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PRESIDENT OF CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT PRESENTS DRAFT PROGRAMME OF WORK

Conference Hears Statements on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty
31 January 2019

The Conference on Disarmament this afternoon discussed a draft programme of work presented by its President, Ambassador Yurii Klymenko of Ukraine, and also heard statements about the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

The President of the Conference introduced the draft programme of work which sought to seize the opportunity presented by the United Nations Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament and contained substantive references to the work of the five subsidiary bodies in 2018.  It proposed negotiating mandates for a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and for an agreement on preventing an arms race in outer space, as well as the setting up of two working groups for the 2019 session, on a globalized governance mechanism on existing and potential biosecurity threats, and on conceptual approaches in the area of emerging weapons technologies.  Ukraine was aware that at this stage the draft could not fully accommodate the priorities of all Member States, but as the first President of the 2019 session, Ukraine deemed that it was its duty to be ambitious and raise the bar.

In the discussion that ensued, Belarus said that the outcomes of the Way Ahead Working Group in 2017 and the five subsidiary bodies in 2018 gave some hope, and Ecuador stressed that non-proliferation and disarmament must be dealt with in a joint and comprehensive fashion.  Colombia and Japan remarked on the different levels of maturity among the topics contained in the draft programme of work, and India suggested that nuclear disarmament be addressed as a priority and that negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty should aim to produce a non-discriminatory global treaty.  Egypt and Indonesia stressed that the draft should propose the start of negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention with the aim of the complete and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons. 

Pakistan said that negotiating mandates on nuclear disarmament, the prevention of an arms race in outer space, and negative security assurances should be further strengthened, and China agreed that the mandate concerning the prevention of an arms race in outer space should be enhanced to include the negotiation of a legally binding instrument.  The Republic of Korea said that the priority was to start negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, the most mature topic in the Conference, and the Netherlands proposed that this negotiating mandate be strengthened by including the progress made in 2018 in subsidiary body two.  Russia was concerned about the scope of the programme of work which went beyond the mandate of the Conference and did not reflect the positions of its Member States. 

At the beginning of the meeting, delegations delivered statements in which they stressed that over 30 years, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was a cornerstone of the Euro-Atlantic security, and that its erosion would have devastating consequences for Europe and beyond.  A number of speakers said Russia should urgently address serious concerns about its compliance with this treaty in a sustained and verifiable manner.

Taking the floor were the Netherlands, Germany, Slovakia, Spain, Belgium, Turkey, Romania and Ukraine.

Russia, in response to the “invented accusations” concerning its non-compliance, urged delegations to base their statements on figures and facts and to also raise the question concerning the forthcoming decision by the United States on whether to leave the treaty.

The Conference approved requests by Bolivia and Kuwait to participate as observers in the 2019 session of the Conference.


The Conference will hold its next public plenary at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 5 February.


Statements on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty
 
Netherlands said that it had independently confirmed that Russia had developed and launched missiles with a range of over 500 kilometres.  This was a very unfortunate development that was in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty which had made the Euro-Atlantic region considerably safer.  The concerns about Russia’s non-compliance were not new, and the Netherlands was very disappointed that the Russia authorities had not yet addressed those concerns substantially.  An arms control treaty could only provide security if both sides complied with it, which was no longer the case.

Germany reiterated that for over 30 years, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty had been a cornerstone of European and German national security, and that was why Germany was committed to upholding this Treaty.  Germany had established that Russia’s 9M729 missile systems were not in conformity with the Treaty and shared this position with other North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies.  Russia must destroy this system in a fully verifiable manner in accordance with the Treaty provisions.

Slovakia stressed that the preservation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was of crucial importance to Slovakia and its erosion would have devastating consequences for Europe and beyond.  A treaty in which only one party respected its obligations could not be sustainable, therefore, Slovakia called upon Russia to address concerns voiced about its compliance in a sustained and verifiable manner.

