Press release 213/2013
4 October 2013
Finland is prepared to support the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, Minister for Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja stated when he spoke at the 40th Anniversary of the Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (VERIFIN) on 4 October.
For this purpose, Finland will make a financial contribution to the Trust Fund of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and is willing to provide personnel and expertise for the efforts of the OPCW in Syria. The details of Finland’s support are being discussed with the OPCW and other countries providing support.
Tuomioja said that the large-scale use of chemical weapons in Damascus on 21 August shows that the use of weapons of mass destruction is and can be reality. Actors such as the OPCW are more important than we ever imagined.
Tuomioja told the audience about the preparations for the Conference on the Establishment of a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East. The preparations are led by Under-Secretary of State Jaakko Laajava from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. The original plan for convening the conference in 2012 could not be implemented with the participation of all states in the region. On the other hand, all states of the Middle East have expressed their willingness to continue the preparations.
Director General of the OPCW Ahmet Üzümcü also spoke at the VERIFIN anniversary event. During his visit to Finland, he had discussions with Minister Tuomioja and the Finnish authorities.
Tuomioja pointed out that Finland is a candidate to the OPCW Executive Council for a two-year term beginning in 2014.
VERIFIN is a unit at the Department of Chemistry in the University of Helsinki. VERIFIN was established in 1994 to continue the Chemical Weapons research project (CW Project) initiated in 1973. VERIFIN supports the monitoring of the Chemical Weapons Convention by developing identification methods for chemical warfare agents and by providing related training. VERIFIN is mainly funded by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The Director of the institute is Professor Paula Vanninen.
Additional information: Markku Virri, Director, Unit for Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, tel. +358 9 1605 6185, Tero Shemeikka, Press Attaché to the Foreign Minister, tel. +358 295 351 508