CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT HEARS FROM FOREIGN SECRETARY OF INDIA AND SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE CONFERENCE
18 June 2013
The Conference on Disarmament was addressed by the Foreign Secretary of India, Ranjan Mathai, at its public plenary meeting this morning, as well as Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Secretary-General of the Conference. During the meeting the President of the Conference referred to a “non-paper” draft programme of work which he had prepared and circulated yesterday, and held a dialogue of initial preliminary remarks with Member States.
Ranjan Mathai, Foreign Secretary of India, opened his statement by emphasizing the value India placed upon the Conference on Disarmament, which rightly worked on the basis of the principle of consensus, given that its subject matter concerned matters of national security. But that same principle afforded Member States the opportunity to protect their interests during negotiations. It was unfortunate that the Conference had been prevented, on one unconvincing pretext or another, from commencing substantive work, on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, or on nuclear disarmament, negative security assurances or measures to prevent the weaponization of outer space. The Conference should be able to fulfil its mandate as a security forum.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament, said that like many members he deeply regretted that the Conference on Disarmament was still at a standstill. He spoke about efforts made by various countries to reinvigorate the Conference, and made three proposals for delegations to seriously consider. The Secretary-General expressed concern that in the absence of action, a possibly irreversible erosion of confidence in the Conference would result. He added that it was their collective responsibility to prevent such erosion as the stakes were simply too high. The Conference had the potential to again be at the heart of the international community’s efforts to create a safer and more secure world through disarmament. It was a shared responsibility to ensure that it could fulfil its potential.
Ambassador Mohsen Naziri Asl of Iran, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said that following consultations with different stakeholders and at different levels he had discovered that the preferred approach towards adopting a programme of work was a pragmatic one. Although that approach was not Iran’s preferred option, the President said that Iran had always reiterated, along with the G21, that the utmost priority of the majority of the international community was the urgent start of negotiations on nuclear disarmament. The President announced that he had prepared the text of a draft decision for a programme of work, which had been distributed in yesterday’s meeting with regional group coordinators and that he hoped would be considered formally in plenary on Friday.
During the discussion, delegations gave preliminary responses to the non-paper draft programme of work, as many were still awaiting instructions from their capitals. Several delegations criticized the draft for lacking a negotiating mandate, particularly on the issue of banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Other delegations said that although it was not ideal, if the proposal could unblock the deadlock of the Conference on Disarmament then they would support it. Another speaker appreciated the pragmatic approach to seek the ‘lowest common denominator’ if it could end the stasis.
The following delegations took the floor during the plenary: Egypt, Brazil, Australia, Japan, Pakistan, Cuba, Poland, Sweden, France, United Kingdom and India
The Conference will hold its next plenary meeting at 10 a.m. on Friday, 21 June, which will be the last plenary under the Presidency of Iran.
RANJAN MATHAI, Foreign Secretary of India, opened his statement by emphasizing the value India placed upon the Conference on Disarmament. India supported the early commencement of substantive work in the Conference on Disarmament which must proceed with the adoption of a programme of work. The Conference rightly worked on the principle of consensus, given that its subject matter concerned national security. That same principle afforded Member States the opportunity to protect their interests during negotiations. Therefore it was unfortunate that the Conference had been prevented, on one unconvincing pretext or another, from commencing substantive work, either in the immediate context on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) or other issues, such as nuclear disarmament, negative security assurances or measures to prevent the weaponization of outer space. He added that the Conference should be able to fulfil its mandate as a security forum.
India had been consistent in its support for global, non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament and associated itself with the statement on nuclear disarmament made by Zimbabwe on behalf of the G-21 last week, the Foreign Secretary said. India also supported a Global No-First Use Treaty. India further supported negotiation in the Conference of a treaty banning the future production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices, which would meet India’s national security interests. India was a nuclear weapon State and a responsible member of the world community, and would approach the negotiations as such. There was an agreed mandate for the commencement of such negotiations and India did not favour reopening it. A FMCT would add a measure of strategic predictability and be a base line for future global nuclear disarmament efforts, the Foreign Secretary said. Therefore blocking FMCT negotiations for an open-ended nuclear build up would be a matter of concern not just for India but for the international community as a whole.
