29 January 2013
The Conference on Disarmament this morning held a public plenary during which the President spoke about his proposed draft programme of work and States outlined their national priorities and hopes to surmount the stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament during its 2013 session.
Ambassador Andras Dekany of Hungary, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said that the unofficial first draft of his proposal on a programme of work was the result of intensive consultations and represented his overall assessment at this stage of the process of how they could move forward given the widely diverging views and positions of the Member States. In the draft, all four core issues would be taken up substantively. The novelty of the proposed approach came from the merger of the issues of nuclear disarmament and fissile material ban within one working group.
Speaking this morning were Argentina, Switzerland, Algeria, France, Italy and Austria.
The Conference also agreed to requests from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ghana, Philippines and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to participate as observers in the 2013 session of the Conference.
The next plenary of the Conference will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 5 February.
Ambassador ANDRAS DEKANY of Hungary, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said that by today, all delegations should have received an unofficial first draft of his proposal on a programme of work. The draft was the result of intensive consultations and represented his overall assessment at this stage of the process of how they could move forward given the widely diverging views and positions of the Conference on Disarmament Member States. In the draft, all four core issues would be taken up substantively. The novelty of the proposed approach came from the merger of the issues of nuclear disarmament and fissile material ban within one working group. This clearly emphasized the importance they all attached to the cessation of the nuclear arms race and the elimination of nuclear weapons which was a long and arduous process. He was fully aware that a programme of work needed to be accompanied by an agreed implementation plan as well, and he had not forgotten the issue of selecting the chairs for the working groups and the allocation of time for the meetings of the working group. However, he had to see first whether his proposed approach was a good enough basis to move forward by consensus. Should this be the case, he would present a proposal on the modalities of implementation.
Argentina thanked the President for distributing the draft programme of work. It was already known that Argentina was flexible, and this position would be maintained on this text. Argentina reaffirmed the need to act in this forum to save it from relapsing into irrelevance. There was no time to be lost. Argentina would maintain its active participation in the Conference, given that their priority was moving forward on nuclear disarmament. Other parallel processes to the Conference would disrupt the balance and cohesion of the current system. Various perceptions of the security of certain States were not allowing the Conference to agree on a minimum common denominator and reach consensus on a programme of work. A simple schedule of activities for each of the items on the agenda of the conference, without specification of the modalities or mandates, could allow them to make concrete progress towards consensus and allow them to analyse the possibility of launching negotiations on these items.
Switzerland recalled the situation of the Conference and underlined the impatience and frustration at the protracted inability of the Conference to fulfill its mandate that prompted the General Assembly to adopt resolutions setting mechanisms on issues traditionally dealt with by the Conference on Disarmament. Switzerland believed that the Conference on Disarmament had a central role to play on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. However, the community of nations would not remain inactive if the Conference continued to be incapable of assuming its functions. Switzerland remained convinced of the central importance of the role of the Conference in the good work on disarmament by the United Nations and its revitalization should remain a priority objective. The adoption of a programme of work would be the best measure to revitalize the Conference and Switzerland welcomed the President’s efforts in this regard. Switzerland noted upcoming disarmament events for 2013 which included the high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament next September and the second session of the preparatory committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which would take place in Geneva in April.
Algeria said it was concerned about the prolonged stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament for the sixteenth year when it should be making adequate responses to the multiple threats against peace and international security. The first priority that the Conference on Disarmament was responsible for was to deal with nuclear disarmament, and in that regard, the universal and full implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was necessary. Unfortunately, little progress had been made in this field. The negotiation of a treaty prohibiting the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons would not make sense unless it tackled the question of already existing fissile material stocks. Algeria deplored that the Middle East had not been able to establish itself as a nuclear weapon-free zone and regretted the postponement of the international conference on the issue which should have been held last December. As for the work of the Conference, Algeria continued to consider CD/1864 as a compromise document. In the meantime, Algeria supported the holding of discussions in public plenary on the main questions on the Conference’s agenda. If efforts aimed at agreeing on a programme of work were not successful, maybe the Conference should consider a simplified programme of work as suggested by Argentina. Algeria invited the President to continue with his consultations and to build on whatever had been achieved so that consensus could be reached, and thanked him for the unofficial first draft of the programme of work.
France said that concerning France’s priorities, the question of conventional weapons and their dissemination should be at the heart of their concerns. At a time when France was engaged in supporting the armed forces of Mali and the countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Chad in an important operation against armed terrorist groups in the north of Mali, the situation in the Sahel region showed the risks of the dissemination of this type of weapons. The international community could not postpone discussing this issue any more. The treaty on arms trade would soon be an effective tool in this regard. France also underlined the importance it attached to discussions in the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. With regard to disarmament and non-proliferation, 2013 would see the Review Conference of the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. As for nuclear disarmament, the essential element was to tackle it in a progressive manner. There was a roadmap for this process which consisted of the Action Points of the 2010 NPT Review Conference., The NPT 2010 Review Conference Action Points highlighted the importance of the immediate start of negotiations on a treaty on the prohibition of the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons in the Conference on Disarmament. That was why France had supported the resolution in the General Assembly that created a group of governmental experts to meet in Geneva on this topic. Finally, France reminded the President of his difficult task to prepare and propose a programme of work.
Italy said the role of the Conference on Disarmament was paramount and another year of stalemate was simply not acceptable. The Conference should resume its work, the sooner the better. The adoption of a programme of work should be their main concern. Italy believed that the programme of work contained in CD/1864 could still be viable and worth being implemented, but it was also ready to explore other solutions. The negotiation in the Conference of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty was long overdue. A valuable contribution to moving the process forward could come from General Assembly resolution 67/53 which requested the Secretary-General to establish a group of governmental experts that would make recommendations on possible aspects that could contribute to such a treaty. For the other three main topics on their agenda, Italy recognized their relevance and was ready to contribute to the debate.
Austria said the last session of the General Assembly was remarkable for the clear message expressed by the overwhelming majority of United Nations Member States that deadlock in multilateral disarmament negotiations was not acceptable and could no longer be perceived as a temporary crisis. Austria hoped that the Conference on Disarmament would respond to these expressions of urgency and that the necessary political will to commence work would emerge without further delay and lead to the adoption and implementation of a programme of work. Austria also expected that the General Assembly resolutions aimed at promoting substantive work on key issues of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation agenda, as well as the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on nuclear disarmament to be convened in September 2013, would contribute to progress during this year. The General Assembly Open-ended Working Group to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations provided all States with a fresh opportunity to put forward their views, expectations and proposals. Austria prioritized multilateralism as key to international progress on disarmament and non-proliferation matters. The worst case would be to continue on the current path of erosion of the disarmament regime and machinery.
For use of the information media; not an official record