(COOK ISLANDS GOVERNMENT) – The Cook Islands joined other countries this week at a special meeting in The Netherlands in supporting a United Kingdom led proposal to strengthen a global ban on chemical weapons.
The UK proposal was supported by an overwhelming majority of 82 votes, including the Cook Islands, to 24 against.
The Meeting of State Parties, agreed to strengthen the role of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), who is the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which entered into force in 1997.
As of today, OPCW has 193 members, including the Cook Islands, who are working together to achieve a world free of chemical weapons. Of particular importance, this week’s Meeting agreed to establish a mechanism that formally identifies perpetrators of chemical weapon attacks so they can be held to account. It was this element of the proposal that was problematic for a number of countries that voted against.
Representing the Cook Islands Government at the Meeting, Ian Finley, the Cook Islands Permanent Representative to the IMO emphasised the Cook Islands long held firm support for global efforts to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction.
Speaking at the meeting, Ambassador Finley made reference to Cook Islanders who had served in the New Zealand Pioneer division in the First World War, some of whom hd witnessed and suffered the horrors inflicted by the first use of mustard gas.
“As a State Party in our own right (to the CWC), we call on all parties to the OPCW to address not only the existence of such barbaric weapons but the reality of their continued use today”.
Ambassador Finley’s participation was facilitated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) and has involved a series of consultations over recent weeks via diplomatic channels out of Rarotonga, Wellington and London led by UN & Treaties Division Director Josh Mitchell.
“The Cook Islands participated in this meeting and supported the UK led proposal, because the recent spate of chemical attacks in places such as Syria, Malaysia, Iraq and the UK seriously undermine many years of concerted global effort to outlaw use of chemical weapons,” said Mitchell.
“While we may indeed be a remote small island bordered on all sides by the vast Pacific Ocean, an attack on one party to the treaty is an affront to us all and must be condemned.”
9 of the 18 members of the Pacific Islands Forum participated and voted in support of the UK led proposal, demonstrating the value of Pacific voices in such multilateral fora as the OPCW. MFAI will continue to lead Cook Islands engagement on this issue in the coming weeks and State Parties will reconvene in The Hague in November this year.
by Nuku’alofa Times, Tonga