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CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT DISCUSSES NEW TYPES OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION AND A COMPREHENSIVE PROGRAMME OF DISARMAMENT

14 May 2013

The Conference on Disarmament held this morning the first public plenary of the second part of its 2013 session in which it discussed new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons: radiological weapons, and a comprehensive programme of disarmament, its agenda items five and six respectively.

Ambassador Triyono Wibowo of Indonesia, current President of the Conference on Disarmament, briefed the Conference saying that during the recess he had consulted almost all Member States of the Conference on Disarmament to seek their views on the most viable steps to advance the Conference, in particular with respect to the programme of work.  Based on his intensive consultations, he said that he had decided to formulate a balanced and comprehensive draft programme of work based on previous ones.  Mr. Wibowo also said that, for the time being, it would be difficult to accommodate the request made by the Coordinator of the Informal Group of Observer States to have them attend the informal consultations with the P6 and with the regional coordinators.

Speaking during the discussion, France said that the subject of a comprehensive programme of disarmament was linked to the main objective of general and complete disarmament and called for negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a treaty prohibiting the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices.  Belarus said that the most important priority issues for the Conference were the first four agenda items.  Stepping up the work of the Conference in other areas, it added, was only possible as they proceeded with resolving the four core agenda items.  India wished to focus on radiological weapons and the threat of terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction.  Portugal regretted that their request to take part in the presidential consultations and meetings of the President with the regional coordinators and China could not be met.  South Africa said that nuclear disarmament was a step towards the goal of general and complete disarmament and should not be made conditional on progress made elsewhere.

France, Belarus, India, Portugal and South Africa spoke in the meeting.

The President said that tomorrow, Wednesday, 15 May, Indonesia and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) will hold a  lunchtime seminar in Conference Room VIII on exploring avenues to address the stalemate in the CD.

The second part of the 2013 session of the Conference will be held from 13 May to 28 June.  The next public plenary of the Conference will be held on Tuesday, 21 May, at 10 a.m. and will be devoted to a thematic discussion on agenda item 7 on transparency of armaments.  At the beginning of that meeting, the Assistant Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates for Security and Military Affairs, His Excellency Fares Mohamed Al Mazrouei, will address the Conference.

Statements

Ambassador TRIYONO WIBOWO of Indonesia, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said that during the recess, he had managed to consult almost all Member States of the Conference on Disarmament to seek their views on the most viable step to advance the Conference, in particular with respect to the programme of work.  Based on his intensive consultations, he reported that there were at least four different views on the issues. In fact, he said that while some States encouraged him to draft a balanced and comprehensive programme of work based on previous ones, other States were in favour of a simplified programme of work without a negotiating mandate. A third Group of States said instead that a simplified programme of work would not be acceptable for them, while a fourth group was of the opinion that the President should not produce a programme of work as the current conditions were not conducive enough to secure consensus and another failure would reduce the credibility of the Conference.  Taking into consideration the views and concerns of Member States, Ambassador Wibowo said to have decided to formulate a draft programme of work and that he would try his utmost to make it balanced and comprehensive.  He added that it was his sincere intent to bridge different positions among the States of the Conference and to find a middle ground. He concluded by saying that he was still consulting with Members States to get their preliminary views on the draft programme of work.

Ambassador Wibowo also said he had met with the Ambassador of the Czech Republic and the Coordinator of the Informal Group of Observer States, at her request, and had received the request of the Group that it be allowed to be present during the meetings of the P6 and the meeting of the President with the regional Groups and China.  In this regard, Ambassador Wibowo said that it would not be a problem for the President to share the issues discussed in such meetings, but that the established practice made the request of the Informal Group of Observer States difficult to accommodate for the time being. 

The plenary today was devoted to new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons: radiological weapons, and a comprehensive programme of disarmament.

France said that the subject of a comprehensive programme of disarmament was linked to the main objective of general and complete disarmament.  General and complete disarmament had been on the agenda of the General Assembly for more than 50 years and was being discussed by all the institutions of the disarmament machinery, particularly the Conference on Disarmament.  France added that the issue of general and complete disarmament was also mentioned in a number of different disarmament treaties, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), in which nuclear disarmament is within the framework of general and complete disarmament.  France said that the NPT provisions in this regard meant that nuclear disarmament should not lead to an arms race in other areas, in particular conventional weapons, and that nuclear disarmament could not be conceived without parallel progress occurring in other areas of disarmament.  It added that, despite the fact that there had been considerable progress with regard to the disarmament of weapons of mass destruction, the same did not apply to the other aspects of disarmament. 

Specifying that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, provided a very significant base in the areas of weapons of mass destruction, it added that the international community should make a further effort with regard to nuclear disarmament. In this regard, France called for negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a treaty prohibiting the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. 

With regard to the proliferation of the means of delivery for weapons of mass destruction, France said that there had been important progress and that the threat to international peace and security caused by the proliferation of missiles capable of the delivery of weapons of mass destruction had been stressed numerous times by the United Nations Security Council. 