India was a major space-faring nation with wide-ranging interests in outer space. Its growing space interests were also vital to its national security interests. India therefore accorded priority to the issue of prevention of an arms race in outer space, including the safety of assets in space. India was participating in efforts to strengthen legal frameworks on space security, led by, among others, the European Union. However those efforts could not substitute legally binding instruments. India supported international cooperative efforts that strengthened multilateral approaches in the field of disarmament, in particular efforts by the United Nations Security Council’s 1540 Committee to address the challenges of clandestine proliferation. To that end India hosted a 1540 workshop in Delhi in November last year. The Foreign Secretary was conscious of the feeling of impatience with the current stasis in the Conference on Disarmament, and said that the current impasse was due more to the obstacles placed in its path than inherent institutional deficiencies. It was incumbent on all Member States to enable the Conference to fulfil its mandate for negotiating multilateral treaties which could be implemented universally. He hoped that collective efforts would bear fruit in the near future.
KASSYM-JOMART TOKAYEV, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament and Personal Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to the Conference, said that like many members he deeply regretted that the Conference on Disarmament was still at a standstill. As United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated in his speech at the Monterey Institute earlier this year “the credibility of this body is at risk”. The record of achievement of that Conference was, in his words, “overshadowed by inertia that has now lasted more than a decade. That must change”.
Mr. Tokayev said that together they must chart new paths to bring the Conference back to negotiations. He commended the presidencies of Hungary, India, Indonesia and Iran for their tireless efforts since the beginning of the year, noting that in just a few days there would only be two more presidencies to complete the 2013 session. Time was running out. The implementation of the agenda of the Conference was long overdue. A compromise should be found to bridge the narrow gap that obstructed the start of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty as a priority. The Conference should also start early and vigorous consultations to achieve consensus on other legally-binding instruments on nuclear disarmament, the prevention of an arms race in outer space, as well as effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. Those core items were of much promise to international security.
Recalling his own and other constructive proposals to reinvigorate the Conference on Disarmament, Mr. Tokayev referred to the proposals put forward by Indonesia, calling for a timetable of activities allowing for one item per year; and the call by the United Kingdom for a review of the United Nations disarmament machinery, aimed at promoting mutually reinforcing relationships between the United Nations Disarmament Commission that deliberates, the Conference on Disarmament that negotiates and the First Committee of the General Assembly that legislates on disarmament matters. He also referred to Switzerland, which had suggested a structured and action-oriented process that would lead to more positive changes in the methods of work of the Conference. He welcomed Germany and other Members of the CD, which had consistently expressed their support for the Conference to resume its negotiating mandate. He also mentioned the proposal made by some delegations of a “lighter” or “simplified” programme of work.
Mr. Tokayev said from his vantage point as Secretary-General of the Conference that he would make the following proposals for serious consideration: first, the establishment of an informal working group with a mandate to produce a programme of work urgently; second, the establishment of a subsidiary body in accordance with article 23 of the rules of procedure, to examine and make proposals on the improvement of the working methods of the Conference; and third, the designation of a special coordinator to examine and make proposals on expansion of the membership of the Conference and on the possible role that civil society may play in its work.
Mr. Tokayev said he would continue to work closely with the P6, including holding inter-sessional meetings that may strengthen continuity from one presidency to another, and regular interactions with the regional groups. He expressed concern that if they did not act they would experience a possibly irreversible erosion of confidence in the Conference, saying it was their collective responsibility to prevent such erosion as the stakes were simply too high. The Conference on Disarmament had the potential to again be at the heart of the international community’s efforts to create a safer and more secure world through disarmament. It was a shared responsibility to ensure that it could fulfil its potential.
