Draft decision of the OPCW Executive Council on Syrian CW destruction

The Executive Council (EC) of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is due to meet tonight, 27 September, at 10pm CET.

Below is the text of the draft decision. Some of the highlights of the document are:

  • The OPCW believes that the ultimate destruction deadline of mid-2014, as foreseen in the US-Russian Framework Agreement is achievable. The organisation recognises the need for a surge capacity in order to fulfil its own tasks, and will draw on past personnel with appropriate expertise as well as on voluntary contributions by states parties.
  • The OPCW will work according to modified timelines relative to the ones foreseen in the CWC. In particular, the countdown to deadlines and interim milestones are to be counted from the day the EC has adopted the decision.
  • As already became clear with its submission of initial declarations last Friday and Saturday, Syria has accepted as binding upon itself the US-Russian Framework Agreement. It will therefore cooperate with the OPCW according to the timelines decided by the EC, including the EC decisions on requirements to be met by Syria even before it has fully become a party to the convention (i.e., 14 October 2013).
  • The document grants state party rights to Syria (e.g., confidentiality of its declarations and inspection reports, to which all states parties are bound). At the same time, it also emphasises the various compliance enforcement tools in the CWC.
  • A very interesting passage is 2(d), which hints strongly at the challenge inspection process without naming it as such (Article IX of the CWC is not mentioned, in contrast to the references to specific articles and paragraphs in other parts of the draft decision). I seems different from a challenge inspection in several respects: each challenge request requires an independent decision by the EC, each time with the possibility of a refusal and negotiations with the challenged party on inspector rights (managed access) would take up time, something in very short supply in view of the tight final destruction deadline.  However, the passage also contains a tool to avoid sending the inspectors on fool’s errands: the Director-General can determine whether a claim is unwarranted and state parties can use the bilateral consultation procedure to clarify certain matters before requesting an inspectors’ visit.
  • Syria receives another week inaddition to the deadline in the US-Russian Framwork Agreement to be counted from the day of the EC decision to finalise its inital declaration. It has to submit very detailed data on its munitions (among other things), which will remove any existing ambiguity concerning the ownership of te rockets used in the Ghouta attacks.

 

DRAFT DECISION

The Executive Council,

Recalling that following its Thirty-Second Meeting, 27 March 2013, the Chairperson of the Executive Council (hereinafter “the Council”) issued a statement (EC-M-32/2/Rev. 1, dated 27 March 2013) expressing “deep concern that chemical weapons may have been used in the Syrian Arab Republic,” and underlining that “the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances would be reprehensible and completely contrary to the legal norms and standards of the international community”;

Recalling also that the Third Review Conference (RC-3/3*, 19 April 2013) expressed “deep concern that chemical weapons may have been used in the Syrian Arab Republic and underlined that use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances would be reprehensible and completely contrary to the legal norms and standards of the international community”;

Noting the “Report on the Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in the Ghouta area of Damascus on 21 August 2013,” prepared by the United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, dated 13 September 2013, which concludes that “chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic, also against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale”;

Condemning in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons;

Welcoming the Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons agreed upon by the United States and the Russian Federation on 14 September 2013 (EC-M-33/NAT.1, dated 17 September 2013);

Noting also that on 12 September 2013, in its communication to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Syrian Arab Republic notified its intention to apply the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling, and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (hereinafter “the Convention”) provisionally;

Noting further that on 14 September 2013, the Syrian Arab Republic deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations its instrument of accession to the Convention and declared that it shall comply with its stipulations and observe them faithfully and sincerely, applying the Convention provisionally pending its entry into force for the Syrian Arab Republic, which was notified to all States Parties by the depositary on the same date (C.N.592.2013.TREATIES-XXVI.3), and taking into account that the depositary received no communications to the contrary from the States Parties with regard to this declaration; Noting further that the Convention enters into force for the Syrian Arab Republic on 14 October 2013;

Recognising the extraordinary character of the situation posed by Syrian chemical weapons and determined to ensure that the activities necessary for the elimination of the Syrian
chemical weapons programme start immediately pending the formal entry into force of the Convention with respect to the Syrian Arab Republic, and are conducted in the most rapid and safe manner;

Recognising also the invitation of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic to receive immediately a technical delegation from the OPCW and to cooperate with the OPCW in accordance with the provisional application of the Convention prior to its entry into force for the Syrian Arab Republic, and noting the designation by the Syrian Arab Republic to the Technical Secretariat (hereinafter “the Secretariat”) of its National Authority;

Emphasising that the provisional application of the Convention gives immediate effect to its provisions with respect to the Syrian Arab Republic;

Noting further that the Syrian Arab Republic submitted on 19 September 2013 the detailed information, including names, types, and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, and location and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities;

Noting further that pursuant to paragraph 36 of Article VIII of the Convention, the Council, following its consideration of doubts or concerns regarding compliance and cases of noncompliance, shall, in cases of particular gravity and urgency, bring the issue or matter, including relevant information and conclusions, directly to the attention of the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council;

Taking into account the Agreement Concerning the Relationship between the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons of 17 October 2000; and

