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CONFERENCE DISCUSSES PRESIDENT’S PROPOSAL FOR THE RENEWAL OF THE INFORMAL WORKING GROUP ON A PROGRAMME OF WORK FOR 2014
11 February 2014

The Conference on Disarmament this morning discussed a proposal by the President to re-establish the Informal Working Group to help agree on a programme of work for the Conference during 2014, hearing from the United Kingdom, India and Pakistan.

Ambassador Eviatar Manor of Israel, the outgoing President of the Conference, said that following discussions in the plenary meeting last week on Non-Paper 1, containing a draft decision for the re-establishment of the Informal Working Group to help find a programme of work for the Conference, all comments received by delegations had been reflected in a revised version, Non-Paper 2, which had been circulated yesterday by the Secretariat.  Extensive consultations had also been held last week with the P6 to address open issues and items raised in the previous plenary meeting of the Conference.

The President, while pleased to report that it seemed that all had expressed their support for the principle of re-establishing the Informal Working Group, said that some had expressed desire for further discussions on certain elements of the proposed informal text.  If all felt that further discussions were required, additional consultations with concerned parties would be launched.  With regards to the schedule of activities, the President said significant progress had been made, based on P6 consultations.  Further consultations with regional groups were expected to take place based on a P6 non-paper, to be presented soon. 

The United Kingdom expressed disappointment that despite best efforts made, there had been no choice but to conclude that consensus on a programme of work could not be achieved under the President’s presidency. Continued failure to get the Conference back to work could do nothing but erode its credibility and with it, the consensus-based approach that provided the essential fail-safe for preserving national security interests. While consensus on a programme of work remained illusive, the United Kingdom supported the re-establishment of the Informal Working Group and believed its mandate should remain the same.

India believed that the early adoption of a programme of work in the Conference should continue to be the priority for the Presidency of the Conference and the Membership.  Should there be a decision to go forward with respect to further consideration and action on Non-Paper 2, India would not stand in the way.  Equally, if it was the President’s view that further consultations were required, in whatever format, India would be very pleased to participate in those consultations.  With respect to a schedule of activities, India still awaited a specific proposal either from the President or the P6 and it would take a view on the schedule of activities when a proposal was made available to the members of the Conference.

Pakistan said it was perfectly happy to re-establish the Informal Working Group in 2014 and had been ready to do so on the basis of the Non-paper circulated last week.  Noting the circulation of a second Non-Paper with proposed amendments to Non-Paper 1, Pakistan requested the deletion of any reference in the revised draft decision to any past programme of work.  The very idea of establishing the Informal Working Group took off from the need to review the Conference’s deadlock afresh, in an open-ended setting, without any strings attached to past proposals and decisions.  By inserting such divisive references, the risk would be run of re-opening the past debate, which would be regressive.

In closing remarks, the President said it seemed as though further discussions would be needed on the Informal Working Group decision, and therefore further consultations with concerned parties would be conducted.  Nevertheless, in light of the discussion just had, it was felt that substantial progress was made with regards to the Informal Working Group text.  The President, as this would be his last plenary meeting, took the opportunity to thank all for their cooperation with the presidency and their constructive approach.  Member States were wished fruitful deliberations and every success in the Conference’s important activities, which would hopefully benefit all.  Congratulations were also extended to next President, Ambassador Vinicio Mati of Italy, and his team.

The next public plenary of the Conference will be held on Tuesday, 18 February 2014, at 10 a.m.

Statements

Ambassador EVIATAR MANOR of Israel, President of the Conference on Disarmament, provided an update and indicated that there was a possible way forward for work. Following discussions in the plenary meeting last week, on the Non-Paper 1, containing a draft decision for the reestablishment of the Informal Working Group, all comments received by delegations had been reflected in a revised version, entitled Proposed Amendments for Non-Paper 1, which had been circulated yesterday to all delegations by the Secretariat.

The President and the P6 held extensive consultations in the last week to address open issues and items raised in the previous plenary meeting of the Conference.  The President reiterated that he had always believed that work should be done in full transparency, in order to allow as many views as possible to be reflected in the decision-making process of the Conference.

The President was pleased to report that it seemed that all had expressed their support for the principle of re-establishing the Informal Working Group.  While many had supported this approach, some had expressed desire for further discussions on some elements of the proposed informal text, Non-Paper 1.  Yesterday, the Secretariat had been requested to circulate a second non-paper regarding the reestablishment of the mandate of the Informal Working Group for 2014.  This non-paper constituted all proposed amendments received following the previous plenary meeting of the Conference.  It was believed to be necessary to unofficially submit this proposal for consideration and to have a discussion concerning the relevant issues.  They would like to keep things as simple and straight forward as possible.  If all felt that further discussions were required, additional consultations with concerned parties would be launched regarding the Non-Paper, in order to take action in next plenary meetings.  It was hoped that consensus could soon be reached on an agreed text.  Regarding the schedule of activities, significant progress had been made, based on P6 consultations.  Further consultations with regional groups were expected to take place based on a P6 non-paper to be presented soon. 

