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Approves Schedule of Activities to Discuss Core Issues in Public Plenary
22 May 2012

The Conference on Disarmament this morning approved a draft schedule of activities proposed by the President and held a thematic discussion on the cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament and prevention of nuclear war, including all related matters, with a general focus on nuclear disarmament.

Ambassador Minelik Alemu Getahun of Ethiopia, outgoing President of the Conference, made two technical improvements to the draft schedule of activities and then thanked the Conference for approving it.  He reiterated that the priority of the Presidents of the Conference would always remain working to reach agreement on a comprehensive programme of work.

Speaking in the thematic discussion were Switzerland, Russian Federation, Croatia on behalf of the Informal Group of Observer States, China, Denmark on behalf of the European Union, Turkey, Pakistan, India, United States, France, Japan, Iran, Germany and the Netherlands.

Switzerland said thousands of nuclear weapons continued to weigh heavily on mankind and many nuclear powers continued to upgrade their arsenals.  Despite the long-standing commitments to disarmament and the end of the cold war, the logic of detente continued, but this no longer tallied with the reality and it was a serious threat for everyone’s security.  The Conference had to refocus the approach on how to tackle the agenda, and they had to incorporate issues in addition to national security like human security, human rights and the environment.  In today’s globally interdependent world, they faced a multiplicity of challenges.  Switzerland was delighted that it had recently spoken on behalf of 16 countries at the first Preparatory Committee Meeting of the Ninth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in Vienna on the humanitarian dimension of nuclear disarmament.  This should become an integral part of the discussion on nuclear disarmament.  It was the responsibility of States parties to the Conference on Disarmament to redouble their efforts and overcome the gridlock in the Conference.  Experience had shown that it was difficult to start negotiations, but it was important to lay the foundation for the negotiations and that was why Switzerland supported the Egyptian proposal.

Russian Federation said these thematic discussions were useful for specifying and clarifying countries’ positions on key agenda issues and for working out a practical consensual programme of work.  Russia had repeatedly stated its commitment to the goal of ridding the world of nuclear weapons, and it regarded the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as one of the major instruments for achieving that goal.  Russia attached great importance to the Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference in the context of further steps in the field of nuclear disarmament.  It was becoming more and more obvious that the efforts of two, though leading, nuclear powers, were already not enough to move forward towards nuclear disarmament.  Russia was ready to continue to move forward towards verifiable and irreversible reductions of nuclear weapons in accordance with obligations under Article VI of the NPT, though this task could only be accomplished within a global step by step process.  This goal could be achieved only by using a comprehensive approach based on strengthened strategic stability and given the following conditions: continued nuclear disarmament of all States possessing nuclear capabilities; prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space; provision of guarantees of the absence of “upload potential” in States; inadmissibility of building-up conventional strategic offensive weapons; refusal of unilateral development of strategic missile defence systems; elimination of quantity and quality imbalances in conventional weapons; entry into force of the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty; and reliable viability of key multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation instruments.

Croatia, speaking on behalf of the Informal Group of Observer States, said the Group welcomed and supported the draft schedule of activities presented by the President and agreed upon by the P6.  Specifically of interest for the group were the two dates dedicated to the topic of the revitalization of the Conference.  The Informal Group of Observer States said the topic of the revitalization of the Conference was much wider than the expansion of its membership only.  Given the latest developments in and around the Conference, including the relevant General Assembly resolutions, the topic was timely and necessary. 

China said that as a nuclear weapon State, China had never evaded its due responsibility in nuclear disarmament and had always stood for the complete prohibition and total destruction of nuclear weapons.  Over the past half century, China had put forward a series of proposals on nuclear disarmament and had adopted practical measures in this regard.  China believed that under the new circumstances, the international community should promote the nuclear disarmament process by implementing four aspects: take credible steps to reduce the threat of nuclear war; steadily promote the process of nuclear disarmament; promote the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the early start of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty; and stick to 
the principles of maintaining global strategic balance and stability and undiminished security for all.

Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that for the European Union, the immediate commencement of substantive work through the adoption and implementation of a programme of work building on document CD/1864 was the highest priority.  These substantive discussions could be useful to achieve that objective, but the European Union stressed that this new approach definitely did not constitute a substitute to their main focus which was the adoption and implementation of a programme of work leading to negotiations which were the core mandate of the Conference.  The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty remained the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament system and its authority and integrity must be preserved and strengthened.   The European Union was committed to the pursuit of nuclear disarmament and it welcomed the increased transparency shown by some nuclear-weapon States, in particular the European Union Member States, on the nuclear weapons they possessed, and called on others to do likewise.  The European Union attached a clear priority to the immediate commencement of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.  It remained deeply concerned by the ongoing stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament, including the persistent failure to agree on a programme of work, despite recent attempts to achieve consensus. 

Turkey, speaking about the President’s proposed schedule of activities for the Conference, said Turkey had carefully studied the draft and looked forward to the discussions.  Turkey noted the addition of a new item on the schedule, the revitalization of the Conference, and looked forward to discussing it, although for Turkey, the revitalization of the Conference meant solely the beginning of negotiations and nothing else.  Turkey was convinced that present and future Presidents would continue to exert efforts to reach a consensual programme of work.  This was the priority for Turkey and all other discussions could not work as a substitute for negotiations. 

Pakistan said that nuclear disarmament was the most important item on the agenda of the Conference on Disarmament and its raison d’être.  The highest issue of priority in the work of the Conference for Pakistan, the Group of 21 and the Non-Aligned Movement was nuclear disarmament, yet calls for commencing negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention remained unheeded.  Obviously, there were States that did not desire commencement of negotiations on this issue.  One could not help wondering that nuclear disarmament was a deliberately crafted, ever illusive mirage, an oasis as distant today as it was several decades okay, offered only to make the inherent discrimination in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty more palatable for the non-nuclear weapon States.  In the twenty-first century, the arms race was about smarter arms and technologically advanced weapons, not about the numbers.  On the other hand, and in contrast, some nuclear weapon States continued to invest heavily in developing sophisticated technologies and modernizing their nuclear arsenals and systems of means of delivery.  Some major nuclear powers continued to pursue policies based on the concept of nuclear deterrence despite the end of the cold war two decades ago.  How could they possibly claim that the present global environment was conducive for making progress on nuclear disarmament when they had demonstrated an insatiable desire towards acquisition of ever more powerful and lethal nuclear weapons.  Equally complicit were their partners who benefitted from extended nuclear deterrence.  In terms of importance, no other issue could claim primacy over nuclear disarmament.  Pakistan, along with 118 members of the Non-Aligned Movement, believed that the Conference must act on its obligation to negotiate a convention on nuclear disarmament without further delay if it had to justify the purpose of its creation. 

India attached the highest priority to global, non-discriminatory verifiable nuclear disarmament.  India believed that nuclear disarmament could be achieved through a step by step process underwritten by a universal commitment and an agreed global and non-discriminatory multilateral framework.  Progressive steps for the de-legitimisation of nuclear weapons were essential to achieving the goal of their complete elimination.  Measures to reduce nuclear dangers arising from accidental or unauthorised use of nuclear weapons, increasing restraint on the use of nuclear weapons, and de-alerting of nuclear weapons were all pertinent in this regard.  The countries with the largest arsenals of nuclear weapons bore a special responsibility for progress on nuclear disarmament.  The Conference, as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum, had a heavy responsibility of advancing the goal of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.  India remained ready to work with others to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations in the Conference.

