Nobel Peace Winner Urges Holdouts to Join Chemical Weapons Pact

The head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons demanded that the six nations, including Israel, that have yet to adopt the convention banning the use of the arms to join without delay or conditions.

“There has long been no reasonable defense for not doing so -– all the more now in the wake of the robust international reaction to recent use of chemical weapons,” Ahmet Uzumcu, OPCW director general, said today in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo. “It’s my fervent hope that this award will spur on efforts to make the Chemical Weapons Convention a truly universal norm.”

The intergovernmental watchdog was formed in 1997 to enforce the Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans the development, production, stockpiling and use of such weapons of mass destruction. It was in October awarded the prize for its work to define “the use of chemical weapons as a taboo under international law,” the Nobel Committee in Oslo said when announcing the honor.

Non-members of the OPCW include Israel and Myanmar, which have yet to ratify the convention, and Angola, Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan, which have “neither signed nor acceded” to the convention. Syria became the latest member in October.

More Tragic

The OPCW, based in the The Hague, is working in Syria to ensure the destruction of chemical weapons and production facilities and equipment. The group moved in after the UN Security Council resolved in September to rid the country of such weapons after a gas attack near Damascus that opposition groups say killed more than 1,400 people, including children.

Uzumcu said yesterday at a press briefing that progress in Syria has been “satisfactory” and that it expects its mid-2014 target of the destruction of weapons to be met.

“Never in its history has the OPCW overseen the destruction of such a major chemical weapons stockpile in the midst of a civil war, and in such compressed timeframes,” he said today in the speech. “As much as this mission is testing our capacities and resources, our progress so far has only strengthened our confidence that we can succeed.”

The convention demands that member states commit to enforcing prohibition within their jurisdiction, declare and destroy any stockpiles of chemical weapons they may hold and any facilities that produced them. The OPCW said in June that almost 80 percent of all declared chemical weapons have been destroyed under international verification by the group.

Not Acceptable

“Some 20 percent, chiefly American and Russian weapons, have not yet been destroyed,” said Thorbjoern Jagland, the head of the Nobel Committee, in a separate speech. “It’s, of course, not acceptable that two leading powers, themselves so eager to see others destroying their stores as quickly as possible, have not yet themselves managed to do the same.”

The Nobel Prize, along with literature, physics, medicine and chemistry honors, was created by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel and first awarded in 1901. Past peace laureates include the European Union, which won last year, as well as U.S. President Barack Obama, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa.

The other awards, also including the economics prize, are being handed out in Stockholm today.

The OPCW will use the 8 million-krona ($1.2 million) prize to establish an award that recognizes contributions to advancing the goals of the convention and it will continue to adapt its resources to respond to “future challenges,” Uzumcu said.

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