President Clinton and President Yeltsin today issued a Joint Statement on the Chemical Weapons Convention, stressing their commitment to the elimination from national arsenals of this class of weapons of mass destruction. The two Presidents underscored their support for the Chemical Weapons Convention and their determination to expedite ratification of the Convention by both the United States and Russia.

President Clinton reemphasized in his State of the Union address on February 4, 1997 that ratification of the Convention is one of his Administration's most urgent foreign policy priorities. He said, "...we must make the Chemical Weapons Convention law so that at last we can begin to outlaw poison gas from the Earth." President Yeltsin has submitted the Convention to the Duma with his strong recommendation for prompt ratification.

The Chemical Weapons Convention will make the production, acquisition, stockpiling, transfer and use of chemical weapons illegal. Parties that posses chemical weapons will be required to destroy their stockpiles and to destroy or convert under international safeguards their chemical weapons production facilities. Parties also will be required not to assist or encourage any other country's chemical weapons program. Compliance will be monitored through on-site inspections.

The Chemical Weapons Convention has overwhelming international support. To date, 161 countries have signed the Convention, and 70 have ratified it, including all major U.S. allies. The Convention will enter into force on April 29, establishing a new international standard against poison gas.

The United States and Russia have the two largest stockpiles of nerve gas, mustard agent and other forms of chemical weapons. Of the twenty-odd countries who have or may be developing chemical weapons, two-thirds already have signed the Convention.

In their Joint Statement today, the Presidents also drew attention to continuing bilateral cooperation related to banning poison gas. They noted bilateral efforts to enhance openness regarding U.S. and Russian military chemical weapons potential and to facilitate verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention. They also highlighted continuing bilateral cooperation in the destruction of chemical weapons.

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