Syria Applies to UN Chemical Weapons Convention

By:  Warren Mass
09/13/2013
       
Syria Applies to UN Chemical Weapons Convention

Syria sent a letter to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) informing it that it intends to join the CWC.

On September 12, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem sent a letter to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) — which describes itself as “the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention” (CWC) — informing the international body that it intends to join the CWC and that Syria is in the process of transmitting its “legislative decrees to the UN Secretary General."

A report posted on the OPCW website stated that the director-general of the organization, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, informed Muallem that Syria’s request for “provisional application of the Convention” (a step made prior to formal entry into the OPCW) has been forwarded to the States Parties to the CWC for their consideration.

Information posted by the OPCW states that the Chemical Weapons Convention came into being when the UN-linked Conference on Disarmament adopted its draft text on September 3, 1992 and sent it to the UN General Assembly. The General Assembly approved it that December and instructed that it be opened for signatures in Paris, starting on January 13, 1993. When 130 states signed the Convention within the first two days, it was deposited with the UN secretary-general in New York. There is a distinction between signing and ratification, however. (For example, a U.S. president or ambassador may sign a treaty, but it must be approved by the Senate to be declared ratified.) According to the terms of the Convention, the CWC would enter into force 180 days after the 65th country ratified the treaty. Hungary became the 65th country to ratify the Convention, in late 1996, and on April 29, 1997 the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force with 87 States. The United States is an OPCW member state, having signed the Convention on January 13, 1993. The Senate voted 74-26 on April 24, 1997 to approve the Convention.

Removing any doubt that the OPCW is under the UN umbrella, the OPCW notes: “The Relationship Agreement between the United Nations and the OPCW was concluded with the United Nations in 2000 and entered into force in 2001.” Furthermore: “The United Nations recognises the OPCW as the organisation, in relationship to the United Nations as specified in this agreement, responsible for activities to achieve the comprehensive prohibition of chemical weapons in accordance with the Convention.”

The OPCW currently has 189 member states, with Israel and Myanmar having signed the treaty but not ratifying it, and Angola, Egypt, North Korea, South Sudan, and (until now) Syria never having signed.

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