OPCW Director-General Visits Brussels

8 March 2018

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — 8 March 2018 — The Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, met with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs of the Kingdom of Belgium, H.E. Mr Didier Reynders and Minister of Defense, H.E. Mr Steven Vandeput, during a visit to Brussels, Belgium on 6 and 7 March.

The Director-General briefed Mr Reynders and Mr Vandeput on the progress and challenges related to the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), updated them on the OPCW's work in Syria as well as measures to prevent the re-emergence of chemical weapons and the threat posed by non-State actors. 

Both Ministers reaffirmed Belgium’s firm commitment to chemical disarmament and non-proliferation and acknowledged OPCW’s key role in reaching that goal.

At the Federal Parliament, Ambassador Üzümcü also delivered a statement at the External Relations Commission of the House of Representatives, where he spoke about the OPCW’s work in Syria, especially in the light of “an increasing number of disturbing reports of toxic chemicals being used as weapons”.

He asserted that anyone who in any way engages in activities prohibited by the Convention should be held accountable.  “And let me be clear – under the CWC, any toxic chemical used for hostile purposes is unequivocally a chemical weapon,“ declared the Director-General.

Ambassador Üzümcü reminded that the recent uses of chemical weapons have “issued a stark warning – the international norm against chemical weapons cannot be taken for granted.  The persistent use of chemical weapons – whether it is chlorine or sarin – should be a concern for all countries.  Their frequent employment with impunity may ultimately damage the norm that took so many so long to establish.”

During his visit to the Royal Military School, the Director-General described the future direction of the Organisation, “whereby our focus will move to preventing the re-emergence of chemical weapons”.

According to him, “two inter-related matters are of particular interest to the Organisation as it looks towards preventing re-emergence – chemical terrorism and the rapid advancement of science and technology”.

The Director-General further paid a visit to the Defense Laboratories, where he gained insight into the sampling and detection of chemical agents conducted at the facility, and got acquainted with Belgium’s CBRNe defence capabilities. He also discussed possible areas of cooperation for the future.

Background

The Kingdom of Belgium joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997 and has been an active supporter of the Convention and OPCW’s activities throughout the years.

Belgium’s Defence Laboratories is one of OPCW’s designated laboratories conducting the authentic environmental sample analysis and assisting in off-site sample analysis. The facility participated in the first OPCW’s biomedical sample analysis exercise and contributed data towards the Organisation’s chemical database.

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

Over 96% 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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