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21 October 2003

U.S. Outlines Priorities for Chemical Weapons Meeting

Agreement on national implementation action plan, budget top list

Agreeing on a budget and approving an action plan to assist and ensure full and effective compliance by members of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are the foremost priorities for the organization, according to a U.S. official.

Ambassador Eric Javits, who heads the U.S. delegation to the Eighth Conference of States Parties of the OPCW in The Hague, said October 20 that "there is no greater task before this conference than the setting of the agenda and budget for the coming year." He noted that the organization's director-general had agreed to trim the previous funding request increase from 8 percent to 7 percent over the current level. The United States, Javits said, has made the "difficult decision" to support the revised budget proposal.

"We recognize that it is essential to correct the problems of the past and provide the resources the OPCW needs to fulfill its mandate in the future," Javits said. "Rigorous accountability and oversight are also needed, and a constructive, cooperative effort to find new, more effective means of doing business," he added.

Javits said he was "very concerned" at the lack of agreement to date on an action plan for national implementation. "My delegation has made significant concessions in the interest of consensus," he said, "recognizing the importance of fulfilling the task set by the Review Conference. Unfortunately, some delegations have not been as flexible.

"We truly believe that the proposed plan of action, which includes an active program of positive measures to assist States Parties in meeting their obligations, is the right way to proceed. ... We hope that the few states that have so far not accepted the proposed plan will refrain from blocking consensus."

On the positive side, Javits praised the recent steps taken by some States Parties to review and update declarations convention members made when initially joining. He also welcomed apparent progress on agreeing to an action plan for achieving universal membership. "The number of states that have become parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention has continued to grow," he said. Having an action plan for universality is important to persuade "hard targets" and other remaining non-States Parties of the security benefits of renouncing chemical weapons, he said.

"Important as agreement on these plans is, actually achieving results in national implementation and universality is the real task," Javits said. "Over the next few years member states have a lot of work to do. The Executive Council and the Conference need to monitor the situation carefully to ensure that the plans are faithfully carried out, and hold States Parties accountable for meeting their implementation obligations. For its part, the United States will contribute actively to achieving positive results in both areas," he added.

Following is the transcript of Javits' remarks:

(begin transcript)

Eighth Conference of States Parties of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
Ambassador Eric M. Javits, United States Delegation
Opening statement
The Hague, The Netherlands
October 20, 2003

Madame Chairperson, Mr. Director-General, Distinguished Delegates:

Let me begin by taking this opportunity, Madame Chairperson, to welcome you to the chair and to pledge the support of the United States delegation to ensuring the success of this Conference. The meeting of the Conference of the States Parties is always an important occasion. It is the best opportunity for the members of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to take stock of what we have accomplished over the last year. And it is also the critical occasion at which we lay the foundation for our work for the coming year, most importantly, by approving the budget for 2004.

Let me take this opportunity also to express the sincere appreciation of the United States, as well as my personal appreciation, for the masterful performance of Ambassador Djoudi during his tenure as Chairman of the Conference. No matter what the subject, no matter how difficult the situation, he has consistently offered us a voice of wisdom and reason. We all owe him a debt of gratitude and we are pleased that we will continue to have the benefit of his many skills in his new role as Chairman of the Committee of the Whole.

Since last year's Conference, the member states of the OPCW have continued to improve their cooperation with each other and with the Technical Secretariat. The Executive Council and the Conference have been able to take consensus decisions on long-standing issues. The Review Conference laid out a detailed plan for work over the next several years, which is already being implemented. Furthermore, the Technical Secretariat has made progress in its ability to perform its valuable work with greater efficiency. The U.S. fully supports the work that has been done by Director-General Pfirter and the senior leadership of the Technical Secretariat to improve the operations of the organization.

I particularly want to express the appreciation of the United States for the efforts and the accomplishments of the men and women of the Technical Secretariat over the last year. We recognize that the difficult decisions taken by member states ha[ve] created anxiety and uncertainty for many. By changing the head of the Technical Secretariat, member states made clear that they wanted things done differently. Furthermore, member states finally reached a decision on a starting date for the tenure policy, which has directly impacted many. And steps to remedy personnel-related practices that are seen in capitals as hard to justify have created additional concerns.