Recalling that, pursuant to paragraph 8 of Article IV and paragraph 10 of Article V of the Convention, a State acceding to the Convention after 2007 shall destroy its chemical weapons and its chemical weapons production facilities as soon as possible, and the Council shall determine the “order of destruction and procedures for stringent verification” of such destruction;

Hereby:

1. Decides that the Syrian Arab Republic shall:
(a) not later than 7 days after the adoption of this decision, submit to the Secretariat further information, to supplement that provided on 19 September 2013, on the chemical weapons as defined in paragraph 1 of Article II of the Convention that the Syrian Arab Republic owns or possesses, or has under its jurisdiction or control, in particular:
(i) the chemical name and military designator of each chemical in its chemical weapons stockpile, including precursors and toxins, and quantities thereof;
(ii) the specific type of munitions, sub-munitions and devices in its chemical weapons stockpile, including specific quantities of each type that are filled and unfilled; and
(iii) the location of all of its chemical weapons, chemical weapons storage facilities, chemical weapons production facilities, including mixing and filling facilities, and chemical weapons research and development facilities, providing specific geographic coordinates;
(b) not later than 30 days after the adoption of this decision, submit to the Secretariat the declaration required by Article III of the Convention;
(c) complete the elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment in the first half of 2014, subject to the detailed requirements, including intermediate destruction milestones, to be decided by the Council not later than 15 November 2013;
(d) complete as soon as possible and in any case not later than 1 November 2013, the destruction of chemical weapons production and mixing/filling equipment;
(e) cooperate fully with all aspects of the implementation of this decision, including by providing the OPCW personnel with the immediate and unfettered right to inspect any and all sites in the Syrian Arab Republic; and
(f) designate an official as the main point of contact for the Secretariat and provide him or her with the authority necessary to ensure that this decision is fully implemented.

2. Decides further that the Secretariat shall:
(a) make available to all States Parties, within five days of its receipt, any information or declaration referred to in this decision, which shall be handled in accordance with the Annex to the Convention on the Protection of Confidential Information;
(b) as soon as possible and in any case not later than 1 October 2013, initiate inspections in the Syrian Arab Republic pursuant to this decision;
(c) inspect not later than 30 days after the adoption of this decision, all facilities contained in the list referred to in paragraph 1(a) above;
(d) inspect as soon as possible any other site identified by a State Party as having been involved in the Syrian chemical weapons programme, unless deemed unwarranted by the Director-General, or the matter resolved through the process of consultations and cooperation;
(e) be authorised to hire, on a short-term basis, qualified inspectors and other technical experts provided by States Parties and to rehire, on a short-term basis, inspectors, other technical experts, and such other personnel as may be required whose term of service has recently expired, in order to ensure efficient and effective implementation of this decision in accordance with paragraph 44 of Article VIII of the Convention; and
(f) report to the Council on a monthly basis on implementation of this decision including progress achieved by the Syrian Arab Republic in meeting the requirements of this decision and the Convention, activities carried out by the Secretariat with respect to the Syrian Arab Republic, and its needs for any supplementary resources, particularly technical and personnel resources.

3. Decides further:
(a) to call upon all States Parties in a position to do so to provide voluntary contributions for activities carried out in the implementation of this decision;
(b) to meet within 24 hours if the Director-General reports delay by the Syrian Arab Republic in meeting the requirements of this decision or the Convention, including, inter alia, the cases referred to in paragraph 7 of Part II of the Annex to the Convention on Implementation and Verification, or a lack of cooperation in the Syrian Arab Republic or another problem that has arisen with regard to the implementation of this decision and at that meeting to consider whether to bring the matter, including relevant information and conclusions, to the attention of the United Nations Security Council in accordance with paragraph 36 of Article VIII of the Convention; and
(c) to remain seized of the matter.

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About JP Zanders

Jean Pascal Zanders (Belgium) has worked on questions of chemical and biological weapon (CBW) armament and disarmament since 1986. He was CBW Project Leader at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Director of the BioWeapons Prevention Project and Senior Research Fellow responsible for disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation questions at the European Union Institute for Security Studies. He now owns and runs The Trench.

10 thoughts on “Draft decision of the OPCW Executive Council on Syrian CW destruction

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  2. Gordon

    Source of confusion
    I just attended a talk by Charles Deulfer at the Wilson Center (taped by C-Span and Al-Jazerra).
    The question I did not get to ask was about precursors and the confusions that might arise.
    The CWC defines CW as “…precursors, except where intended for purposes not prohibited … as long as the types and quantities are consistent with such purposes.”
    Presumably Syria produced its own precursors (most of the Scheduled precursors are industrial chemicals as well, with significant uses), since international trade has been controlled for non-State Parties. But we do not, and will not for awhile, have an Industry declaration. And we don’t yet know what sites were declared last week.
    So, the US claims 41 sites, while Russia claimed 25. Deulfer said ‘45′ sites were declared.
    What happens when the inspectors find, at an undeclared or otherwise disputed site, some precursors, including such chemicals not subject to treaty Verification as HCl, chlorine, HF, NaF, or even ethanol? What personnel with what available time can make the types and quantities determinations?
    Would it make any difference if such discovery was by OPCW current inspectors, former inspectors, other UN cohorts? And Deulfer pointed to the importance of who will be the top person in charge – the person will need to keep such matters from becoming ‘non-compliance’ issues.
    Gordon Burck

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