Richard Guthrie has posted his fourth report from the Second Review Conference, this one on “The Third Day: General Debate and Open Forum.”
This morning the National Statements concluded, and unfortunately with them the NGO and other observers allowance at the meeting. Tomorrow the Commitee of the Whole begins its deliberations behind closed doors.
The afternoon Open Forum was a welcome role reversal from the meetings earlier in the week. At the World Forum the NGOs, academia, and industry observers were at the very back of the room, whereas at the open forum we occupied the first 2 rows. There was a full house at the meeting with delages from several nations piled in at the back of the room. I will provide a bit of an overview of the procedings tomorrow morning.
Written transcripts of the Iranian statement were not provided to the delegates (not a big shock) yesterday during their address, but surprisingly today copies were passed out. If the statement does not become one of those available on the 2nd RevCon website, I will scan it and post it as soon as I get home. It was also the subject of a small middle eastern news article.
Two of the more interesting statements this morning were from Albania and LIbya. Albania is the only CW possesor state to have fully destroyed all of its CW stockpiles, and missed the original April 2007 deadline by only a few weeks. The Albanian representative gave credit to all of the states parties who made it possible for the destruction to be completed. Albania has proved that the goals of the CWC are acheivable, and as such called for the rest of the possesor states to work to meet the 2012 deadline. However, Albania was quick to point out that in their experience, hurdles in the destruction process that are impossible to predict will be encountered and could therefore affect the overall timeline. Albania urged states to keep the OPCW informed and to maintain full transparency as destruction moves forward.
Libya, one of the remaining CW possessor states also spoke this morning. Libya asserted that they are doing their utmost to implement the CWC. They have declared their stockpiles and had OPCW inspections. According to the Libyan representative they have destroyed 100% of their schedule 3 chemicals, 39% of schedule 2 chemicals, and are prepared to fully cooperate with the OPCW and are committed to meeting the 2012 deadline for full destruction (However, Libya has not begun to destroy its Schedule 1 Chemical Weapons yet). Libya did have harsh words for Israel and called on them to adhere to the CWC as their continued non-involvement has serious negative consequences for the implementation of the convention.
We also heard statements from India, Columbia, Nigeria, Thailand, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Zambia, Uganda, Belarus, Morocco, Hong Kong SAR and Argentina.
Here is Richard Guthrie’s third report of the week. It is very descriptively titled “The Second Day of the Conference: Further General Debate.”
And today even further general debate will encompass the morning, but should be finished before the afternoon Open Forum.
Also, OPCW has posted the opening statement of Director General Rogelio Pfirter delivered April 7. There is a continually growing list of National Statements available and I will be providing links in the posts below as more are added.
And finally, there is one interesting new news article this morning:
Today the General Debate continued so we had 2 full sessions of national statements. I posted quick entries on the U.S. and Iran statements since they were by far the most anticipated and interesting. In addition to the U.S. and Iran we heard from Saudi Arabia, China, Russian Federation, Singapore, Japan, Pakistan, Serbia, Switzerland, Mexico, Algeria, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Ukraine, Indonesia, Turkey, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Peru, Republic of Korea, Australia, Brazil, Tunisia, Yemen, Norway, Sudan, El Salvador and Mongolia. The rest of the statements were not too controversial. Daniel Feakes managed to keep a running list of each state and their key points for both the morning session and afternoon session. Overall, the U.S. statement was not terribly strong or confrontational. The statement of Iran followed later in the morning, and while it was not without a few controversial statements, it could very well have been heavier. Nearly all states listed CWC universality or CW stockpile destruction as their first priorities for the RevCon and the next 5 years. Only a handful of states brought up the issue of non-lethal weapons or riot control agents and concerns over their use by other states parties. Nearly all of the developing nations pressed Article XI as one of the main pillars of the CWC and called upon the developed nations to increase the sharing of scientific and technical information and equipment fr purposes not prohibited under the convention with them. The developed nations almost entirely ignored Article XI in their statements, and those that didn’t only devoted one or 2 lines to it. A far as CWC news goes… The U.S. State Department has posted the statement read by Amassador Javits this morning. Also there are:
- Destruction of chemical weapons top priority of convention, China says – China View, April 8, 2008.
- Universal Membership Crucial for CWC, Officials Say – Global Security Newswire, Chris Schneidmiller, April 8, 2008.
- Nations Demand Adherence to CW Disposal Deadlines – Global Security Newswire, Chris Schneidmiller, April 8, 2008.
