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CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT HOLDS LAST MEETING UNDER THE RUSSIAN PRESIDENCY

17 March 2017

The Conference on Disarmament this morning held a public plenary meeting, which was the last meeting under the Presidency of the Russian Federation.

Alexey Borodavkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Office at Geneva and the President of the Conference, said that, as the President of the Conference, Russia had tried to break away from the unsuccessful 21-year long practice by adding to the agenda a new, current theme, which would be of interest to all members – the threat of biological and chemical terrorism.  The proposed draft programme of work indeed represented a good basis for a compromise, but regrettably it did not enjoy consensual support.

Nigeria, on behalf of the Group of 21, stated that nuclear disarmament remained the highest priority, as the continued existence of such weapons posed a threat to all.   A total elimination of nuclear weapons was the only absolute guarantee against their use or threat of their use

Guatemala, on behalf of the Informal Group of Observer States, said that an expansion of the membership of the Conference would contribute to the inclusiveness of the body, as would the recognition of the beneficial contribution of civil society in its work.  It was also important to review and update the working methods of the Conference.

Iran said that a continued trend of open consultations could eventually lead to a balanced and comprehensive programme of work.

Kenya said that it was planning to engage in the upcoming negotiations on nuclear disarmament in New York because it was convinced that the threat of nuclear weapons was too dire to be left to only one body.

Myanmar, as the Chair of the Working Group on the Way Ahead, said that Myanmar would continue consultations with all delegations in the Conference.    


The next public plenary meeting of the Conference will take place on Tuesday, 21 March 2017 at 10 a.m., under the Presidency of Senegal. 


Statements

ALEXEY BORODAVKIN, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Office at Geneva and the President of the Conference, informed that, following informal consultations, he did not intend to table the draft decision contained in document CD/WP.600 for adoption, as there did not seem to be a consensus on the draft programme of work proposed by the Russian delegation.

Nigeria, on behalf of the Group of 21, appreciated the President’s efforts to help the Conference resume its substantive work.  The Group of 21 stressed once again that the Conference was a single multilateral negotiating forum devoted to disarmament, whose role and mandate ought to be preserved.  Its credibility needed to be saved through the resumption of substantive work.  In 2016, a number of working papers had been submitted.  Nuclear disarmament continued to be the highest priority of the international community, as the continuous existence of nuclear weapons represented an existential threat to humanity.  The highest priority should thus be negotiations on the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, which would include a global system of verification.  A comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons was needed, stressed Nigeria.  The proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace was most welcome.  The celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty of Tlatelolco was also welcomed.  The High Level Meeting of the General Assembly on nuclear disarmament was yet more proof that nuclear disarmament remained the most important priority for the world community.  The Group of 21 welcomed the decision to convene a United Nations conference on nuclear disarmament no later than 2018.  The total elimination of nuclear weapons was the only absolute guarantee against their use or threat of their use, reiterated the Group of 21.  Negotiations on a legally binding international convention in that regard ought to start.   It was critical that Israel accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Expansion of the membership of the Conference should be considered, while interactions between the Conference and civil society needed to continue and strengthen.

Guatemala, on behalf of the Informal Group of Observer States to the Conference, voiced disappointment that, once again, the Conference had not been able to adopt a comprehensive programme of work.   The Conference should fulfill its crucial role to negotiate multilateral disarmament treaties according to its mandate.  What could and should be done was to increase the Conference’s transparency and its accessibility.  The expansion of the membership of the Conference would contribute to the inclusiveness of the body, as would the recognition of the beneficial contribution of civil society in its work.  It was also important to review and update the working methods of the Conference.  The Informal Group of Observer States was looking forward to the work of the working group on the way ahead.  The Informal Group was strongly committed to advance global disarmament and non-proliferation goals through a comprehensive, inclusive and effective engagement within the Conference and its subsidiary organs.

Iran appreciated the President’s efforts to adopt a comprehensive programme of work, which was a sign of good intentions.  Iran noted that putting forward a proposal encompassing many views had not been an easy task.  A continued trend of open consultations could eventually lead to a balanced and comprehensive programme of work.

Kenya maintained its long-standing commitment to nuclear disarmament, and believed in cooperation and dialogue.  Its commitment to multilateralism was underpinned by the belief that progress could not be achieved by insisting on one viewpoint.  It was sad that the Conference could not make progress on any of its four responsibilities.  Kenya was planning to engage in the upcoming negotiations on nuclear disarmament in New York because it was convinced that the threat of nuclear weapons was too dire to be left to only one body.  Everyone had an inherent interest in the success of the disarmament negotiations.  The membership of the Conference should be opened up to all Member States.  Kenya acknowledged the importance of a comprehensive and balanced programme of work.  A full nuclear disarmament remained a priority for Kenya, but new threats to security should also be considered by the Conference in a timely manner.  Kenya was looking forward to seeing the Conference move ahead.     

ALEXEY BORODAVKIN, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Office at Geneva and President of the Conference, recapitulating the four-week Russian Presidency, said that the high-level segment with more than 20 dignitaries had been successfully held in February.  The Segment had given a positive impetus for searching solutions to a number of issues, with the accent on revitalizing the work of the Conference.  On the occasion of the hundred-and-tenth anniversary of the Second Hague Peace Conference, the Conference on Disarmament had held a special thematic meeting, which had been addressed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey Lavrov.  Nonetheless, the main focus of the Russian Presidency had been reaching an agreement on the programme of work.  Different formats had been tried, including plenary meetings, meetings of the six Presidents of the Conference for 2017, regional consultations and informal talks. 

As the President of the Conference, Russia had tried to break away from the unsuccessful 21-year long practice by adding to the agenda a new, current theme, which would be of interest to all members – the threat of biological and chemical terrorism.  In that context, already in 2016, Russia had proposed that the Conference work on an international convention on fighting acts of chemical terrorism, to which biological aspects had been subsequently added.  This year, some delegations had expressed their doubts and reservations, including on the possible risk of duplicating the existing Conventions on Biological and Chemical Weapons and other international instruments.  Exactly for that reason, the Russian Federation had proposed that the new convention be elaborated from scratch within the framework of the Conference.  In the process, the Russian delegation had provided exhaustive oral and written replies to all posed questions, so that everybody had had a chance to hear and see the arguments; however, not everybody wanted to listen.  Mr. Borodavkin concluded by saying that the proposed draft programme of work had indeed represented a good basis for a compromise, and it remained on the table, should the subsequent Presidents wish to use it.

Myanmar said that the Russian Presidency’s efforts were a useful litmus test on the chances for the Conference to move forward.  The Ambassador of Myanmar, as the Chair of the working group on the way ahead, had met with 26 out of 65 delegations in the Conference, and would continue with his meetings.  He would spare no effort to fulfill the mandate entrusted to him. 



For use of the information media; not an official record

DC17/014E