United Kingdom congratulated the President on the assumption of his role and assured him of the United Kingdom’s full support for his efforts.  The United Kingdom was disappointed that despite best efforts, there had been no choice but to conclude that consensus on a programme of work could not be achieved under the President’s presidency.  It noted the stated willingness of many members to repeat the flexibility shown in the past in the interest of getting the Conference back to work, but for many that flexibility had already reached its limits.  Continued failure to get the Conference back to work could do nothing but erode its credibility and with it, the consensus-based approach that provided the essential fail-safe for preserving national security interests.  The United Kingdom fully understood the needs of all members to preserve those interests, but equally strongly believed that all would have the opportunity to do so, should consensus be reached again on a programme of work identical in essence to the last programme of work adopted by the Conference.  While consensus on a programme of work remained illusive, it supported the reestablishment of the Informal Working Group.  The mandate should remain the same.  There had been no significant change in the context in which we were working, that would require it to change.  Similarly, it saw no reason to amend the decision taken to establish that Group, other than to update it in a purely technical manner.  The United Kingdom looked forward to giving consideration to the outcome of consultation on proposed schedule of activities schedule as early as possible.  In the interest of being transparent, the United Kingdom announced that it would not attend the Conference on the Humanitarian Consequences on the Use of Nuclear Weapons, later this week in Mexico.

India thanked the Presidency for the diligent efforts undertaken in taking the work of the Conference forward, particularly in conducting consultations as widely as possible.  With reference to comments today, it was believed that the early adoption of a programme of work in the Conference should continue to be the priority for the Presidency of the Conference and the Membership, and both current and succeeding presidents should keep that as the priority objective, which is the adoption and implementation of a programme of work that was comprehensive, balanced and took forward the consensus agenda that was adopted earlier this month.  On the Informal Working Group, the President was thanked on bringing forth a Non-Paper 2.   Comments today had been heard very carefully.  Should it be decided to go forward with respect to further consideration and action on Non-Paper 2, India would not stand in the way.  If it was the President’s view that further consultations were required, in whatever format, India would be very pleased to participate in those consultations.  With respect to a schedule of activities, India still awaited a specific proposal either from the President or the P6 and it would take a view on the schedule of activities when a proposal was made available to the members of the Conference.

Pakistan said that it had joined the consensus on the establishment of an Informal Working Group last August with the mandate to produce a programme of work robust in substance and progressive over time in implementation.  It had participated actively and constructively in meetings of the Informal Working Group, as well as in the inter-sessional work.  Pakistan was perfectly happy to re-establish the Informal Working Group in 2014 and had been ready to do so on the basis of the Non-paper circulated last week, which contained a draft decision for the re-establishment of the Informal Working Group, that was almost identical to the consensus Conference on Disarmament decision adopted in August 2013, CD/1956/Rev.1.

Pakistan noted that a second Non-paper was circulated yesterday, containing amendments proposed by the delegations on the first non-paper.  Pakistan would request the deletion of any reference in the revised draft decision to any past programme of work, in particular CD/1864 of May 2009.  If the approach envisaged in CD/1864 had enjoyed the consensus of all members, there was no need to establish the Informal Working Group in the first place.  The very idea of establishing the Informal Working Group took off from the need to review the Conference’s deadlock afresh, in an open-ended setting, without any strings attached to past proposals and decisions.  By inserting such divisive references, we ran the risk of re-opening the past debate, which would be regressive.  Pakistan could therefore not join the consensus on the revised draft decision that may be elaborated on the basis of the amendments circulated yesterday.  However, it would be ready to do so if the reference to CD/1864 was dropped from the text. 

Ambassador EVIATAR MANOR of Israel, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said that all relevant remarks and comments had been heard, and was thankful for this open discussion.  It seemed that further discussions would be needed on the Informal Working Group decision, and therefore further consultations with concerned parties would be conducted.  Nevertheless, in light of the discussion just had, it was felt that substantial progress was made with regards to the Informal Working Group text.  As this would be the last plenary meeting as President of the Conference, the President thanked all for their cooperation with the presidency and their constructive approach.  It had also been a pleasure and honour to preside over the Conference meetings in which the agenda had been unanimously been adopted, heard a programmatic statement by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and by the United States Acting Secretary for Arms Control and International Security as well.   

It was hoped that while being President, he had been able to demonstrate Israel’s pragmatic and realist approach and perspective on the issues concerned.  Appreciation was extended to the Acting Secretary-General of the Conference, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Conference, the Secretary of the Conference, the Secretariat and the interpreters.  Members States were wished fruitful deliberations and every success in the Conference’s important activities, which would hopefully benefit all.  Ambassador Manor also congratulated the next President, Ambassador Vinicio Mati of Italy, and his team.  All relative information gathered throughout consultations would certainly be shared with the next president.  The President felt that during Israel’s presidency, the dual track had been put on course and moved forward, to be taken by the next President of 2014 and it was believed that in so doing, that the Secretary-General’s call and the collective will of the Conference Member States had been echoed.


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