay.
We gather nearly 100 years after the first chemical attack, which took place just 250 kilometres from here. The memory of the defenceless victims of those awful events in Ypres, Belgium, remains fresh in our minds. So does the memory of many other innocent people who were attacked with chemical weapons in the fields of Iran and Iraq, in the subways of Tokyo and elsewhere.
Like the United Nations, the Chemical Weapons Convention was born from a fundamental abhorrence of the atrocities of war. You have a specific task — to eliminate chemical weapons and prevent them from ever re-emerging. But, you also have a broad mission — to prove that the inhumanity of war can give rise to the humanity of solidarity; to show that the lust for military dominance can be tamed by a love of life; and to demonstrate that the depths of despair caused by chemical weapons can be overcome by international cooperation of the highest order.
OPCW has greatly strengthened the rule of law in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation. I strongly believe your success story will inspire other parts of the global disarmament machinery to live up to the expectations of the international community.
The United Nations stands with you as you fulfil the noble aims of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Let us work together to make this world free of chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruction. I wish you great success.
* *** *