Turning to conventional disarmament, France welcomed the adoption by the General Assembly of an arms trade treaty a few weeks ago.  Moving on to weapons which had an unacceptable humanitarian impact, France said it was presiding this year over the meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be deemed to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects.  France would do its utmost in order to improve on its universalization.  France also attached special attention to small arms and light weapons as these weapons caused the greatest number of deaths in the world and had significant destabilizing effects in certain regions, adding that there were only instruments of a political nature in this domain.  France called for the further mobilization of the international community in the area of disarmament and the control of conventional weapons.  Pointing out that the arms trade treaty was negotiated by an Ad Hoc Conference set up by the General Assembly and not by the Conference on Disarmament, France stated that the Conference also had a mandate in this area and that such a mandate might provide some avenues to revitalize the institution.  France added that taking into account the issues associated with conventional weapons was essential to the Conference because of the consequences of the use of these weapons on the ground and the implications for regional and international security and stability of the accumulation of such weapons.  France concluded that disarmament and arms control were a whole that must be tackled in all of its dimensions and aspects with a holistic approach.

Belarus said that the priority issues for the Conference were the first four agenda items and that stepping up the work of the Conference in other areas would only be possible after resolving the four main agenda items.  It was advisable to preserve the current language of agenda item five on new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons: radiological weapons.  Belarus had been the sponsor of the General Assembly resolution regarding new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons.  On the basis of General Assembly resolution 66/21 of 2 December 2011, Belarus supported proposals in the Conference on developing a universal treaty on new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons as the development and adoption of such a treaty would be in the interest of the entire international community and it could create a robust and legal foundation in the area of preventing the development and production of new types of weapons of mass destruction.  Belarus supported the preventive approach and believed that the international community should take all possible measures related to the development and elaboration of such an international legal instrument before the use of weapons of mass destruction became a fact. 

At the same time, Belarus believed that a detailed discussion of the issue would only be possible with the step by step resolution of the four core agenda items of the Conference. Belarus added that existing international law already contained important norms that had direct relevance on new types of weapons of mass destruction. 

India expressed its appreciation to the President for his efforts and ongoing consultations regarding a programme of work.  Noting that agenda item five on “new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons: radiological weapons” had a broad scope India said that it would focus on radiological weapons and the threat of terrorists acquiring them.  Recalling that this issue had been on the agenda of the Conference since 1979, India said that the international community had taken a number of measures to protect nuclear and radiological weapons to which India had contributed to international efforts related to nuclear security.  As a victim of terrorism, India was in fact cognizant of the catastrophic dangers that transfers of weapons of mass destruction to terrorists and non-State actors could entail.  The Conference on Disarmament must continue consideration of this agenda item with a view to achieving one or more international instruments that would address the threat posed by new types of weapons of mass destruction, including radiological weapons. 

On agenda item six “comprehensive programme of disarmament”, India noted that SSOD1 had stressed the need to prepare through agreed procedures a comprehensive programme of disarmament, which should lead to general and complete disarmament under effective international control as the ultimate goal.  The intent of this agenda item was to elaborate a programme which would place specific measures relating to disarmament into a carefully considered plan, setting out objectives, priorities and timeframes with a view to disarmament being achieved on a progressive basis.  Such a comprehensive programme would consider not only nuclear disarmament, which remained the highest priority of the international community, but also other weapons and weapon systems which were crucial for maintaining international peace and security.  India concluded that it was of utmost of importance that the principles of a comprehensive programme of disarmament should be universally applicable and relevant, and in this regard, the Conference on Disarmament would play an important role as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum with the mandate to negotiate legally binding instruments of global applicability. 

Portugal, taking up the request by the Informal Group of Observer States, said that keeping in mind the dire situation of the Conference which had been persisting for 14 years, in Portugal’s view, the way ahead and the way to move forward was to be more open, more transparent, and maybe even more inclusive.  Considering today’s weather, the Conference needed to open its windows and let the light come in, not the other way around.  Portugal regretted that the request of the Informal Group of Observer States to take part in the informal presidential consultations and meetings of the President with the regional groups and China could not be met. 

The President of the Conference said that with regard to the request of the Informal Group of Observer States, he believed that the request would continue to be reviewed by the P6 and regional coordinators.
 
South Africa said it was important for South Africa to briefly respond to some of the comments made today in relation to the link between nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament that in the view of South Africa contradicted the agreements reached in the context of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  From the perspective of South Africa, efforts to introduce any conditionalities in relation to nuclear disarmament through making progress on nuclear disarmament conditional upon progress on other disarmament efforts was at the very least inconsistent with the reaffirmation by the 2000 NPT Review Conference that the ultimate objective of the efforts of States in the disarmament process was general and complete disarmament, under effective international control.  Nuclear disarmament was therefore a step towards that goal and should not be made conditional on progress made elsewhere.


For use of the information media; not an official record

DC13/018E