Spain said that the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was one of the pillars of Euro-Atlantic peace and a guarantor of security in the region.  Spain expressed serious doubts about Russia’s compliance and recalled that the European Union had reiterated on several occasions the call to preserve the Treaty in a verifiable manner.  Russia should urgently address serious concerns about its compliance, Spain said, and raised concern about the deterioration of verification mechanisms in the Euro-Atlantic space.

Belgium agreed with other delegations that the Conference should not focus too much on agreeing on a programme of work with a negotiating mandate, but should build on the important work that the five subsidiary bodies had achieved in 2018.  Belgium was deeply concerned about the deteriorating state of Euro-Atlantic security which was not a given, but strongly depended on compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.  It was up to Russia to preserve this treaty, concluded Belgium.

Turkey hoped that the Conference on Disarmament could agree on a programme of work as soon as possible and stressed the importance of maintaining the existing arms control and disarmament treaties.  Turkey was concerned about the developments in relation to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and its rippling effects on global security.

Russia urged other delegations to base their statements on figures and facts and said, in response to the “invented accusations” against Russia concerning non-compliance, that the changes to the 9M729 missile included an increase in weight, which had shortened the missile’s range.  Russia stressed that it was not possible to establish the range based on the name of the 9M729 rocket manufacturer.  What could shed more light on this rocket was data from objective verification, Russia said, and stressed that it was the United States that was departing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, as the range of its rockets stationed in Poland and Romania was 2,500 kilometres.  In February 2019, the United States would be taking a decision on whether to leave the Treaty, and this was the question that other delegations should be raising.

Romania joined other delegations in expressing deep concern about Russia’s breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and underlined the importance of preserving this treaty that remained key to European and international security and stability.  Romania encouraged Russia to address the serious concerns regarding its compliance with the treaty.  Romania’s position on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization anti-missile shield had not changed and it had repeatedly stated that the concept of the anti-missile shield had a purely defensive character. 

Russia said that the United States had placed certain elements in Romania that could be used for anti-missile purposes but also for the launch of Tomahawks with a range of 2,500 kilometres.

YURII KLYMENKO, President of the Conference and Permanent Representative of Ukraine, speaking in his national capacity, thanked the United States for its support in this continued time of aggression.  Ukraine shared the deep concerns expressed by the United States concerning the realization of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, to which Ukraine was a party and with which obligations it complied.

Discussion on the Draft Programme of Work

YURII KLYMENKO, President of the Conference and Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations Office at Geneva, introduced the draft programme of work that had been shared with Member States on 29 January.  The President invited delegations to express their views and suggestions, either in public plenary or in an informal setting, and said that he would do his utmost to incorporate those views into the document. 

In the draft programme of work, Ukraine had decided to seize the opportunity presented by the United Nations Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament, and suggested taking the document into account during the work.  The key elements of the draft programme of work contained reference to the work of the five subsidiary bodies in 2018.  Further, the draft programme of work contained a negotiating mandate for a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, which was the next logical step in nuclear disarmament.  The draft also proposed to negotiate an agreement on preventing an arms race in outer space, which should not become an arena for competitive regional policies, and the setting up of two working groups for the 2019 session: one to discuss a globalized governance mechanism on existing and potential biosecurity threats, and another to elaborate conceptual approaches in the area of emerging weapons technologies in order to ensure, inter alia, critical infrastructure protection. 

This draft programme of work, the President said, fully reflected Ukraine’s priorities and Ukraine was conscious that it could not fully accommodate at this stage the priorities of all Member States of the Conference.  As the first President of the Conference on Disarmament in 2019, Ukraine deemed that it was its duty to be ambitious and raise the bar.

Belarus said that the outcomes of the Way Ahead Working Group in 2017 and the five subsidiary bodies in 2018 gave some hope and stressed that the Conference could contribute to the crafting of a convention on chemical and biological weapons and non-State actors, and to the preservation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.  This treaty could not be saved through criticism but through the verification mechanism of the treaty itself and dialogue based on mutual respect.  Belarus was studying the draft programme of work and needed additional time to prepare its comments.

