I have the honour to take the floor on behalf of the Nordic countries Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and my own country, Norway.
The risk of biological and chemical weapons continue to threaten international peace and security. Chemical weapons are being used in flagrant violation of the unequivocal global ban, with the risk of undermining existing norms against the use of WMD. The potential for misuse of scientific innovations, for instance in synthetic biology, constitutes an ever-evolving security challenge. The Nordic countries are encouraged by the strong focus on non-proliferation of chemical and biological weapons included in the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament.
The Nordic countries are deeply concerned about the continued possession of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. All chemical weapons possessed by the Syrian Arab Republic should have been declared and destroyed. The Nordic countries contributed significantly to the international mission to ship out the Syrian Arab Republic’s declared chemical weapons for destruction in 2014. The OPCW declaration and assessment team (DAT) has, however, concluded that the declarations provided by the Syrian authorities are insufficient and marred with errors. Once again, we strongly urge the Syrian Arab Republic to immediately disclose all relevant information concerning its chemical weapons programme and to completely fulfil its declaration obligations. This is the only way that the OPCW can verify the veracity and completeness of the Syrian Arab Republic’s declarations and the irreversible destruction of all its chemical weapons and production facilities.
We have also noted the report by the OPCW Fact Finding Mission concerning the incident in Douma, in the Syrian Arab Republic, last year. The report concludes that an attack with chemical weapons did indeed take place. We look forward to the work of the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) in order to establish who is to be held accountable for this horrible atrocity. We commend the OPCW Technical Secretariat for its impartial and objective work.
The attack with chemical warfare agents in Salisbury, the UK, last year remains a great concern to our countries. We reaffirm our solidarity with the UK in the face of this grave challenge to our collective security. We reiterate our shared analysis that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack, and that there is no plausible alternative explanation. Furthermore, we consider it vital that the Conference of States Parties adopts the joint proposal from Canada, the US and the Netherlands to add the relevant new groups of substances, known as “Novichocks”, to the schedule of substances banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention. We remain open to considering additional proposals put forth to address the threat from these substances.
The Nordic countries unequivocally condemn all use of chemical weapons. The use of chemical weapons is a violation of international law and may amount to a war crime or a crime against humanity. We once again reiterate that the perpetrators of these inhumane and barbaric attacks must be held accountable. The adoption of the decision on ‘Addressing the Threat from Chemical Weapons Use’ by the Fourth Special Conference of States Parties in June last year was a crucial step towards ensuring accountability. We commend the OPCW Technical Secretariat for the progress in implementing the tasking of States Parties with the establishment of the IIT. We look forward to the IIT’s first report, which will represent important progress towards identifying those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic.
The Nordic countries are also actively participating in the work of the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons.
Against this backdrop, we will continue to support the OPCW and the TS politically, financially and technically.
Ensuring universal adherence to and full implementation of the Convention on Biological Weapons are key tasks that requires the active engagement of the states parties. The Nordic countries therefore strongly support the intersessional programme of work, which has allowed for more focused and thorough exchanges on key issues facing the Convention. It is of great importance that we make full use of this process to achieve further progress before the 2021 Review Conference. Nevertheless, we must not let the best become the enemy of the good, but rather focus on moving forward incrementally on the issues where consensus seems to be within reach, in the run up to the Review Conference.
The financial situation facing the Biological Weapons Convention is of concern and we take this opportunity to once again call on all states parties to pay their assessed contributions in full, and on time, and to clear any arrears without delay.
Meanwhile, the Nordic countries are continuing their engagement to reduce biological weapons threats within the framework of the Secretary-General’s Investigatory Mechanism, the Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction, UN Security Council resolution 1540 and the Global Health Security Agenda. We fully support the Health-Security Interface programme of the World Health Organization, which aims to improve preparedness for possible outbreaks of communicable disease due to deliberate events, as well as similar initiatives in the OIE and FAO.
In conclusion, we would like to turn to the issue of ballistic missiles. Ballistic missile programmes can be highly destabilising – particularly in regions of tension. Restraint is of the essence. Moreover, lack of transparency and predictability regarding ballistic missile tests could result in miscalculations and have devastating effects. This is why the Nordic countries support the Hague Code of Conduct, and we call on all states that are not yet members of the Code to join as soon as possible.