I want to stress to the members of the Technical Secretariat that we value and appreciate the dedication and skill that you contribute to fulfilling the important work of the OPCW. We regret that remedying the problems created in the past is creating anxiety and pain in the present. We want to ensure that each of you is treated fairly as the OPCW goes through this necessary period of transition.

We also appreciate the emphasis the Director-General and his senior staff have placed on full transparency with member states. The U.S. believes that the record of the preceding year indicates that the leadership of the Technical Secretariat has adopted transparency as a key principle in its working relationship with the States Parties. That attitude has promoted a cooperative relationship that is essential if the OPCW is to successfully address the challenges of the future. The tasks at hand require both effective leadership of the Technical Secretariat, and the active support and participation of the States Parties. We appreciate the efforts of the staff to ensure that all the interested parties are working together to achieve a common goal.

As I noted previously, there is no greater task before this Conference than the setting of the agenda and budget for the coming year. The Director-General's original budget proposal, which called for a significant increase, did not find favor with States Parties. The Director-General has since proposed to reduce this request by a full 1 percent, and at the same time make additional funds available for international cooperation. He has emphasized that, below this level of funding, he will be unable to guarantee the organization's ability to fully perform its core functions.

This revised proposal still calls for an expenditure increase of over 7 percent. It is still a large increase -- one very difficult for many capitals, including mine, to accept. But my capital has made that difficult decision, and is prepared to support the Director-General's revised budget proposal. We recognize that it is essential to correct the problems of the past and provide the resources the OPCW needs to fulfill its mandate in the future. We also recall that one of the major causes of this increase is the tenure policy adopted by this body in 1999, and the implementation of that policy provided earlier this year in an Executive Council meeting during the Review Conference.

Additional resources are needed for this organization -- but that is never a complete answer to any problem. Rigorous accountability and oversight are also needed, and a constructive, cooperative effort to find new, more effective means of doing business. This means, among other things, that we delegates must learn to be pragmatic and moderate when our political agendas interfere with the effective operations of the organization.

There are a number of important issues before this Conference, beyond the issue of the budget. As decided at the Review Conference, we must adopt an action plan to assist and ensure full and effective compliance by States Parties with their national implementing obligations under Article VII.

Madame Chairperson, I am very concerned at the lack of agreement so far on an action plan on national implementation. My delegation has made significant concessions in the interest of consensus, recognizing the importance of fulfilling the task set by the Review Conference. Unfortunately, some delegations have not been as flexible. We truly believe that the proposed plan of action, which includes an active program of positive measures to assist States Parties in meeting their obligations, is the right way to proceed. Absence of an agreed action plan does not, of course, relieve any State Party of its obligation under the Convention. Without such a plan, States Parties will still hold each other accountable for meeting these obligations, but will not have a framework for the positive support and assistance that is so clearly needed. We hope that the few states that have so far not accepted the proposed plan will refrain from blocking consensus.

Compliance with the Convention means not only refraining from prohibited activities, but also taking a number of active steps to effectively implement the CWC. One example of such measures is the review and updating of declarations, and we applaud the recent steps taken by some States Parties in this regard -- including the latest declared Possessor State. Article VII is central to meaningful implementation. The United States has directly supported the development of effective national implementation measures through voluntary funding of projects undertaken by the ICA Division of the Technical Secretariat and through bilateral contacts, responses to States Party inquiries, participation in regional workshops, the provision of cost-free experts to the Technical Secretariat, and offers of bilateral assistance -- upon request -- for fulfilling Article VII obligations. My delegation will be following up with a number of States Parties who within the past several months have expressed an interest in such assistance.

We also welcome the agreement that appears to be close on an action plan for achieving universality. The number of states that have become parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention has continued to grow. Many of the states remaining outside the Convention are hard targets that have yet to be persuaded of the security benefits of renouncing chemical weapons, and it is important to have a clear plan on how best we can convince these and other remaining non-States Parties to join the Convention. Once again, on behalf of the United States, I want to express our appreciation for the outstanding work that has been done by the facilitator, Consuelo Femenía of Spain. Her skill in working to achieve consensus on this important document has been exemplary, and we are grateful for her efforts.

Important as agreement on these plans is, actually achieving results in national implementation and universality is the real task. Over the next few years member states have a lot of work to do. The Executive Council and the Conference need to monitor the situation carefully to ensure that the plans are faithfully carried out, and hold States Parties accountable for meeting their implementation obligations. For its part, the United States will contribute actively to achieving positive results in both areas.

