ETHIOPIA ASSUMES PRESIDENCY OF THE CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT
20 March 2012
The Conference on Disarmament this morning held a plenary meeting in which the new President of the Conference, Ambassador Minelik Alemu Getahun of Ethiopia, condemned the terrorist attacks on children, a teacher, and soldiers in Toulouse, France, passing on his heartfelt condolences, and paid tribute to the life of Pope Shenouda, leader of the Coptic Church, who recently passed away in Egypt.
In his initial address to the Conference as President, Ambassador Getahun said Ethiopia’s commitment to peace and security and the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means had been demonstrated by its contributions to United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world, with particular focus on the prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts in Africa. The President planned consultations in order to find the best avenues to achieve adoption of a balanced and comprehensive programme of work. He proposed that in the meantime the Conference held substantive discussions on core issues, and also considered issues including making Conference membership more representative, the possibility of the Conference addressing issues other than the four core ones, appointment of three Special Coordinators and on the possibility of merging the Conference on Disarmament and the United Nations Disarmament Commission.
During the discussion Conference members expressed heartfelt condolences to France for the horrific massacres in which children, a teacher and soldiers were murdered in the Toulouse region, and also passed on their condolences for the recent death of Pope Shenouda, leader of the Coptic Church, in Egypt, which some said was a blow to Christians the world over. Several States expressed their disappointment that the Conference had been unable to find consensus on the draft programme of work, and one said that for now working in the First Committee may be preferable to issuing more statements during plenary discussions. Germany expressed serious regret that one State believed it could single-handedly keep the world’s multilateral forum on disarmament at a standstill, and hold it hostage, and said it failed to be convinced by that State’s argument that security interests would be jeopardized by the opening of negotiations. Pakistan replied that it was proud to take the position it had, and was doing nothing less than any other country in protecting its national security interests.
Addressing the Conference today were Morocco, Kenya, Germany, Cuba, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Chile, Egypt, United States, France, United Kingdom and Pakistan.
The Conference on Disarmament will next meet in public on Tuesday, 27 March at 10 a.m.
Address by the President of the Conference on Disarmament
MINELIK ALEMU GETAHUN, Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the United Nations Office at Geneva and President of the Conference on Disarmament, opened his address with condemnation of the terrorist attacks on children, a teacher, and soldiers in Toulouse, France, passing on his heartfelt condolences. He also paid tribute to the life of Pope Shenouda, leader of the Coptic Church, who recently passed away in Egypt.
Ethiopia’s commitment to peace and security and the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means had been demonstrated by its contributions to United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world, with particular focus on the prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts in Africa. As a victim of poisonous gas weapons and with a history of struggle against foreign aggression, Ethiopia had a special attachment to disarmament, international law and collective security efforts. Since 1935, when Ethiopia ratified its first disarmament treaty, it had actively participated in disarmament, since the Conference on Disarmament’s earlier incarnation as the 18-Nation Committee on Disarmament. As a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, Ethiopia supported the General Assembly resolutions on the total elimination of nuclear weapons based on an agreed timeframe to reach the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world. The establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones in many parts of the world were welcome steps, and the African nuclear-weapon-free zone had strengthened the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. The Conference must maintain the interest generated by the efforts of its last President, Ambassador Badr of Egypt, and the President said he intended to consult with other presidents of the current session, regional coordinators and members of the Conference on the best avenues to achieve adoption of a balanced and comprehensive programme of work as called by General Assembly Resolution 66/59. He proposed that in the meantime the Conference held substantive discussions on core issues. The Conference should also consider issues such as the role of the six Presidencies, making Conference membership more representative, the possibility of the Conference addressing issues other than the four core ones, the appointment of three Special Coordinators on the agenda, rules of procedure and membership, and on the possibility of merging the Conference on Disarmament and the United Nations Disarmament Commission.
Morocco said it was aware of the vital need for the Conference to resume its work swiftly, and was convinced that there were no intractable problems. Constructive ambiguities in the draft programme of work CD/1933rev1 did not prevent any delegations from entering into dialogue about the core issues. Morocco appealed to the President to continue consultations on CD/1933rev1. Morocco spoke about the February meeting held in Marrakesh in partnership with the United States and Russia on Global Initiatives to Counter Nuclear Terrorism.
A number of States expressed their disappointment that the Conference had been unable to find consensus on the draft programme of work, despite numerous statements of commitment to pursuing disarmament from members. Kenya said the continued lack of consensus was of great concern, and it supported the convening of the Fourth Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly to focus on the disarmament machinery. Kenya said that the huge and mounting expense, paid for by tax payers, for the Conference to sit in deadlock day by day, for fifteen years, was unacceptable. Algeria felt that CD/1864 was still a reference point since it was the last time the Conference reached agreement, in 2009, and thought it was a good basis to achieve a balanced programme of work. Algeria said that while the President’s proposed approach was not as ambitious as they would have liked, the Conference must try to explore all other ways and means to begin substantive work. Cuba assured the President of its ongoing support and wished him every success during his presidency, as did Zimbabwe.
