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CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT CONTINUES HIGH LEVEL SEGMENT; HEARS FROM LEBANON, MOROCCO, QATAR AND TURKEY

2 March 2015

The Conference on Disarmament continued the high-level segment of its public plenary this afternoon. Its President, Ambassador Vaanchig Purevdori of Mongolia, welcomed dignitaries from Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar and Turkey, who addressed the Conference.

Gebran Bassil, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of Lebanon, said it was unacceptable that the Conference remained closed to the majority of States in the world when it considered one of the most highly relevant issues.  He spoke about Lebanese efforts to achieve a complete prohibition of cluster munitions, and said disarmament played a crucial role in lessening the crisis of terrorism, which was thriving the world over, most notably in the Middle East where it was ravaging Iraq and Lebanon.

Mbarka Bouaida, Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco, said the fact that terrorist bodies held vast territories in North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and had huge resources of arms at their disposal was a clear indication of the scope of their threat to international peace and security.  There could be no security without arms control, without disarmament.  Ms. Bouaida spoke about the risk of  nuclear weapons and weapon of mass destruction falling into the hands of non-State actors, and efforts to combat trafficking of small arms and light weapons, especially in Libya. 

Mohammed Bin Abdurahman Bin Jassim Al-Thani, Minister’s Assistant for International Cooperation Affairs, reiterated Qatar’s wish to become a member of the Conference and said it was time that it reviewed its membership to be more democratic.  Qatar emphasized the importance of civil society in raising awareness about the risks of nuclear weapons and in offering new ideas to help break the Conference’s deadlock.  Qatar believed that the ‘inalienable right’ of all States to the peaceful use of nuclear energy should be respected, particularly for developing countries seeking to progress in economic growth. 

Naci Koru, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, said the Conference had been unable to fulfil its mandate for too long and an essential step forward was the commencement of negotiations on a treaty to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.  Turkey supported the greatest possible enjoyment of the benefits of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes by all States which were in full compliance with their international obligations, and acknowledged with satisfaction the extension of a period of implementation of the Joint Action Plan between the P5+1 and Iran. 

Ministers of Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar and Turkey made statements in this afternoon’s plenary.


The Conference on Disarmament will next meet in public at 10.15 a.m. on Tuesday 3 March when it will hear statements from dignitaries of Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Germany, Austria, Spain, United Kingdom, Cuba and Japan. 


High Level Segment

GEBRAN BASSIL, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of Lebanon, recalled the Conference’s successes including the Convention on Biological Weapons, Convention on Chemical Weapons and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.  The Conference dealt with issues that were vital to humanity so it was unfortunate that it was unable to find consensus today.  The Conference’s gridlock called into question its credibility said Mr. Bassil, appealing to all individuals in the Conference to fully shoulder their responsibilities and adopt a programme of work, reform its procedures, bolster a climate of confidence and re-launch its operations.  Lebanon in particular wished to see an expansion of the membership of the Conference to make it as representative as possible of the interests of all.  It was unacceptable that the Conference remained closed to the majority of States in the world when it considered one of the most highly relevant issues. 

Mr. Bassil said that in July 2006 Israel deliberately targeted Lebanese civilians using cluster munitions; inhumane weapons as described and documented in many international fora.  Instead of using such weapons itself Lebanon instead worked with partners to strengthen the rules of international humanitarian law and press ahead with a complete prohibition of cluster munitions.  Lebanon was a country imbued in peace and was very proud to have acceded to all instruments regarding weapons of mass destruction and almost completed all procedures to accede to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.  Mr. Bassil announced that Lebanon had acceded to the Austrian Pledge, stating that the use of nuclear weapons was counter to humanitarian considerations.  Lebanon regretted that there was a risk the Non-Proliferation Treaty may lose credibility because some States did not comply with their obligations under it.  Mr. Bassil expressed concern regarding the refusal of some States to honour negative security assurances. 

Israel was the only Middle East State Party that refused to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and refused to submit its nuclear installations to International Atomic Energy Agency guarantees.  Given that Israel possessed lethal weapons its refusal increased tensions in the region, said Ms. Bassil, adding that unfortunately Israel had always been able to benefit from the absence of international pressure on it, and managed to achieve the postponement of the 2012 Helsinki Conference.  The world today was being shaken by extremely serious crises which unfortunately fed into each other and it may be that non-traditional solutions were required.  The arms race and huge budgets for nuclear arsenals simply stoked the fire of those crises, in addition to other factors such as illicit arms trafficking, electronic warfare and new lethal automated weapons systems.  The greatest matter of concern, however, was terrorism, which was unfortunately thriving the world over, most notably in the Middle East where it was ravaging Iraq and Lebanon.  Disarmament played a crucial role in lessening all those crises, concluded Mr. Bassil. 