- Nations to Consider Future of Chemical Weapons Pact – Global Security Newswire, Chris Schneidmiller, April 3, 2008.
OPCW is starting to put national statements up on the Second Review Conference site.
Other new items on the RevCon site include the press release “Watchdog Agency: Treaty to Eliminate Chemical Weapons Is Succeeding” and an image gallery.
Earlier this morning the U.S. spoke, and now it is time for the awaited address by Iran. Everyone is holding their breath, and Iran did pull a few punches in its statement but did not make any direct acusations.
Iran is looking forward to an objective review of progress of the CWC and set agenda for the next 5 years. They are especially looking to preserve non-discriminatory nature of convention, and it must be addressed in a holistic manner.
Iran reaffirms the legally binding commitments of parties for all provisions, particularly those on destruction. 10 years after CWC entry into force, the international community still faces threat of CWs. OPCW has notable achievements over the past 10 years, but need to build on this and ensure full implementation by universality, destructions, non-discriminatory implementation of Article XI and provide assistance to CW victims.
Iran maintains that complete destruction is the most important foundation of the CWC and integral to its credibility. Failure to meet 2012 is clear and serious case of non-compliance. Iran suggests that there may be domestic policy in place to maintaining stockpiles as “security reserves” and for that reason the slow pace of destruction is a matter of serious concern. Non-possessor states remain vigilant and monitor progress.
Iran also brought up the use of Riot Control Agents as method of warfare. They deplore the recent use and stress that states parties should not resort to these agents for military use. Iran says this stems not from legal perspective but from their personal experience when Iraq used CWs against them and it has made them even more resolute in opposing all WMDs including CWs. Iran asserts that the international response to Saddam Hussein sent the signal that grave violations of a treaty would be tolerated if it served the interests of world powers. They want to establish international CW victims funding, and would like the OPCW to be involved.
Next Iran addressed the CWC agreement to provide free trade for peaceful use of chemicals within the states parties. However, they argue that some states parties have put extra restrictions on trade that are discriminatory and arbitrary. These export control regimes need to be dropped to be in line with Article XI. The states parties need to have a discussion on this article to ensure its full implementation. Iran has prepared a detailed proposal on Article XI and hope that serious negotiations will occur based on it.
Iran also brought up the concern that only some state parties have incorporated national implementing legislation. They also noted over-representation of certain developed nations in the OPCW Technical Secretariat.
RIchard Guthrie’s latest report “The Opening of the Conference: Procedures and statements” is up on the CBW Events site. Everyone is beginning to gather now in the Forum and the days events should begin shortly.
First up should be the U.S. statement.
Eric Javits, representative of the U.S. began the day by addressing the conference. He affirmed U.S. commitment to the CWC and welcomed the new chariman. He also thanked Ambassador Donald Mahley for his work on the CWC over the past years and congratulated him on his retirement. Javits then read a short message from Mahley, which highlighted some of events Mahley participated in to during the negotiation and implementation of the CWC. Mahley congratulated the CWC as what he believes to be the last great mutlilateral arms control agreement, and a lean organisation that has maintained its focus on the mission to rid the world of CWs.
Javits continued by welcoming the Congo as the newest member, and urged the remaining nations to ratify or accede as soon as possible. This is a good opportunity to reaffirm the CWC and to follow through on compliance concerns. Javits asserted that debates taht have been going on in the past few months over the relative improtance on various conditions of the CWC miss the point. The CWC is series of interlocking agreements so success in one area of the convention depends on success of the others. WE should not be discussing the relative importance of each part, but how to move the whole interlocking CWC forward. Javits agreed that destruction is fundamental and that the possessor states have special responsibility to secure and destroy their CWs, though it has not been as rapid as anyone would wish. The U.S. has demonstrated resolve and commitment to destroy their CWs as quickly as possible. He understands concerns over delays, and it is right that RevCon give this issue serious consideration, but U.S. commitment is clear and have used their resources not only to destroy their own stockpiles, but also to help others.
Javits also requested that the DG study how changes in chemical industry affect the indicators of CW production so that verification can remain accurate and effictive. He also called for an increase in inspections of OCPFs, but only for those which are relavent – need to include exemptions to focus on facilites that are relavent. The U.S. looks forward to ease of report submission to the OPCW and the ability to do so electronically. Terrorists are one of the challenges of the current day, and the CWC has provisions to detect military use, but not of individual efforts. Javits insists that national implementation legislation must be passed in every contry to reduce this.
