(As delivered remarks)
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Director-General, Distinguished Delegates,
It is a great pleasure for me to return this week to the Executive Council. First and foremost, I would like to welcome you, Ambassador Lomónaco, as our new Chairman. Under your leadership, I am confident that we will successfully accomplish much important work during this week and in the year ahead.
The United States warmly welcomes the newest member of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Bahamas, as the 188th State Party. We particularly are heartened that, with the Bahamas’ ratification, every country in the Western Hemisphere is now a party to the Convention. The steady entry of new States Parties over the last several years, bringing the Convention close to universal membership, has been most encouraging. We strongly support the efforts of all States Parties, the Director-General and the Technical Secretariat to strengthen contacts with the remaining non-member states.
The most important item before the Council this week is the process to select our next Director-General. We fully believe, Mr. Chairman, that you will ably continue the fair and transparent process started by your predecessor, Ambassador Oksana Tomová of Slovakia. In this regard, we applaud your open consultations with all regional groups and interested delegations. We look forward to the presentations tomorrow by the eight candidates nominated by their national governments. We are indeed fortunate to have many able candidates from which to choose. Once we have heard from the candidates themselves, the difficult task of narrowing down to a single consensus candidate will begin. Under your skillful leadership, Mr. Chairman, we are confident that a consensus candidate will emerge from the deliberations in this body so that, by its 58th Session in October, the Council will be able to recommend one candidate to the Conference.
The United States believes that the process for selecting the next Director-General, based on the principle of consensus, is working. We see no need to begin developing elaborate formal rules for a process that is already underway. The United States is confident that you, Mr. Chairman, will continue to consult closely with delegations and keep the Council informed of the steps you plan to take.
I also would like to highlight the recent visit you led with other representatives of the Council, the Director-General, and officials from the Technical Secretariat to the U.S. chemical weapons destruction facilities at Pueblo, Colorado and Umatilla, Oregon. The United States was pleased to host this second trip by Council members to our facilities, and we believe that the visit further reinforced the importance of such visits for transparency and confidence building. This visit, like the earlier one to our Anniston facility in 2007, and the visit to Shchuchye in the Russian Federation last year, was an important part of the series of exchanges which demonstrate the commitment of the United States and the Russian Federation to the complete and verified destruction of all their chemical weapons stockpiles.
The report from the visit to Pueblo and Umatilla is on the Council’s agenda this week. The United States welcomes this factual report of the visit. We hope that it will be beneficial to all delegations in providing detailed information on our chemical weapons destruction program and its technical, safety and environmental challenges. I encourage everyone who was not part of the visiting group to talk to those who did participate in order to hear first-hand about what they saw. Members of my delegation are also available to meet with any delegation that would like to learn more about the visit and our destruction program. It is difficult to capture fully on paper the experience of visiting an actively operating destruction facility like the incineration plant at Umatilla, which started its final round of destruction while the visiting group was there. In addition to receiving an orientation of Umatilla’s destruction process, the group was able to meet the Technical Secretariat inspectors who were on the ground verifying destruction activity at Umatilla.
Pueblo, the other site that the group visited, maintains about eight percent of our stockpile, most of which dates from the 1950s. Pueblo is one of two facilities still under construction in the United States. The second facility is Blue Grass in Kentucky, which contains less than two percent of our stockpile. Although our other facilities use an incineration process, Pueblo and Blue Grass will use neutralization followed by a second-stage treatment of the neutralization product. During the Executive Council visit, the group learned why these alternative technologies to incineration were chosen for Pueblo and Blue Grass. The members of the visiting group also were provided with the current projected dates for the operation of these two facilities, which Dr. Tom Hopkins also presented yesterday during the informal consultations.
The United States is proud of the successes that it already has achieved in our destruction program. We now have destroyed over 62 percent of our chemical weapons, including 100 percent of our binary weapons, which were our most modern chemical weapons, 100 percent of our former chemical weapons production facilities, and over 96 percent of all nerve agent.