MBARKA BOUAIDA, Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco, said terrorism had taken on unprecedented proportions.  The fact that terrorist bodies held vast territories in North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and had huge resources of arms at their disposal was a clear indication of the scope of their threat to international peace and security.   There could be no security without arms control, without disarmament.  It was therefore urgent that the Conference, a pillar of the United Nations system, sought to build on previous successes.  Member States had to be imaginative, dynamic and innovative to overcome its deadlock. 

Morocco had acceded to all international treaties dealing with weapon of mass destruction.  The possession of nuclear weapons and any weapon of mass destruction did not constitute any security assurance.  On the contrary the risk was that those weapons fell into the hands of non-State actors and moved beyond the realm of all control.  The current absence of a legal framework gave rise to proliferation, hence risking all security.  The answer was to fully respect the Non-Proliferation Treaty and convene the long-delayed Helsinki Conference on setting up a nuclear-weapons-free-zone in the Middle East.  That Conference would be a historic opportunity to rid the region of weapons of mass destruction and reinforce peace and security in the region. 

The determination of some terrorism groups to obtain weapons of mass destruction was a real threat, given the fact that some States had unsupervised and uncatalogued stocks which could be used to make such weapons.  Since 2011 Morocco has hosted a Centre of Excellence in cooperation with the United Nations and European Union to build up the capacity of countries in the region in mitigating the risks posed by nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical weapons.  Ms. Bouaida expressed serious concern about the trafficking of small arms, light weapons and drugs in regional countries, in particular in Libya where uncontrollable armed groups had a stranglehold on its arsenal.  The porous borders and weak or absent border controls only contributed to the proliferation of trafficking.  Therefore Morocco supported the United Nations Action Plan on Small Arms And Light Weapons to combat and eliminate elicit trading, appreciated Security Council Resolution 2017 and believed in the fair and transparent implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty.

MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN BIN JASSIM AL-THANI, Minister’s Assistant for International Cooperation Affairs, said Qatar had a firm national policy on disarmament and had joined and ratified many major international disarmament conventions including the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Biological Weapons Convention, Conventional Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.  Qatar’s National Committee for the Prohibition of Weapons worked to raising public awareness and education on disarmament issues including the humanitarian, economic and environmental impact of weapons.  Qatar believed that the ‘inalienable right’ of all States to the peaceful use of nuclear energy should be respected, particularly for developing countries seeking to progress in economic growth, provided they were in full cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

The lack of security and political stability in the Middle East was primarily due to Israel’s refusal to join efforts to create a Middle East nuclear-weapons-free-zone and its refusal to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, along with its refusal to place all its nuclear installations under the comprehensive safeguards regime, advancing unacceptable excuses as a precondition for its participation in those efforts, said Mr. Al-Thani.  The failure of international efforts to convene the 2012 Helsinki Conference was to the detriment of the credibility of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  The time had come for States to meet their responsibilities and obligations towards the implementation of the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference resolutions. 

Qatar reiterated its wish to become a member of the Conference and said it was time that it reviewed its membership to be more representative and democratic.  Qatar called upon Conference Members to overcome their differences and reach a balanced and comprehensive programme of work.  Qatar emphasized the importance of civil society in raising awareness and education about the serious risks of nuclear weapons, in mobilizing international efforts to achieve a nuclear weapon free world and in offering new ideas to help break the Conference’s deadlock and welcomed the Informal Civil Society Forum which would be held in Geneva on 19 March 2015. 

NACI KORU, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, recalled the Conference’s considerable heritage and successful negotiation of treaties that had contributed to a safer and more peaceful world.  However the stark truth was that the Conference had been unable to fulfil its mandate for too long and today Mr. Koru said he joined a line of Ministers who had expressed their disappointment over the stalemate that prevented the Conference from playing its role.  An essential step forward was the commencement of negotiations on a treaty to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, which would pave the way for parallel advances in other core agenda items.  As a country seeking to integrate nuclear power into its energy supply mix Turkey supported the greatest possible enjoyment of the benefits of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes by all States which were in full compliance with their international obligations.

The establishment of nuclear-weapon-free-zones on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at among States of the regions concerned was an important non-proliferation and disarmament measure.  A pending critical commitment of the 2010 Non-Proliferation Action Plan was the convening of an International Conference in 2012 on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.  Mr. Koru said that frankly speaking the postponement of the Conference meant that a crucial confidence building measure and a significant stimulus to the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Process had been missed.  On a positive note, Turkey acknowledged with satisfaction the extension of a period of implementation of the Joint Action Plan between the P5+1 and Iran.  Turkey hoped that the ongoing negotiations would lead to a final and comprehensive resolution of Iran’s nuclear issue.   


For use of the information media; not an official record

DC15/014E