26 April 2006

"Let Us Honour the Victims of Chemical Warfare" by Eliminating Dreadful Weapons, Says Secretary-General, in Message on Remembrance Day

NEW YORK, 25 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message on the Remembrance Day for Victims of Chemical Warfare, observed 29 April:

More than 90 years have passed since modern-day chemical weapons were first used, during the 1915 Battle of Ypres in World War I.  The British war poet Wilfred Owen described the horror of seeing a fellow soldier "guttering, choking, drowning", as if "under a green sea" of chlorine gas.

Since then, chemical weapons have continued to be developed and deployed against both soldiers and civilians, with the arsenal reaching its zenith during the Cold War.  It wasn't until 29 April 1997, after long and difficult negotiations, that the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force.  By banning these weapons, the Convention heralded the beginning of the work to destroy the stockpiles that had been amassed.  That is the milestone we mark today, as we pay tribute to the victims of chemical warfare -- for whom the universality of this Convention, when it comes, will come too late.

The very first resolution of the United Nations General Assembly called for the elimination not only of nuclear weapons, but of "all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction".  In the same spirit, the Chemical Weapons Convention was the first treaty to ban an entire category of such weapons.  Through the work of the States Parties to the Convention, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the instrument has played a vital part in international efforts to "exclude completely the possibility of the use of chemical weapons".

But much remains to be done, while new challenges have arisen. Participation in the Chemical Weapons Convention is growing, but it remains incomplete.  I call on those States that have not yet ratified or acceded to the Convention to do so without delay.  Meanwhile, all of us must redouble our efforts to work for full implementation of the Convention, but also to ensure that chemical weapons are kept out of the hands of non-State actors.  That task will require stepped up vigilance and improved coordination among Governments, international organizations and the private sector.  On this Remembrance Day, let us honour the victims of chemical warfare by pledging to consign these dreadful weapons to the pages of history.

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