Based on current projections, the United States expects to destroy 90 percent of its chemical weapons stockpile by the extended Convention deadline of April 29, 2012. This means that by 2012, seven of the original nine storage sites will have eliminated all of their chemical weapons. Since 2006, when we had projected a 66-percent destruction level by 2012, we have found ways to accelerate destruction. The Obama Administration currently is reviewing options for further accelerating destruction at Pueblo and Blue Grass, consistent with the Convention and in conjunction with safety, technical and other requirements. We would also like to note that the projected funding for Pueblo and Blue Grass has increased significantly and is expected to remain at these higher levels.
I want to stress that the United States is fully committed to verified destruction of 100 percent of its chemical weapons stockpile as rapidly as possible. We are equally committed to transparency and to proactive full disclosure of our destruction activities.
I have already highlighted two of the major issues before us this week. However, I realize that we have many other important items on our agenda, including deferrals from previous sessions that we need to consider and, if possible, reach consensus on this week.
Among the items on our agenda, there are technical modifications to the facility agreements for a number of facilities in the United States. While these technical modifications do not require approval, we have submitted them to the Council for its information. We thank the Technical Secretariat for their cooperation in preparing these modifications along with the red-line versions of the documents. My delegation remains ready to answer all questions in order to explain the nature of these purely technical changes.
The United States welcomes the draft Program and Budget for 2010, which the Director-General presented last Friday. We applaud the Director-General and the Technical Secretariat for once again producing a balanced, zero nominal growth budget that continues to meet all of the Organization’s core objectives efficiently and economically. We will consider carefully the proposed budget and look forward to starting consultations under the experienced co-facilitation of Ambassador Francisco Aguilar of Costa Rica and Mr. Martin Strub of Switzerland.
I would like to recognize the facilitators for the many ongoing issues and particularly thank our departing colleagues for their hard work and dedication, including Ms. Annie Mari of France, Mr. Saïd Moussi of Algeria, and Mr. Takayuki Kitagawa of Japan. I also would like to thank all of our new facilitators, who have volunteered their time and effort to further the intersessional consultative process that is an integral part of the work of the Council. In addition to the two budget facilitators, we welcome Mr. Chen Kai of China for Article XI; Mr. Rami Adwan of Lebanon for Article VII; Mr. Mike Byers of Australia for the Open-ended Working Group on Terrorism; and our own Mr. Nikolas Granger for issues relating to the External Auditor and the Office for Internal Oversight.
I also commend the ongoing work and diligent efforts of the facilitator for Article X, Mr. Maciej Karasi�ski of Poland; the facilitator for universality, Mr. Lee Litman of the United Kingdom; and the two facilitators for industry issues, Mr. Giuseppe Cornacchia of Italy and Mr. Marthinus van Schalkwyk of South Africa.
I would also like to note the departure in the near future of one of the Technical Secretariat’s senior staff members, the Director of the Inspectorate Ichiro Akiyama. He is truly one of the founding fathers of the CWC and has been involved for more than 25 years, first in the negotiation of the Convention and then with its implementation. We have all benefitted greatly from Mr. Akiyama’s expertise, dedication to chemical disarmament, and his loyalty to the OPCW. His departure will be a loss for us all. We thank him and wish him well in his new position.
On industry matters, we encourage all States Parties to work together constructively to energize the discussions within the Industry Cluster to resolve outstanding issues, including efforts to reach a consensus decision on setting a realistic concentration threshold for Schedule 2A/2A* chemicals. The low concentration issue has been under discussion for a decade now, and it is embarrassing that years of technical discussions have not yielded agreement on a concentration threshold. It is time to reconsider entrenched positions and to seek a political compromise, which is unlikely to equate with any State Party’s current concentration threshold. We also reiterate our call for a facilitator to re-start the crucial consultations on the site selection methodology for other chemical production facilities.
We have challenging work ahead of us this week and in the coming months. I pledge the full support of my delegation for a productive and successful session of the Council.
I would like to request that this statement be circulated as an official document of the 57th Session of the Council. Thank you.