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Chemical Weapons

Volume 410: debated on Friday 19 September 2003

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:To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions have taken place with (a) the Russian Government and (b) governments of the Baltic states regarding the clean up of dumped chemical weapons, in the sea after the Second World War. [129097]

The UK disposed of captured German chemical munitions in the Skagerrak immediately after World War II. We did not dump or dispose of captured German chemical weapons in the Baltic.This issue was first raised by Russia in a NATO context in 1997. They also raised the matter directly with the UK around the same time and subsequently raised it with the EU in 1998.

The issue was also investigated by the Helsinki Commission, an international maritime forum, in the early 1990s. At that time there was no evidence of any increased levels of toxicity in the seas in that area.

The NATO Political Committee rejected proposals for a joint NATO-Russia environmental expedition, stating that any future expeditions should be conducted through, or as part of, the Helsinki Convention.

Although there is no suggestion that this would be an acceptable method for disposing of chemical weapons stocks today, the UK believes that any attempt to raise or salvage the munitions could create a far greater environmental hazard.