Javits also proposed that annual 2 day meeting be lengthened so that there will be more discussion and sharing of experience on specific CWC related issues. The U.S. would like to see increased partnership with industry and the SAB supproted and stronger by to changing the way that topics are submitted and an increased budget for more meetings and to sponsor smaller working groups. He also agrees that OPCW begin planing for a workload shift as destruction of CWs winds down. They will also need shift of expertise of inspectors for this. In conculsion, Javits stated that the states use their time here wisely to address topics of greatest improtance. He pledged commitment to work cloesly with everyone here to make this a productive conference.
The conference is off to a good start. The opening business is complete and national statements begun, so far without too much drama. However, the U.S. statement will begin the day tomorrow, so we will see how that is recieved. The first few statements have generally put CW stockpile destruction on the top of the list of important issues for the conference to address. The representatives from South Africa and Cuba certainly highlighted CW destruction as one of the pillars of the CWC and that commitment to it must remain firm for the convention to remain strong. All of the speakers so far have urged all possesor countries to do whatever they can to meet the 2012 deadline. What remains to be seen are how the U.S. comments handle this issue.
Director General Pfirter, the first individual to address the conference immediately tackled CW destruction with the suggestion that this review conference not discuss it extensively. He remained optimistic that significant progress would be made in the next 4 years, and that if necessary, a special conference of the states parties be called to examine the issue. It is likely that despite the Director Generals suggestion, the 2012 deadline will be continually brought up as a fundamental issue for the conference.
In his address, the representative from South Africa, speaking for the African group of states parties, also put significant emphasis on the international assistance programs and the exchange of scientific and technical information and equipment under Article XI. Both the African group and Cuba, speaking for the Non-aligned movement of states parties to the convention and China (NAM), pointed out an imbalance of personnel employed at OPCW and called for a transparent, fair and geographically disperse recruiting strategy for staff to fill professional level positions.
On the topic of CWC universality, so far everyone seems eager to work with the states who remain outside of the convention so that they may become part of it. The representative from Slovenia speaking for the EU especially highlighted EU commitment to the CWC and their work on universality. She also affirmed their commitment to intensify this work and the suggestion that in the future efforts will need to be specifically tailored to each state that remains outside the convention. Director General Pfirter also addressed the issue of universality, and expressed his disappointment that several countries still resist the CWC. He instisted that despite the fact that the nations in the Middle East use the unstable situation there as a reason not to join the CWC, this is no excuse. It is his assertion that even in an unstable situation it is still possible, and even desirable, for them to stand with the rest of the world and renounce the scourge of chemical weapons. There is hope that progress currently being made with Iraq and Lebanon will further CWC adoption not only in the Middle East, but in all of the remaining nations.
As soon as the papers and statements are available online I will post links to them. So far only the message from the Secretary-General of the United Nations is listed on the OPCW website.
The provisional programme for the Open Forum on Wednesday is also now available.
I managed to link up with a few other NGO folks here this morning. The Harvard Sussex program was here actively handing out copies of their Resource Guide to the Second Review Conference and Richard Guthrie was also distributing copies of his report released earlier today (see below). After a lunch break at OPCW headquarters down the block, we were ready for the RevCon to finally begin.
The meeting was called to order at 3:10pm and procedural matters began immediately. The Ambassador from Saudi Arabia was elected chairman of the Conference, the agenda was adopted and other elections were completed. The most important event that occurred was that the attendance of all of the NGOs was approved. We were all quite happy and to make it official, real plaquards identifying our organization names were distributed to put up on our desks. Photos of this will likely follow in upcoming posts.
Daniel Feakes has been posting somewhat of the play-by play of events over on his site, but I’ll just try and give a few highlights right now. Very soon statements should be available on the OPCW website, since written copies are being handed out as they are being delivered.
We first heard from Director General Pfirter, followed by a statement of support from Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon (delivered by Tim Caughley, Deputy General of the Conference on Disarmament). Next statements were given by representatives from the European Union, the Netherlands, Cuba, South Africa and Kyrgyzstan. The best moment of the meeting thus far was Netherlands Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen quoting hockey player Wayne Gretzky who once said that “a good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” The OPCW needs to keep this in mind during discussions over the next 2 weeks.
Now its time to head off to the OPCW for a reception hosted by Ambassador Pfirter.