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VICE-FOREIGN MINISTER OF ARGENTINA ADDRESSES THE CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT
25 February 2013

The Conference on Disarmament held a plenary meeting this morning and heard an address from Eduardo Zuain, Vice-Foreign Minister of Argentina.  The United Kingdom, Argentina and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea also made statements.

Mr. Zuain reiterated that the Conference on Disarmament constituted a fundamental place for disarmament negotiations, in particular for nuclear disarmament, and should not be a place for mere dialogue.  The Conference was extremely important for States which, like Argentina, had forgone the nuclear option from a military point of view.  Argentina had an interest in sharing a common forum with those countries that regrettably continued to believe that nuclear weapons constituted legitimate tools.  Bilateral and regional actions could not replace, in their impact and scope,  universal measures.  This was the responsibility of States parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and could not be reinterpreted on the basis of changing realities.  Mr. Zuain also expressed concern about the militarisation of the South Atlantic and the possible introduction of nuclear arms in the region by the United Kingdom. 

In this context, the Conference on Disarmament still had a lot work to do in the context of its Agenda Items 4 and 7, concerning negative-security assurances and transparency in arsenals.  While pointing out Argentina’s priorities concerning the agenda of the Conference, Mr. Zuain stressed that these priorities did not mean that Argentina could not show the greatest amount of flexibility when it came to finding a programme of work which allowed for real negotiations towards a nuclear weapon free world.  The Latin American and Caribbean region had shown its commitment in the field of disarmament and not proliferation through the establishment of the Treaty of Tlatelolco; the time had come for those States that still considered that nuclear weapons had a relevant role to make the necessary efforts to guarantee that non-nuclear weapon states could aspire to a safer world for their citizens.

The United Kingdom, responding to the remarks made by Mr. Zuain, reiterated its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and the importance it gave to the principle of self-determination, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  The British defensive military presence in the region, since the 1982 conflict, existed only to defend the right and freedom of the inhabitants of the islands to self-determination.   Argentina’s position did not encourage more constructive relations in the South Atlantic, included on issues which could prove to be mutually beneficial such as fisheries and conservation.  The United Kingdom had ratified the Additional Protocol of the Treaty of Tlatelolco in 1969 and would continue to honour this agreement.
     
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, concerning its legitimate counter measures, said that if someone wanted to say something about this issue they should consider its motives and reiterated its right to resolve to speak at a later stage.

The next public plenary of the Conference will be held on Tuesday, 26 February at 10 a.m., when it will hear addresses from dignitaries from Iraq, Slovakia, Mongolia, Qatar, Kazakhstan, Japan, Viet Nam and Estonia.

Statements

EDUARDO ZUAIN, Vice-Foreign Minister of Argentina, said that the Conference of Disarmament was unique in its field.  His presence was aimed at renewing the commitment to the forum, which was the fundamental place for disarmament negotiations, in particular, for nuclear disarmament. Such a common space could not become a place for mere dialogue.  Argentina understood the limitations that stood in the way of a common ground for the beginning of negotiations; at the same time, however, it was not possible to ignore that in parallel to the lack of substantive negotiations within the Conference for over practically a decade and a half, threats and challenges to peace persisted, and there were urgent issues that the Conference needed to address.  Argentina was not in a position to make judgements on the vital interests of any Member States to the Conference and, while there was no one single way of breaking the deadlock, nevertheless, there was a danger that the Conference, and the United Nations in general, would become increasingly marginalised in the field of disarmament .

The Conference on Disarmament should begin negotiations as soon as possible on instruments to achieve a nuclear weapon free world; including a treaty on the prohibition of fissile material for nuclear weapons and a global instrument concerning negative-security assurances.  The Conference on Disarmament was extremely important for States which, like Argentina, had forgone the nuclear option from a military point of view.  As a country with an important nuclear activity for peaceful purposes, Argentina had an interest in sharing a common forum with those countries that regrettably continued to believe that nuclear weapons constituted legitimate tools.  Bilateral and regional actions could not replace, in their impact and scope, those of universal measures.  This was the responsibility of States parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and could not be reinterpreted on the basis of changing realities.  Nuclear weapon states should assume a leadership role in this regard.  Inconsistencies were not sustainable in this field and one could not speak about the benefits of non-proliferation while developing more sophisticated nuclear weapons or delaying the destruction of arsenals.