The United States said that the collective goal must be to reach a consensus on the programme of work, including the start of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.  The United States had been reducing its inventory of nuclear weapons for more than four decades.  The United States was now conducting the follow-on analysis called for in the 2012 United States Nuclear Posture Review to set goals for future nuclear reductions in line with strategic requirements.  Meanwhile, the Nuclear Posture Review had ruled out the development of new United States nuclear warheads and new missions and capabilities for existing warheads.  The United States had also demonstrated leadership through unilateral transparency measures.  With regard to nuclear testing, the Obama Administration had been engaging with the United States Senate on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, paving the ground for a positive Senate reconsideration of the Treaty.  It had not produced highly enriched uranium for weapons since 1964 or produced plutonium for weapons since 1988.  The United States also remained committed to the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty that would ban the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices as an essential and the next logical multilateral step toward nuclear disarmament.

France said the schedule of activities was entirely relevant and should allow all Member States and Observer States to tackle all issues on the agenda.  France would take part in the discussions.  However, these thematic discussions should not replace the adoption of a programme of work in the shortest possible time to negotiate disarmament agreements.  France supported the programme of work in document CD/1864, the only programme of work adopted by consensus in more than 15 years.  The negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) was a priority.  France had never participated in the nuclear arms race and it kept its arsenal as small as possible to ensure deterrence and France’s legitimate defence.   France urged all concerned countries, while awaiting the negotiation of an FMCT, to respect an immediate moratorium on fissile material.  Disarmament depended on mutual trust between States.  An urgent solution to the proliferation crisis was needed as without this, disarmament could never progress.  Nuclear disarmament should be part of general and complete disarmament efforts concerning chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction as well as disarmament of conventional weapons.  The next step must be the quantitative managing of nuclear arsenals by banning fissile material. 

Japan said in the field of nuclear disarmament, there had been a number of recent achievements.  Despite these developments, it was indispensable for all the States possessing nuclear weapons to make disarmament efforts on a multilateral basis in order to achieve the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.  In order to realize this ultimate objective, Japan believed that practical and effective measures taken in a step-by-step manner were necessary.  However, the total elimination of these weapons could not be achieved overnight or by a single convention.  The following two steps were the most urgent: first, Japan recognized a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty as the next logical step in their path to a peaceful and secure world without nuclear weapons.  Second, Japan viewed the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty as essential.  While awaiting the realization of multilateral and global nuclear disarmament, they also appealed to all States possessing nuclear weapons to make an early commitment to reducing, or at least not increasing their nuclear holdings.  Japan also considered that the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was vitally important.  Japan called on the three non-States parties to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as non-nuclear-weapon States promptly and without any conditions.  Japan would also like to reiterate that applying the principles of irreversibility, verifiability, and transparency was critical when implementing any kind of nuclear disarmament measures.  Finally, Japan reiterated the importance of the qualitative aspect of nuclear disarmament.  The nuclear weapon States were called upon to promptly engage with a view to further diminishing the role and significance of nuclear weapons in all military and security aspects, doctrines and policies.   

Iran said the Conference on Disarmament had yet to strive to contribute to the realization of nuclear disarmament as the highest priority of the global community and its raison d’être.  The existence of nearly 23,000 nuclear warheads in the stockpile of the nuclear weapon States indeed posed the greatest threat to the prospect of building a safe and secure inclusive global system.  The absence of such a system had exacerbated the current security dilemma.  As long as nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction existed and were being modernized, there would always be a risk for their use and vertical or horizontal proliferation.  A real change was needed regarding the removal of the emphasis on the doctrine of nuclear deterrence.  However, a review of the nuclear policy of certain nuclear-weapon States showed the continued emphasis on maintaining nuclear weapons and the deterrence policy.  A reduction in nuclear weapons could never be a substitute for the main obligation on nuclear weapon States to totally eliminate nuclear weapons.  A clear time frame with a target date was an urgent need.  It was high time that the Conference established an ad hoc committee to start the negotiation of a nuclear weapons convention as a matter of top priority.  Such negotiations must lead to the legal prohibition, once and for all, of the possession, development and stockpiling of nuclear weapons by any country, and provide for the destruction of such inhumane weapons within a specified time frame.

