CWC Members Debate Inspection Distribution
A debate over the 2011 budget for implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) was a key part of the annual members’ conference, but the distribution of inspections, rather than the amount of money, was the key issue, delegates to the Nov. 29-Dec. 3 meeting in
The discussion was over the number of inspections for different inspection categories, and in particular for so-called other chemical production facilities (OCPFs), the delegates said.
The CWC verification system is based on three “schedules,” or lists of toxic chemicals and their precursors that have been developed or manufactured in the past for military purposes. The OCPFs are multipurpose chemical-production facilities that are not monitored with the same intensity as facilities that produce agents listed in the three schedules. There are some 5,000 OCPFs around the world, far more than the number of facilities that are associated with production of agents listed on the three schedules. Many of the OCPFs are in developing countries;
In 2010 the OPCW provided funding for 125 OCPF inspections; for 2011, Western countries sought to raise the figure to 128, a European diplomat who attended the meeting said in a Dec. 20 interview.
One participant cautioned against seeing the division strictly as one between developed and developing countries. “It has been rather a more complex issue which has changed over time,” the participant said.
The member states reached a compromise for the 2011 budget, under which they increased the number of OCPF inspections to 127 and decreased the number of Schedule 3 inspections by one, to 29. Schedule 3 contains toxic chemicals that have been used as chemical weapons, such as phosgene, and chemical weapons precursors that have commercial applications in large quantities.
In a Dec. 22 interview, Jorge Lomónaco,
The issue was addressed in the opening statement of
In his opening statement, Lomónaco said the continuation of the dispute “could badly reflect on what a credible and successful organization the OPCW is.” He urged the parties “to solve the issue of a definitive site-selection methodology for OCPF inspections as soon as possible.”
Another issue that spurred debate was the language in the conference’s final report on the CWC’s 2012 deadline for
The NAM-China statement expressed “grave concern” about the prospect that
In noting in his opening statement to the conference that the Russian and U.S. efforts “might be prolonged” beyond the treaty deadline of April 29, 2012, OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü said, “Notwithstanding the complex technical and financial challenges posed by the destruction of their large stockpiles, both these countries have demonstrated over the years their firm resolve to abide by their solemn obligations under the Convention and to complete the destruction of their stockpiles at the earliest possible date.” Üzümcü’s predecessor, Rogelio Pfirter, had made similar statements.
In his statement, Üzümcü said
The State Department official praised the Pochep startup as “another step toward destroying stockpiles” in
The Shchuch’ye facility started initial operations in March 2009, but work on its second destruction building has not yet been completed.
In a different debate over destruction,
At the meeting, Üzümcü announced he had established a panel of independent experts “to review the implementation of the Convention and to make recommendations for future OPCW activities.” The chairman of the panel is Rolf Ekéus of Sweden, whose nonproliferation posts included the chairmanship of the UN Special Commission on Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
The panel of 14 experts, which includes senior current and former nonproliferation officials from a range of countries, held its first meeting Dec. 14-15. The group is scheduled to deliver its final report in June, Üzümcü said.
Delegates said they supported the initiative, which, they said, came from Üzümcü rather than the member states. The OPCW is “really at a transition point” after devoting most of its attention to chemical weapons destruction in the years since the CWC entered into force in 1997, the State Department official said. The panel should help the OPCW answer questions such as, “What security concerns do countries have, and how do we address them?” he said. One issue that increasingly has been raised over the past few years is chemical terrorism, he said.
Some observers have said the OPCW is undergoing a change in its mission, from destruction to nonproliferation. However, in the interview, Lomónaco said the debate over the identity of the organization is a “false debate” or, at best, “premature.” Casting the OPCW as having either one mission or the other oversimplifies the debate and ignores the complexities and “beauties” of the treaty and the organization, he said.
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