Negative security assurances could seem to be an issue settled by the Latin American and Caribbean States, since there was a prohibition of nuclear weapons in this region under the Tlatelolco Treaty.  However, implementation was still precarious, in particular, given the interpretative declarations made by nuclear weapons States at the moment of accession to the Additional Protocol II, in which they committed to refrain from introducing such weapons in the territory covered by the treaty.  This precarious implementation was also challenged by the disproportionate military presence of the United Kingdom in the South Atlantic region, including the deployment of nuclear submarines with the capacity to carry nuclear weapons in the nuclear weapons free zone established by the Treaty of Tlatelolco.

The United Kingdom had publically recognised in 2003 that the “Task Force” deployed during the conflict in 1982 included vessels with nuclear armament and that some incidents had occurred.  Argentina had expressed on a number of occasions its concern about the possibility that the United Kingdom had introduced nuclear armaments into the South Atlantic and regretted that the United Kingdom had ignored these appeals and had not provided clarifications concerning the alleged incidents.  The Malvinas Islands were among the most militarised territories in the world, including the deployment of naval forces, last generation combat aircraft, a command centre and an intelligence based capable of monitoring traffic and naval traffic in the region.  This was an issue of concern not only for Argentina but also for a number of States in the area and beyond, as expressed by the Ibero-American Summit, Mercosur, the Rio Group, the Summit of South American-Arab Countries, and the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone.    

In this context, the Conference on Disarmament still had a lot work to do in the context of its agenda items 4 and 7, concerning negative-security assurances and transparency in arsenals.  Treaties were not destined to solve disputes among states, but to limit the means of resolving them.  Therefore Argentina appealed to the Conference to reinitiate substantive work taking into account the dangers involved in the lack of global regulation.  Mr. Zuain called on the States that had not already done so to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and stressed the importance of the detection mechanisms, already in partial operation, which it had put in place. In this context, reiterated Argentina’s condemnation of the recent nuclear test carried out by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  Argentina had pointed out its priorities concerning the agenda of the Conference of Disarmament, including the situation of the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich and the surrounding maritime spaces, which constituted an integral part of Argentine’s national territory.  These priorities did not mean that Argentina could not show the greatest amount of flexibility when it came to finding a programme of work for the Conference on Disarmament which allowed for real negotiations towards a nuclear weapon free world.  In the current global security situation, a lot remained to be done.  The Latin American and Caribbean region had shown its commitment in the field of disarmament and not proliferation.  The time had come for those States that still considered that nuclear weapons had a relevant role to make the necessary efforts to provide guarantees to the non-nuclear weapon states and their citizens.

United Kingdom said that the United Kingdom had no doubts concerning its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands.  The British Government attached great importance to the principle of self-determination, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  There could be no negotiation concerning the status of the Islands until the islanders so desired and the United Kingdom had had a defensive military presence in the region since the 1982 conflict.  Its defensive military presence existed only to defend the right and freedom of the inhabitants of the islands to self-determination.  Argentina’s position did not encourage more constructive relations in the South Atlantic, included on issues which could prove to be mutually beneficial such as fisheries and conservation.  All United Nations resolutions were underpinned by its Charter and the emphasis on the principle of self-determination.  The Falkland Islands had been represented during negotiations and the signing of the 1999 Agreement between the United Kingdom and Argentina.  Unfortunately, the current Argentine Government had decided not to speak to the Falkland islanders directly.  The United Kingdom had ratified the Additional Protocol of the Treaty of Tlatelolco in 1969 and would continue to honour this agreement.

Argentina reiterated that Argentina had recalled that the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich and the surrounding maritime spaces were an integral part of the national territory of Argentina and were subject to a dispute which had been addressed by a number of United Nations resolutions, including by the Decolonisation Committee.  In 1965 the United Nations General Assembly had established that it was a colonial situation which involved a sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom and should be resolved by both parties.  In 1985 the General Assembly discarded the applicability of the principle of self-determination to the Malvinas, given the fact that part of the territory had been usurped as part of an act of force in 1983, when part of the legitimate authorities had been expelled.  For this reason, the inhabitants of the islands could not decide on a dispute to which their own country was a party and the dispute should be resolved between Argentina and the United Kingdom.  Argentina reaffirmed its sovereignty over Malvinas Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich and the surrounding maritime spaces, which constituted integral part of its national territory, and wished to renew negotiations in order to find a solution.

United Kingdom said that it had no doubts about its sovereignty over Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich and the surrounding maritime spaces, and reiterated that the United Kingdom attached great importance to the principle of self-determination.  There could not be any negotiations over the sovereignty of the islands until the islanders so wished.

Democratic People's Republic of Korea, speaking about its legitimate counter measures, said that if someone wanted to say something about this issue they should consider the motives of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  The Democratic People's Republic of Korea reiterated its right to resolve to speak at a later stage.


For use of the information media; not an official record

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