Germany said Germany attached importance to an early start of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT).  The ability of the Conference to open such negotiations should not affect technical discussions on such a treaty.  Germany’s Foreign Office and the Foreign Office of the Netherlands would be organizing a meeting of technical experts on an FMCT in Geneva on 29 and 30 May.  They encouraged interested Member States to continue efforts, both within the Conference and along its margins, and appreciated their active participation in the Conference.  Germany thanked the outgoing President, Ethiopia, for trying to organize the work of the Conference.  Germany noted that as useful as the thematic discussions were, they could not replace the Conference’s task to negotiate new instruments. 

Netherlands said the Netherlands wanted to devote its statement to the Conference to the issue of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT).  The Netherlands appreciated the schedule of activities which would allow the Conference to at least make use of the time available to it.  However, this should not be detrimental to continued efforts to reach agreement on the programme of work of the Conference.  Concerning nuclear disarmament, the Netherlands regretted that after many years, the Conference was still unable to move towards real negotiations, which was what the Conference was created for.  Because of this lack of progress, it was important to continue discussions inside and outside the Conference.  That was why the Netherlands, together with the German Foreign Office, were organizing two technical meetings related to a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.  The second meeting would take place in the last week of August.  The aim of these meetings was to facilitate future agreements.  The Netherlands hoped that they could start negotiations on an FMCT as soon as possible.
MINELIK ALEMU GETAHUN (Ethiopia), Outgoing President of the Conference on Disarmament, said that during its presidency, Ethiopia had focused on carrying forward the progress made in the presidency of Egypt with the proposal for the programme of work for the Conference as contained in CD/11933 rev.1.  It was now widely recognized that the problem with the programme of work was not simply a drafting exercise that could be overcome by doing away with the consensus rule or with the wise use of language.  Such agreement to negotiate on a particular treaty should be made with utmost clarity on terms of negotiations, scope and content.  The item on revitalization allowed for the Conference to explore ideas to improve the work of the Conference.  It would also allow the possibility for exchange of views on the future course of action, including ideas that countries were floating for submission to the United Nations General Assembly.  On the relevance of the substantive discussion the Conference agreed to undertake, delegations had expressed different views.  For Ethiopia and other G21 countries pushing for a comprehensive convention on nuclear disarmament, substantive plenary debates on this item should seem as progress towards negotiation.  The substantive debate on this item should focus on a convention for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons on a phased in and time bound programme.  Similarly, a comprehensive Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, a treaty on negative security assurances that would protect non-nuclear States against any nuclear threat, and prevention of an arms race in outer space were all noble goals that Ethiopia and other G21 countries firmly supported.  These were global issues of common concern to all States and communities around the world.  While the current focus was on a programme of work, treaties and negotiations on these matters of global concern should be elaborated and agreed with full and active involvement of the widest number of countries around the world to ensure inclusiveness and the sustainability of the norms as well.

According to the schedule of activities CD/WP.571 that was adopted, the Conference will discuss “cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament”, and “prevention of nuclear war, including all related matters”, with a general focus on nuclear disarmament on 22 May, 31 May, and 19 June.  It will discuss “prevention of nuclear war, including all related matters”, with a general focus on the prohibition of the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices on 26 June.  It will discuss prevention of an arms race in outer space on 5 June and 31 July.  It will discuss effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons on 12 June and 7 August.  It will discuss revitalization of the Conference on 14 June and 21 August.  It will discuss new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons, radiological weapons, comprehensive programme of disarmament, and transparency in armaments on 14 August.  It will finally discuss the annual report on 21 August, 4 September, and 11 September. 

When the Conference next meets on Thursday, 31 May at 10 a.m. under the Presidency of Finland, it will discuss the cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament and prevention of nuclear war, including all related matters, with a general focus on the prohibition of the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices.

For use of the information media; not an official record