These action plans are a clear indication of the commitment and spirit of cooperation among the States Parties. I pledge to you Madame Chairperson that the U.S. delegation will work to foster that spirit of cooperation at this Conference and in the coming year.

I would note, however, that there remain issues on which the Executive Council has not been able to reach consensus and make a recommendation to the Conference. The United States request for an extension of its deadline for destruction of 45 percent of its Category 1 chemical weapons stockpiles is one such issue. At the September Executive Council session, the United States announced that, despite an intense and genuine effort, we would be unable to meet the treaty-designated deadline for destruction of 45 percent of our stockpile of chemical weapons.

Based on a number of factors, we opted to destroy the most unstable chemical weapons first, rather than bulk containers. We would have been much farther along in our destruction program if we had begun by destroying bulk agent first. But at the outset, the U.S. chose to first get rid of the most dangerous, difficult and slowest to destroy of its stockpile.

Moreover, the U.S. believes that in submitting its request for a new deadline, it was imperative to submit a date we could meet. The December, rather than April, 2007 deadline, provides us a 90 percent confidence probability that this date can be met. Thus we opted -- and this was the only reason we opted -- for the more politically difficult date, and requested a deadline extension of December 2007. We therefore submitted a request for an extension per paragraph 22, part IV of the verification annex.

As I noted in September, I was, on the one hand, obviously disappointed at having to make such a statement. But at the same time, and perhaps paradoxically, I remain optimistic about our demilitarization program. As I noted to the Executive Council, over this past summer, I had the opportunity to travel to two of our demilitarization sites. My optimism stems directly from these visits. In spite of unforeseen setbacks and obstacles, significant progress is being achieved. By any measure, we are making an all-out effort to eliminate our stockpile of chemical weapons as rapidly as possible.

The progress that continues in spite of such setbacks and obstacles is testimony to the U.S. commitment to the Convention and our unwavering resolve to meet our responsibilities under it. I noted that in making this announcement, the U.S. has stressed transparency. We have explained in a very detailed presentation the state of each of our demilitarization facilities and how each will contribute to meeting the revised 45 percent deadline. And we will, of course, continue to provide information about our progress, as has always been our practice.

Madame Chairperson, we proposed a new 45 percent destruction date that is realistically achievable. We have high confidence in our ability to meet the revised deadline we have requested. Our confidence, however, is not enough. And so from the outset, we have viewed it as our responsibility to present a case for our extension request that is so transparent and so compelling as to allow other States Parties to be as confident in the new date as we are. We look forward to its approval by the Conference during this session.

There are also important issues that the Executive Council has not yet begun to address. One such is the effort to rationalize and seek efficiencies in the verification regime as it applies both to chemical weapons-related and industrial facilities. On the chemical weapons side, we need an active discussion of ways to improve the efficiency of monitoring chemical weapons destruction, without decreasing the effectiveness of monitoring. We have developed some ideas that we will be discussing with the Technical Secretariat and member states.

On the industry side there are several issues that need to be addressed in the coming year. One that has faced the OPCW each year since entry-into-force is the significant number of States Parties who continue not to meet their Article VI obligations for submitting timely declarations. For the sixth straight year, the Technical Secretariat reports that nearly one-third of reporting States Parties missed the deadline for declarations of their past activities. This situation adversely affects the selection of sites for inspection [and], consequently, fair and effective verification. I urge States Parties to make every effort to submit their declarations in a timely fashion, and I urge this body to task the Executive Council with the development of measures to redress the situation. We also need to develop a common understanding on the inspectability of so-called OCPF facilities during the first quarter of each calendar year to ensure adequate verification capability, just as all other categories of industrial facilities are inspectable in that period.

In closing, I would like to note that the U.S. is grateful that the OPCW has taken steps to make a fresh start and look to the future. The difficulties of the past should be put behind us. The Director-General, the States Parties, and the delegations that have been working tirelessly here in The Hague have all sought to move the OPCW in the right direction. It's a good start.

Madame Chairperson, Mr. Director-General, staff of the Technical Secretariat, Chairman of the Executive Council, and Distinguished Representatives, the United States delegation looks forward to working with you in the coming days, as we address the important items on our agenda and as we work to reach the common goal of a world without chemical weapons. Thank you, Madame Chairperson.

(end transcript)