What Is the Chemical Weapons Convention?

Article excerpt

UNITED NATIONS * Syria took the first step Thursday toward joining the Chemical Weapons Convention after its most important ally, Russia, convinced Damascus to accept a U.S. offer to destroy its chemical stockpiles and avoid the threat of U.N. military strikes.

U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said Friday that the documents submitted to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon by Syria were still being reviewed to determine whether President Bashar Assad's government had provided enough information. If not, it could be asked for additional material. When the secretary-general is satisfied, the so-called "instrument of accession" will be deposited at the United Nations and Syria will become a party to the convention 30 days later.

What is the chemical weapons convention?

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction aims to eliminate an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. It prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons by countries that are parties to the convention. These countries, in turn, are required to enforce the prohibitions on their territory.

How did the convention come about

Talks about a convention banning chemical weapons began in 1968. The Conference on Disarmament, the world's only multilateral forum for negotiating multilateral arms control and disarmament agreements, submitted the text of the Chemical Weapons Convention to the U.N. General Assembly in September 1992. The assembly approved the convention on Nov. 30, 1992, and the convention was opened for signature on Jan. 13, 1993. It entered into force on April 29, 1997, following ratification by 65 countries. The convention expands on the Geneva Protocol of 1925 for chemical weapons and includes extensive verification measures.

Who is party to the convention and who is not?

At present, 189 countries are parties to Chemical Weapons Convention. There are seven countries that are not parties to the convention. Israel and Myanmar both signed the convention in 1993 but have not taken the next step to become a party. Angola, North Korea, Egypt, Somalia and until Thursday, Syria, have taken no steps to join the convention.

What happens when Syria joins the convention?

Under Article 3 of the convention, once a country becomes a party to the convention it must submit a number of declarations to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, known as the OPCW, "no later than 30 days" after it becomes a full member. …