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CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT DISCUSSES RENEWAL OF INFORMAL WORKING GROUP ON A PROGRAMME OF WORK

18 February 2014

The Conference on Disarmament held a public plenary this morning under the presidency of Italy, in which it continued discussions on proposals to re-establish the Informal Working Group to help agree a programme of work.

Ambassador Vinicio Mati of Italy, the incoming President of the Conference, pledged to spare no effort in strengthening the credibility of the Conference and said calls to put the Conference back to work could not go unheeded, but an innovative approach was required to tackle the current situation.  He said there seemed to be general consensus on the so-called dual-track approach, one of which included the renewal of the mandate of the Informal Working Group. 

Cuba reported on the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which it hosted last month, an outcome of which was a proclamation calling Latin America and the Caribbean the region of peace, and a special declaration on the complete elimination and prohibition of nuclear weapons.

Venezuela said it supported the renewal of the mandate of the Informal Working Group, which would present concrete proposals for a programme of work, to finally allow for an advancement of the negotiations.  Peace was the supreme asset and the legitimate ambition of all peoples, in which context the Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States had played a significant role. 

Egypt was concerned that, instead of negotiating legal instruments on disarmament, the Conference was preoccupied with the lack of a programme of work.  Egypt considered the nuclear disarmament the top priority, but also supported the conclusion of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other explosive devices, as long as it served the objectives of both nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. 

Mexico briefly reported on the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, which it hosted last week, in which 146 States had participated, along with eight United Nations agencies and civil society organizations. The conference once again brought to the fore the risk of catastrophic consequences of nuclear detonations to mankind. 

Tunisia said it felt disheartened to see the Conference in a dismal state of paralysis, but it had a unique position as a sole United Nations body with powers to conclude agreements in the area of disarmament.  Tunisia expressed doubts that the stalemate had been caused by procedural issues. 

Kenya said it believed cooperation between the presidencies was the key to progress.  Commitment to a dual approach was pragmatic.  With the support of the Conference members, the goal of a programme of work could be reached.

Speaking in today’s discussion were Italy, Cuba, Venezuela, Egypt, Mexico, Tunisia and Kenya.

The next public meeting would take place on Tuesday, 25 February at 10 a.m.

Statement by the President of the Conference on Disarmament

Ambassador VINICIO MATI of Italy, President of the Conference on Disarmament, pledged to do his utmost during Italy’s four-week presidency to revitalize the Conference on Disarmament.  The President recalled that Italy had been a member of the Conference not only since its foundation in its current form, but also from the very beginning of the process in 1961.  Italy had long been active on various fronts related to disarmament, promoting multilateralism and international cooperation.  Italy was currently supporting efforts of the international community in Syria, where the most important disarmament effort of the last decade was currently underway. 

The President pledged to spare no effort in strengthening the credibility of the Conference.  Calls to return the Conference to work could not go unheeded.  The time was ripe for the Conference to resume its activity and an innovative approach was required.  There seemed to be general consensus on the so-called dual-track approach, one of which included the renewal of the mandate of the Informal Working Group.  The President expressed hope that, after further consultations, it would be possible to circulate a draft decision.  On the second track, the P6 were committed to work in the spirit of transparency, and consultations with regional groups were to deepen in the coming days.  It was of paramount importance that the Conference meet the expectations that the international community had held when it was first established, and demonstrate it was worthy of the trust it had been given.

Cuba congratulated the President on the assumption of his role and expressed hope that progress would be made.  Last month Havana hosted a meeting of the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) which represented 33 countries of the region.  The Summit adopted a proclamation which called Latin America and the Caribbean the ‘region of peace’, and pledged the region’s ongoing support to international law, peaceful settlement of disputes, non-intervention in the domestic affairs of States and disarmament.  A special declaration on nuclear disarmament was also adopted, which asked for the complete elimination and prohibition of nuclear weapons, echoing the consultative opinion of the International Court of Justice in 1996 on the illegality of nuclear weapons.  Dignitaries of Latin America and the Caribbean further called for a high-level international conference to identify the means and actions needed to prepare a programme for the elimination of nuclear weapons.  It was the first time in history that a global region had proclaimed itself the zone of peace and demanded the abrogation of any use of force.

Venezuela congratulated the President on assumption of the presidency and promised its support to the concept of multilateralism.  The 2014 session of the Conference was decisive - substantive work could no longer be postponed, else the relevance of the forum could be endangered.  Venezuela would support the renewal of the mandate of the Informal Working Group, which would present concrete proposals for a programme of work to finally allow for an advancement of negotiations.  The objective of all those efforts was general and complete disarmament; the only effective guarantee against the use of nuclear weapons.  Peace was the supreme asset and the legitimate ambition of all peoples, in which context the Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States had played a significant role.  For the Latin American and Caribbean region, adoption of new instruments of disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was thus an absolute priority.  Venezuela pleaded that the opportunity given to the Conference to regulate and eliminate weapons of mass destruction not be lost.

Egypt expressed belief in the ability of the incoming President to guide the work of the Conference forward and to overcome the impasse.  Egypt had been one of the 18 original members of the Committee on Disarmament in 1961, and was now concerned that, instead of negotiating legal instruments on disarmament, the Conference had become preoccupied with the lack of a programme of work.  Egypt considered nuclear disarmament to be the top priority, as clearly underlined in the very first United Nations General Assembly resolution.  Egypt also supported the conclusion of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices, as long as such a treaty would serve the objectives of both nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation.  It was also essential to promote and maintain outer space as a peaceful environment that should serve as a common heritage of humankind, for which legally binding instruments were necessary.  Furthermore, the Conference should deal with effective international arrangements for the five nuclear weapon states to assure non-nuclear weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.  Egypt stated that it was studying the non-paper circulated through the regional coordinators and would provide comments at a later stage.  Finally, Egypt expressed disappointment at the failure to hold the 2012 Conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction, which was recognized by the world community as an important goal.

Mexico said it was pleased to report that the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, held in Mexico from 13 to 14 February 2014, had been a great success on many accounts.  Participants included 146 governmental delegations, eight United Nations agencies and international organizations, and dozens of civil society organizations.  The conference once again brought to the fore the risk of catastrophic consequences of nuclear detonations to mankind.  Seventy-two delegations had made statements, overwhelmingly urging for a world without nuclear weapons.  Plans for the Third Conference, which would be hosted by Austria before the end of 2014, were warmly welcomed by the participants.  Mexico requested the Secretariat to distribute the Chair’s summary as an official document of the Conference on Disarmament.

Tunisia expressed hope that the Conference would achieve success under the new President’s guidance.  Tunisia was disheartened that the Conference was in a dismal state of paralysis, but said it had a unique position as a sole United Nations body with powers to conclude agreements in the area of disarmament.  Tunisia expressed doubts that the stalemate had been caused by procedural issues.  It was more than ever important to show political and moral responsibility in order to address the challenges of disarmament: The year 2014 was crucial for the Conference, and conditions for consensus had to be created by all those believing in peace.  It was encouraging to see that many delegations seemed ready to commit to the process, and the focus had to be on consensus and the common vision which would make it possible for the Conference to play its important role.

Kenya congratulated the President on his assumption of duties, and recalled his earlier contributions to the discussions.  As one of the six Presidents (P6) of the 2014 Session,  Kenya believed that the cooperation between the presidencies was the key to progress.  A commitment to the dual-track approach was pragmatic.  Above all, with the support of Conference members, the goal of agreeing a programme of work could be reached.  Kenya was ready to work closely with the President and pledged its fruitful cooperation.

For use of the information media; not an official record

DC14/006E