Green Cross denounces Syrian threat to use chemical weapons, calls for global abolition of such arms


25 July, 2012/Geneva: Syria’s acknowledgment that it would be prepared to use chemical weapons must be denounced by all parties and, instead, there must be a reinvigorated international drive to rid the world of these weapons of mass destruction, according to Green Cross International.

“Chemical weapons must be abolished as called for by the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC),” says Dr. Paul Walker, Director of Green Cross International’s programme on Environmental Security and Sustainability. “Only with true universality of this historic treaty regime will we all be able to celebrate a world free of chemical weapons.”

“Syria’s recent comments on its willingness to use chemical weapons under certain circumstances have only served to increase tensions to a new level in the Middle East,” says Dr. Walker. “The fear that such weapons could be used will only lead some parties to consider alternative means to respond to the on-going crisis in the country, which could lead to a further deterioration in peace and security for thousands, if not millions, of Syrians and people living in neighbouring countries.”

The 188 States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention have agreed to declare and destroy any stockpiles of chemical weapons they may hold and any facilities that produced them, as well as any chemical weapons they abandoned on the territory of other States Parties in the past. States Parties have also agreed not to develop, produce, or transfer chemical agents; to participate in regular, on-site inspections of chemical industry; and to report annually to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague on dual-use chemicals and national implementation.

In 1968 Syria acceded to the 1925 Geneva Protocol which prohibits use of chemical agents in warfare.  However, Syria is among six States that have not signed nor acceded to the CWC. The others are Angola, Egypt, North Korea, Somalia and South Sudan. Israel and Myanmar have signed the Convention, but have not yet ratified it. Dr. Walker emphasized that “the accession of Syria to the CWC would be a major step forward in encouraging both Egypt and Israel to join the abolition regime, and in making progress towards the United Nation’s proposed weapons-of-mass-destruction-free-zone in the Middle East.”

Before Syria’s recent comments on chemical weapons, seven countries had declared chemical weapons stockpiles to the OPCW.  Three of them - Albania, India and South Korea - have completed their stockpile destruction, and three more – Libya, Russia, and the United States – continue to work on destruction.  Iraq has yet to begin its destruction programme of war remnants left by United Nations inspectors after the 1991 Gulf War.  More than 18,000 metric tons of declared chemical weapons are currently stockpiled in these four countries, down from the more than 72,000 tons recorded in 1986.

Green Cross International (GCI), founded by former Soviet Union President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mikhail Gorbachev in 1993, is an independent non-profit and nongovernmental organization working to address the inter-connected global challenges of security, poverty eradication and environmental degradation through a combination of advocacy and local projects. GCI is headquartered in Geneva and has a growing network of national organizations in over 30 countries.

The Green Cross Environmental Security and Sustainability Programme has played a leading role globally in the safe and verified elimination of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons, in the United States, Russia, and elsewhere.  It has also established the international Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to promote full implementation of the treaty regime.