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Diplomacy in Action

Statement to the Executive Council Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Fifty-ninth Session

Robert P. Mikulak
U.S. Representative to the OPCW Executive Council 
The Hague, Netherlands
February 23, 2010


(As Delivered)

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Director-General, Distinguished Delegates,

I am pleased to be here with so many colleagues today for the first Council session of 2010. I trust that the same spirit of cooperation that enabled us to reach major decisions last year will remain with us this year and will help us to reach agreement on the issues confronting us. I am confident, Mr. Chairman, that under your continuing skillful leadership, we will be able to overcome all challenges and I pledge to you my delegation’s full support in this Council session and throughout the remainder of your term as Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, the United States welcomes the initial consultation on “how and when” to initiate discussion by the Council on issues related to meeting the final extended deadline for the destruction of chemical weapons. We appreciate the positive tone and constructive proposals made by a number of delegations. With two full years until April 2012, there is time to review the options carefully and to find solutions that will respect the integrity of the Convention and keep the Organization strong, while at the same time recognizing the reality of complex and changing situations.

I am pleased to report that as of February 14, the United States has completed the destruction of 70.8 percent of its chemical weapons stockpile which is a significant achievement. We are proud of our exemplary safety record in achieving this milestone. The United States is fully committed to its obligation under the Convention to destroy 100 percent of its chemical weapons stockpile as rapidly as possible and in a manner that is safe and environmentally sound. We will continue to be transparent about our projections, and the Obama administration will continue to review ways to accelerate the destruction of the remaining stockpile.
Last week, the United States was pleased to host a visit by Director-General Pfirter and Ambassador Üzümcü to the Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility at Anniston, Alabama, and for meetings in Washington, D.C. We look forward to Director-General Pfirter’s continued leadership in the coming months, and we also look forward to working with both Director-General Pfirter and Ambassador Üzümcü toward a smooth transition in July to ensure the ongoing work of the Organization.

Mr. Chairman, the Organization itself is in a period of transition. This year and next will mark the peak of chemical weapons destruction and after 2011, the remaining stocks will be relatively small and the resources required for inspection and verification at destruction facilities will decrease significantly. Over the next few years, member states will need to consider how best to allocate available resources, particularly to strengthen non-proliferation activities.

Achieving an effective balance in Technical Secretariat resources between chemical weapons destruction and industry inspections will help to accomplish the Convention’s non-proliferation goals. The Organization will also need to ensure that inspectors continue to be well trained, experienced and equipped to meet current and future requirements, including the capability to conduct challenge inspections and investigations of alleged use.

Mr. Chairman, member states, with the help of the Technical Secretariat, need to continue with the important work of implementing Articles VII, X and XI. The United States recognizes that there is much work that can be done under these Articles, for example, promoting a dialogue on chemical safety and security at the OPCW. In this regard, the United States thanks the Director-General for his Note on the Status of the OPCW’s Contribution to Global Anti-Terrorism Efforts, and we look forward to future discussions in the Open-Ended Working Group on Terrorism. While the OPCW is not an anti-terrorism agency, there is an opportunity within its mandate, as defined by the Convention, to serve as a forum to engage in dialogue and the exchange of information among all stakeholders on common concerns, such as chemical safety and security.

Mr. Chairman, the United States welcomed resolution of the long-outstanding issue of declaration thresholds for low concentrations of Schedule 2A/2A* chemicals at our last session. While this was an important achievement, we remain concerned about the lack of progress on other issues within the industry cluster. In particular, the site selection methodology for Other Chemical Production Facilities and the frequency of inspections are too important to be allowed to continue to remain stagnant. I would add, one aspect of the site selection methodology was meant to be resolved three years after entry into force; that is, 10 years ago. These issues have gone without facilitators for far too long. All of us, and I would include the United States, should be embarrassed by this situation. The United States urges all delegations to consider this need thoughtfully and to nominate facilitators for these two issues before the next Executive Council session in April.

I would like to request that this statement be circulated as an official document of the Fifty-Ninth Session of the Council.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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