Warning that the fog of war must never again be composed of poison gas, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has appealed to the 188 states who are parties to the UN-backed treaty outlawing chemical weapons to do all in their power to bring on board the eight nations that still have not signed on.
The eight still outside the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) are Angola, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria and Ban has repeatedly urged them to join.
“I urge all of you who are in a position to do so to show political leadership and encourage these countries to join the Convention,” he told the Third Review Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention in The Hague this week.
“Let me reiterate my conviction: As long as chemical weapons exist, so, too, does the risk of their use – by accident or design. There are no right hands for the wrong weapons.
“Nothing can justify the possession of this heinous category of weapons of mass destruction. Nothing,” he said, noting that 80% of declared chemical weapons stockpiles have already been destroyed thanks to CWC. He voiced the hope that the 100% target will be reached by the next review conference in five years.
The secretary-general’s words gained added urgency following allegations of chemical weapons use in the Syrian conflict and he announced arrangements are now ready for an advance UN-team to investigate these allegations in the Middle Eastern country. Reports indicate more than 70 000 people have been killed and a further three million displaced since the uprising against President Bashir al-Assad began in March 2011.
“We know that until the last stockpiles have been destroyed – and until the Convention is binding worldwide – the threat posed by chemical weapons will remain. Look no further than today’s headlines,” he said.
Ban also noted the probe of allegations in Syria would be the first into the use of weapons of mass destruction in the 21st century.
He called on the Parties to focus on three issues: to build on CWC’s achievements so it remains an effective bulwark against re-emergence and proliferation of chemical weapons, including to terrorists; to forge a stronger partnership with the chemical industry to address safety and security issues; and to make full use of the treaty’s monitoring and verification mechanism.
“With that expertise, your organisation can play a constructive role in the process of establishing a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction,” he said, referring to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the implementing body of CWC, which came into force in 1997.
“Let me take this opportunity to express my sincere hope that important conference convenes without further delay.”
An international conference on setting up a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, initially planned for December 2012 in Helsinki, Finland, was postponed last year at the request of the US, Russia and United Kingdom – the three depositary States of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – which felt conditions were not being met for such a conference.