Ecuador welcomed the very ambitious draft programme of work presented by Ukraine and welcomed the reference to the work of the five subsidiary bodies in 2018.  Non-proliferation and disarmament must be dealt with in a joint and comprehensive fashion, and a discussion on fissile material must also include the destruction of stockpiles.  Ecuador supported the negotiation of legally binding instruments on transparency.

Colombia hoped the Conference would be able to reach an agreement to enable it to fulfil its mandate to negotiate disarmament treaties and took positive note of the efforts of the President to build on achievements of the 2018 session.  There were different levels of maturity among the topics contained in the draft programme of work, and Colombia hoped that all Member States would show flexibility in order to achieve consensus and ensure peace and security in the world.

India said that the obligation of presenting a programme of work remained paramount and India commended Ukraine for discharging this responsibility.  India remained committed to the adoption of a programme of work in the Conference on Disarmament and would extend full cooperation to the collective endeavour.  India suggested, inter alia, that nuclear disarmament be addressed as a priority in the programme of work, and that negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty should aim to produce a non-discriminatory global treaty.

Japan highly appreciated the President’s effort to draft a programme of work and said that the Conference should continue to build on the achievements of the substantive discussions in 2018.  A negotiating mandate on the four core agenda items was very ambitious, but some caution was needed in examining its feasibility.  Among the core issues, there were differing degrees of maturity among the themes and Japan deemed that a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty was the readiest for negotiations.

Egypt considered that the utmost priority for the Conference on Disarmament at the beginning of the session was to adopt a balanced and comprehensive programme of work.  The four core agenda items were of the utmost priority for the Conference, and the primary objective should be on negotiating with a view of reaching an agreement, as recommended by the informal working group of 2015.  Egypt stressed that agenda item 1 on nuclear disarmament should aim towards a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention with the aim of the complete and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons.
 
Indonesia said that it was surprised that the draft programme of work did not contain the G21’s long-standing position to start negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention.  Fissile material was not the only issue that fell under agenda item 1, and in fact, this issue had in the past often been combined with nuclear disarmament.  Further, Indonesia believed that biological weapons issues should be addressed under the Biological Weapons Convention regime and its mechanisms. 

Pakistan appreciated the inclusion in the draft programme of work of negotiating mandates on nuclear disarmament, the prevention of an arms race in outer space, and negative security assurances, whose mandates needed to be further strengthened to lead to concrete, legally binding treaties.  It was disappointing that the draft did not include Pakistan’s concerns related to negotiations on fissile material.  Pakistan reiterated that it would not join negotiating a treaty if it only banned the future production of fissile material on the basis of the Shannon mandate, as such a restrictive approach was not conducive to regional security nor Pakistan’s national security interests.

Netherlands said that it was flexible on the format in which the Conference continued its work, and remarked that the suggested mandate for negotiations of a treaty banning the production of fissile material could be strengthened to include the progress made in 2018 in subsidiary body two.  The work concerning emerging technologies should take place in the framework of international law, while the issue of a globalized governance mechanism on existing and potential biosecurity threats was already taken up by the United Nations Security Council and the Biological Weapons Convention regime.

Republic of Korea offered preliminary comments on the very ambitious draft programme of work, noting that the priority was to start negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, which represented the most mature topic in the Conference.  The Republic of Korea urged the Conference to continue to build on the achievements of the subsidiary bodies in 2018 and said that it would remain flexible in future discussions.

Russia was concerned by the scope of the programme of work which went beyond the mandate of the Conference and did not reflect the positions of its Member States.  For the sake of balance, the draft should address the wording related to the subsidiary bodies and whether the word “progress” or “work” should be used.

China agreed that the mandate for the prevention of an arms race in outer space should be enhanced to include the negotiation of a legally binding instrument.  China remained ready to work with the Presidency in the coming days.


For use of the information media; not an official record

DC19/004E