President Obama still without OPCW envoy

After more than eighteen months, the Obama administration is still without an ambassador to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)—an absence that threatens to harm US standing within the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) regime. In force since 1997, and now with 188 states parties, the CWC bans the development, manufacture, stockpiling, transfer and use of chemical warfare agents such as sarin, mustard gas and VX. The US, along with Russia, has until April 2012 to eliminate its declared stockpile of chemical weapons—a deadline it has already admitted it will miss by some distance.

At present, the US delegation to the OPCW reportedly consists of only three or four staff—down from the eight that worked under the previous ambassador to the organization, Eric Javits. However, Mr Javits points out, even these remaining staffers are soon to be assigned duties elsewhere, raising the possibility of the US being left ‘entirely bare’ at the OPCW.

According to a spokesman for the US National Security Council, the Obama administration is ‘actively seeking to fill the position of ambassador to the OPCW’ to maintain America’s ‘strong leadership presence’ at the organisation, but the timescale for this appointment is uncertain. ‘We’re going to get a black eye if we don’t get the right representation there [soon],’ though, said Mr Javits. The US needs a full-time OPCW envoy to demonstrate ‘that we’re not arrogant and secondly that we’re deeply interested in the views of others,’ he said. ‘That we don’t just come carpetbagging by airplane every three months’.

David Cliff, London