Chile said the challenge to approve a programme of work must be a collective effort rather than the sole responsibility of the President, as that was the very essence of multilateral action. The Conference was embarking on a path that could end with decisions being taken by the General Assembly, and it should be politically ready for that. Every effort must be made to save the Conference. United States said that Ambassador Getahun took over the Presidency of the Conference at a difficult juncture, and expressed the Secretary of State’s disappointment that Pakistan did not join the heroic efforts of Egypt’s Ambassador Badr, that represented a major compromise for all States. United Kingdom said it was a difficult time for President Getahun to take over, but not a time for surrender or to be defeatist. The United Kingdom had reservations about CD/1933rev1, but it could have joined consensus for three reasons: it valued multilateralism, it wanted to do disarmament, and it valued compromise. The United Kingdom did not think that just holding plenary discussions, as had been done in the past, would help advance the work of the Conference, adding that working in the First Committee may be preferable.
Egypt thanked all members for their condolences on the demise of Pope Shenouda, who was a great leader and a great Egyptian, and who would be sorely missed. Egypt gave condolences to France on the tragic murders that had taken place in Toulouse. He thanked every member for their kind words about his presidency, and assured the new President of his unwavering support. France warmly thanked all those who expressed condolences and solidarity following the appalling and barbaric crimes to which it had been victim. France also gave its condolences to Egypt on the death of Pope Shenouda. France very much regretted that document CD/1933rev1 had not been adopted, and assured the President of France’s continued support.
Germany said it profoundly regretted that the efforts of Ambassador Badr came to nothing because of the actions of one State, the same State that blocked efforts to agree on a programme of work in 2009. The document was a compromise, for instance Germany would have preferred to see the term ‘negotiate’ with regard to fissile materials, but many members had put their preferences aside in order to safeguard the future of the Conference. It was a serious regret that one State believed it could single-handedly keep the world’s multilateral forum on disarmament at a standstill. If that State felt that its security concerns had not been taken into account during the drafting of a treaty, it had the choice to not join such a treaty. Therefore the arguments heard about grave security concerns preventing the beginning of a process to negotiate fissile materials were not convincing. There was an attempt to hold the Conference on Disarmament hostage. Germany wished more delegations had actively indicated their expectation that nobody objected to the draft programme of work CD/1933rev1 rather than wait in silence to see what might happen. The Programme of Work must remain the issue at hand, for the simple reason that it was the fundamental task that would allow substantive work to begin.
Pakistan said it regretted it had not been able to join consensus on the ably-crafted document of Ambassador Badr, which did not provide the security for Pakistan to be able to protect its national interests. Pakistan wished to reply to the comments of Germany, and said it had no difficulty in taking responsibility for its actions. Pakistan was proud to take the position it had, and was doing nothing less than any other country in protecting its national security interests. Germany enjoyed the privilege of a nuclear deterrent as provided by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and could therefore speak brave words about nuclear disarmament, words reminiscent of a person being generous with another’s money. Consensus had eluded the Conference on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty for the last 15 years, but Pakistan’s position had been such only since 2009, not for the last 15 years. Germany had made no statement during that period in which it blamed the country responsible for blocking progress on Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty since 1998. Pakistan did not create the security considerations which led it to block consensus: it was compelled to respond to the objective reality confronting it, especially since 2009. Pakistan had not blocked consensus on the other three core issues and was ready to negotiate on them. Those negotiations had not taken place because at least three other countries were blocking them. Why did nobody recognize them? The Conference had been unable to negotiate on nuclear disarmament for the past 30 years, because some countries thought that was not in their interests. If Germany’s point that a country’s security concerns could be addressed during negotiations was true, why had negotiations not taken place on the other three core issues? It was not possible to have double standards, and ask Pakistan to do something that Germany or its friends were not prepared to do. Pakistan may be an underdeveloped country but its minds were not underdeveloped. It could think logically and rationally, and it could think for itself.
Germany thanked Pakistan for its immediate response, and said that a true dialogue rather than reading out prepared statements, was a more helpful exchange. Germany clarified that it was not talking about adoption of a draft treaty, but about the opening of negotiations. Germany said it failed to understand why Pakistan’s security interests would be jeopardized by the opening of such a process, and continued to not be convinced by its arguments. Germany assumed that previous situations where 64 members of the Conference could have lived with a draft programme of work, but only one continued to object would have been identified, but such situations were unusual.
For use of the information media; not an official record