On 19 and 20 November 2018, 160 states parties to the chemical weapons convention (CWC) met for the annual conference of states parties (CSP) to discuss implementation of the CWC and agree the annual budget for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). This was the first CSP since the UK and international partners called a special session in June 2018 to address the threat from chemical weapons use following recent use in Syria and Salisbury.
The former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), updated the House on the June special session on 9 July 2018 (HCWS835 and HLWS809). The November CSP was vital to consolidating the success achieved in June and implementing the decision to enable the OPCW to attribute responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria, and potentially more widely at the request of an affected state party.
On 20 November, states parties overwhelmingly rejected attempts by Russia, Iran, China and Syria to reverse the June decision. Equally importantly, the CSP voted by 99 votes to 27 to adopt the budget proposed by the OPCW director-general for 2019. This included a 2.4% increase to the budget specifically to fund part of the Syria attribution work and to improve cyber-security. The vote sent a clear signal of broad-based commitment to upholding and strengthening the CWC and the ban on development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons.
The UK is proud to have been at the forefront of diplomatic efforts to secure this positive outcome. We look forward to supporting the OPCW technical secretariat and fellow states parties to enable Syria attribution arrangements to become operational as quickly as possible, and to further discussion of the director-general’s proposals on verification and technical assistance work, including attribution work beyond Syria.
The five yearly review conference, designed to review the operation of the convention, immediately followed the CSP. This year consensus on a final report from the review conference was not possible. This was in part due to Syrian and Russian refusal to include references to Syrian regime responsibility for chemical weapons use, including the findings by the OPCW-UN joint investigative mechanism. A lack of a formal report is not unprecedented and will neither affect continuing implementation of the convention nor prevent implementation of the CSP decisions, including the UK-led June decision.
The UK will continue to work with states around the world to support progress towards universal and effective national implementation of the CWC and to uphold the global ban on chemical weapons, including through the provision of £1.1 million of funding to the OPCW to assist the implementation of the June decision and the OPCW’s work more broadly.