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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 15, May 1997

CWC Conference

On 6 May, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) - the implementing authority for the CWC - began an inaugural three-week meeting in The Hague. See Documents and Sources for the address to the Conference by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The CWC entered into force on 29 April. As if 15 May, 165 States had signed the treaty and 89 of them - with Turkey the most recent on 6 May - had ratified. Russia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Syria and North Korea are among States not yet to have ratified. A Russian delegation attended the Conference, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Georgi Mamedov, who told delegates on 6 May that his country's ratification had been delayed primarily due to "an extremely difficult economic situation" - a reference to the cost, estimated at billions of dollars, of destroying Russia's vast chemical weapons stocks.

On 13 May, Brazilian diplomat Jose Mauricio Bustani was appointed, by consensus approval, OPCW Director-General. The same day, Prabhakar Menon of India was elected to be the first Chair of the OPCW's Executive Council. Bustani said (13 May) that his "top priority" was persuading Russia to ratify: "It is very important that Russia becomes a fully-fledged member." Bustani added that he would visit Russia "as soon as possible."

According to reports, the OPCW is estimating a 1997 budget of $50 million.

Editor's note: on 7 May, Pope John Paul II wished the CWC well, stating:

"Since the end of last month, the convention on banning chemical weapons which represent an immense danger for the entire world has been in force... I appeal to government officials that they should commence putting into practice the terms of this convention without delay."

Reports: Chemical weapons conference opens in Netherlands, Kyodo News International News Wire, 6 May; UN chief launches chemical weapons watchdog, Reuters World Service, 6 May; Turkey becomes 89th State to ratify chemical treaty, Agence France-Presse International News, 6 May; Pope appeals for ban on chemical weapons, Agence France-Presse International News, 7 May; New chemical arms-busting boss chases Russian ratification, Agence France-Presse International News, 13 May; Brazilian appointed as Director-General of chemical weapons, AP Worldstream International News Wire, 13 May; Brazilian to head world chemical weapons watchdog, Reuters World Service, 14 May.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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