20 May 1998

Press Release



Following is the text of remarks by the Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette at the ceremony marking the official opening of the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) at The Hague on 20 May:

It is a great honour to join you today for the inaugural ceremony of the new headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Impressive though it is, we have not gathered here merely to praise an architectural achievement. This ceremony is much more than that -- it symbolizes a future without one of three existing categories of weapons of mass destruction, and it remembers a past in which the silent, deadly threat of chemical weapons hung over us. Today we reiterate the determination of the international community to banish chemical weapons from the arsenals of all nations and consign them to the annals of history. This building now stands as a tribute to all those who have worked to realize the dream of a better and safer world.

A little over one year ago, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, in the presence of Your Majesty, opened the first session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, and described the Convention as a "momentous act of peace".

Since then, a further 20 States have ratified or acceded to the Convention, bringing the number of States parties to 108. Nine States honouring their obligations under the Convention have provided the OPCW with information on past or existing chemical weapons programmes. The OPCW has completed almost 200 inspections and witnessed the destruction of approximately 1,000 tonnes of nerve agents. Day by day, this momentous act of peace becomes less an elusive aspiration and more a perceptible reality, building transparency, trust, cooperation and security for all.

Like the OPCW, the United Nations would like to see all nations of the world playing their part in this endeavour. On behalf of the Secretary-General, the depository of the Convention, and in the interests of

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global peace and security, I urge all 59 signatory States to ratify the Convention as early as possible, and the few remaining non-signatory States to join the community of nations who have renounced the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons.

Formidable tasks lie ahead, but we must not be daunted. Noble aspirations are rarely, if ever, easily achieved. The honourable nature of our cause will continue to generate the dedication, energy and commitment necessary to achieve our goals. On behalf of the Secretary-General, the United Nations and all peace-loving peoples around the world, I wish the OPCW every possible success and happiness in its new home.

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