Before I begin my prepared statement I would like to express our pleasure at once again working under your leadership. You have consistently led us to consensus in the past. I am sure that you will successfully do so again during this session.
Madame Chairperson, Mr. Director-General, Distinguished Delegates,
It is an honor for me to represent the United States at this session of the Executive Council. As many of you may know, I have steadily worked toward global elimination of the chemical weapons threat for more than three decades, from the early negotiations of the Chemical Weapons Convention in Geneva until now. I am delighted today to see old friends, and I look forward to meeting new colleagues as we address together the important tasks of the Executive Council.
The United States warmly welcomes the newest members of the Convention, Lebanon and Iraq. It is truly historic that these two Middle Eastern countries have acceded to this Convention, and we hope that their neighbors that have not yet done so will soon follow their example. We urge all nine countries remaining outside the Convention to join the rest of the international community in acceding to or ratifying this disarmament and non-proliferation treaty. We urge all member states to renew their commitment to making this Convention universal in both membership and implementation. Only then can the world enjoy its full benefits: elimination of an entire class of weapons, and the promotion of trade in chemicals and international cooperation in chemical activities not prohibited by the Convention.
The Council has a lengthy agenda this week, and an important year for the implementation of the Convention lies ahead of us. One of the most important issues requiring our urgent attention is the search for a new Director-General. As our current Director-General still has over a year left in his term, I will not digress by lauding his accomplishments, although they are many. What you are initiating is the critical effort to find his best possible successor, an effort that will continue under your successor in the Chair. We believe this process should be open and transparent, but not overly complicated. The most recently used approach – for the re-election of our current Director-General – fulfills this simple criterion and has much to offer. A clear deadline for nominations and submission of the curricula vitae should be set, and curricula vitae will need to be rapidly disseminated to all States Parties for review. Leading candidates should be invited to address the Council, ideally during its June session, in order to present their vision for the future of the OPCW. This would allow the Council during its October session to make a recommendation to the Conference of the States Parties.
As many of you know, there was a political agreement during the Preparatory Commission that the first Director-General would be drawn from the developing countries, with the Deputy Director-General, in turn, coming from a developed country. It was understood that these two positions would continue to rotate on this basis in future elections to retain the same balance. The United States stands by this political agreement, and we urge the Council to follow that approach.
The United States recognizes, of course, that the long-term interest of the OPCW is our top priority. This interest is best served by finding a Director-General with a number of important qualities, including the right mix of strong leadership, managerial acumen, political skills, and international stature. The Organization will face a critical point in the next few years as its disarmament workload decreases, with the destruction of existing stockpiles of chemical weapons, and as the need grows to prevent the potential proliferation of chemical weapons and abuse of toxic chemicals by terrorists or criminals. The task now is to choose a leader wisely, one who can clearly outline for States Parties his or her future vision for the OPCW.
The important qualities that I outlined above may sound like a daunting combination, but as we have seen, it is possible to find such a candidate for Director-General. By the standards of other international organizations, the OPCW is comparatively small, but it has been successful in carrying out its mission effectively with lean resources, both human and financial. The United States wants to see that tradition continue with a strong, hands-on Director-General. For these reasons, the United States would welcome the opportunity to review the best candidates from all over the world. We hope that all members of this Council reach the same conclusion.
This Executive Council has two sets of 90-day reports on the progress achieved to date in meeting the revised deadlines for the destruction of chemical weapons by States Parties that possess chemical weapons. In recent Council sessions, however, attempts have been made to stretch these reports into the future, demanding speculation on dates and events that have not yet occurred. Frankly, this is not the purpose of these reports, and this sort of speculative discussion is less than productive. We should instead recall the original purpose of these reports, as set out in paragraph 28 of Part IV(A) of the Verification Annex: to enable the Council to review progress towards completion of destruction. In that regard, the United States welcomes India’s near completion of total destruction of its stockpile of chemical weapons. Over the past two years, two States Parties have completed destruction of their chemical weapons stockpiles, and it is very encouraging to see that India will soon join that commendable club of former possessor states.
The United States has now destroyed over 58 percent of its chemical weapons. We have destroyed all of our former production facilities; we have completed operations at our Newport destruction facility last year; and we have destroyed all nerve agents at our incinerator sites. The United States understands its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and is fully committed to the complete destruction of our stockpiles as rapidly and as safely as possible.
In this regard, the United States is pleased to extend an invitation to representatives of the Executive Council to visit the destruction facilities in Pueblo, Colorado, and Umatilla, Oregon, during the first week of June 2009. This is an important opportunity for members of the Council to see firsthand the status of our destruction efforts. It follows the successful visit last September to the Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility at Shchuchye in the Russian Federation. These visits, we believe, contribute to transparency and confidence building, and they demonstrate the commitment of the United States and the Russian Federation to the complete destruction of their stockpiles.
Resolution of issues related to the chemical industry seem to have taken a much lower profile in recent months, and yet these issues directly affect a great many countries. The question of site selection for inspections of Other Chemical Production Facilities, a category of industrial plant that has been growing rapidly in numbers, has never been resolved despite years of consultations and discussion. We welcome the two new facilitations that have begun on enhancing OCPF declarations and defining low concentrations for Schedule 2A/2A* chemicals, but we urge talented delegates to volunteer as facilitators and take up the challenge of the broader political factors in the site selection criteria. We also welcome the Director-General’s recent report on the modified OCPF site selection methodology and hope that that report will spur the resumption of consultations on the matter. It is critical to the long-term non-proliferation and security elements of the Convention to ensure that the OCPF inspection regime is focused on the most relevant facilities. Both chemical industry and governments would welcome a more permanent solution to these inter-related issues, adopted by broad consensus.
I also want to highlight the role that the OPCW can play in promoting chemical safety and security. Industries and governments across the world have developed a number of best practices that could benefit others in addressing these challenges. The United States supports using the OPCW as a forum for the exchange of ideas, experience, and best practices with the goal of improving safety and security and reducing the threat of terrorism. The OPCW is not, however, chartered to fight chemical terrorism, and the Council needs to ensure that the mandate of the OPCW is protected and not exceeded. The United States welcomes the ongoing OPCW programs addressing these issues with new audiences, as well as the efforts of the Open-Ended Working Group on Terrorism.
This Council received an unusual number of new nominations in October for the Advisory Body on Administrative and Financial Matters – the ABAF. This is a positive development in that it shows an apparent strong interest in capitals in the technical work of the ABAF. This increased interest offers us an opportunity to discuss measures by which we can ensure that the Executive Council and the Director-General receive the best possible expert advice. In this regard, it is important that curricula vitae for all proposed members be circulated to the Council. A more effective ABAF could provide more focused advice to the Executive Council and the Director-General and would contribute to better functioning of the Organization. I want to thank Ambassador Francisco Aguilar of Costa Rica, the Vice-Chairman for Administrative and Financial Issues, for his work on this issue. The United States looks forward to further discussion and ideas on improving the ABAF in the days ahead.
In closing, I am pleased to pledge my support to you, as well as that of my entire delegation, in making this a productive and successful session under your leadership. I would like to request that this statement be circulated as an official document of the 55th Session of the Council.