OPCW Director-General Visits Finland and Commemorates OPCW 20th Anniversary

31 May 2017
The Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü

The Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — 31 May 2017 — The Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü was received by the President of the Republic of Finland, met with the Foreign Minister, delivered a keynote address at the 13th Annual NATO Conference on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, commemorated the 20th Anniversary of the OPCW, during his visit to Finland from 28 to 30 May.

On 29 May, the Director-General met with Finland’s President, Mr Sauli Niinistö, and expressed his gratitude for Finland’s staunch support for the OPCW for over two decades. The Director-General briefed the President about the Organisation’s priority activities, including the investigation into the 4 April 2017 chemical weapons incident in Syria. President Niinistö underscored Finland’s continued commitment to the goals of the OPCW and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

During the meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Mr Timo Soini, the Director-General covered the work of the OPCW regarding Syria. This included the work that is ongoing to prepare for the deployment of the FFM to the site of the 4 April incident in Khan Sheikhoun, as well as efforts to clarify elements of Syria’s declaration of its chemical weapons programme. The Minister expressed the strong support of Finland for the work of OPCW.

Ambassador Üzümcü engaged in a variety of activities with officials, academics, researchers, and university students to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the OPCW.  The Director-General toured the Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (VERIFIN) with the Chancellor of the University, Professor Thomas Wilhelmsson and the Institute’s Director, Professor Paula Vanninen. At the University of Helsinki, he engaged with researchers and students and spoke about, “Uncovering the Use of Chemical Weapons: The Role of Science and the OPCW Designated Labs” while noting the 20th Anniversary and describing two decades of the OPCW providing oversight for the implementation of the CWC. Finland’s Under-Secretary of State, Mrs Anne Sipiläinen, hosted a lunch in cooperation with the Finnish Institute of International Affairs where the Director-General shared his views about countering chemical threats including the role of non-State actors.  

At the 13th Annual NATO Conference on Weapons of Mass Destruction, Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, Ambassador Üzümcü described the fundamental role of the CWC: “The Convention was the result of tragedy wrought by chemical weapons, a loathing for these indiscriminate agents of destruction, and one hundred years of diplomacy. It has become one of the world’s vanguards against weapons of mass destruction, and represents today, an essential component of the international legal and security system.”

He further stated that, as the destruction of the last of the declared chemical weapon stockpiles looms closer, a new era for the Organisation is close at hand. The spotlight will shift to the prevention of re-emergence of chemical weapons, a task rendered complex “in an age of continuing advances in science and technology as well as new security challenges”.  

Background

Finland became party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1997 and has been an active supporter of the CWC though both financial and in-kind contributions. 

The Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (VERIFIN) conducts work in support of chemical weapons disarmament. It is an OPCW Designated Laboratory and supports of a variety of training courses for analytical chemists. VERIFIN was also the joint recipient of the inaugural OPCW-The Hague award in 2014.

As the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, the OPCW oversees the global endeavour to permanently and verifiably eliminate chemical weapons. Since the Convention’s entry into force in 1997 – and with its 192 States Parties – it is the most successful disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction.

To date, nearly 95 per cent of all chemical weapon stockpiles declared by possessor States have been destroyed under OPCW verification. For its extensive efforts in eliminating chemical weapons, the OPCW received the 2013 Nobel Prize for Peace.

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