Ambassador MOHSEN NAZIRI ASL of Iran, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said that since the beginning of his Presidency his first priority had been searching for possible ways to reach agreement on a programme of work. To fulfil that task he had conducted bilateral conceptual consultations on a programme of work at expert level, Ambassadorial level and regional level, with different countries from various regions. Last week useful and frank consultations were held with all regional groups which provided a clearer picture of the current situation the Conference was in. Two main approaches towards adopting a programme of work were identified – ‘idealistic’ and ‘pragmatic’. Consultations of the last three weeks demonstrated that the propensity among delegations inclined towards a pragmatic approach. Although, speaking in a national capacity, that approach was not Iran’s preferred option the President said that Iran had always reiterated, along with the G21, that the utmost priority of the majority of the international community was the urgent start of negotiations on nuclear disarmament.
If every member stuck to its national position and maintained its high level of expectations, the Conference may never overcome the deadlock. Discussion on some core issues had already been taking place outside the Conference on Disarmament in other formats, such as the United Nations Working Group or Expert Group. The rising parallel tracks to the Conference would likely undermine it as the sole disarmament negotiating body, which put pressure on the Conference and increased the expectations of the international community. The President highlighted that historically the Conference had not always had a negotiating mandate for each and every agenda item. The pragmatic approach may enable Member States to engage substantively in discussing issues that were related to the Conference in a structured and purposeful manner and pave the way for later negotiations in the future.
Ambassador Asl announced that he had prepared the text of a draft decision for a programme of work, which had been distributed in yesterday’s meeting with regional group coordinators. The President believed that that text was a ‘common denominator’ reflecting all positions heard in the consultations. He aimed to make all Members equally happy, and said he knew there might be criticisms directed at the draft text if delegations still stuck to their national priorities. The President said he wished to hear Member States’ views today and hoped the Conference would consider a formal draft decision of the programme of work in plenary on Friday.
Egypt supported the President’s efforts and said the document he had presented today could work to break the deadlock. First, the draft presented no priorities, which was up to members to set out. Secondly, the draft did not seek to create other parallel working fora. Third, the draft allowed for substantive work to take place on all four tracks, thus breaking the deadlock. It did not create the illusion of work but rather presented a tool to begin substantive work.
Brazil said the new approach from the President was a clever one. Brazil would have preferred a different approach, one with a negotiating mandate that could lead to the objective everyone was seeking; a world without nuclear weapons. But if that was not possible at the very least Brazil would like to see a negotiating mandate on production of fissile materials. However, if the proposal helped to unblock the stasis of the Conference then the President could count on the support of Brazil.
Australia said they did not yet have instructions on the proposal, but in preliminary comments said they fully supported the 2010 NPT Action Plan, particularly actions 6,7, and 15 as well as CD/1299. Australia was puzzled by the President’s text of the draft programme of work suggesting “to develop proposals on fissile material” and suggested that at least the words “on the banning” should be added. Iran, as an NPT Member State, would of course not countenance the production of fissile material, said Australia. In addition, the proposed programme of work would simply create the illusion of work in the Conference and further the gaps that already existed.
Japan, presenting preliminary thoughts, stressed the need to accumulate practical nuclear disarmament and confidence-building measures to achieve the common goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Without overlooking the importance of other agenda items, it said that it was high time the international community negotiated a treaty banning the production of fissile material for building nuclear weapons and other explosive devices. That was not only Japan’s opinion but the opinion of the international community.
Pakistan said they were awaiting instructions from Islamabad on the draft programme of work, but could speak in preliminary remarks. Pakistan told the President that their two countries had a history of close and friendly relations, as seen between their delegations, and it was a matter of great happiness for Pakistan to see Iran as President of the Conference. Pakistan was also happy to hear such a pragmatic proposal that met the lowest common denominator. Everyone needed to compromise to find a solution that would work for all. Iran had made a good attempt to achieve that objective. Pakistan hoped to engage with all Members in order to unblock the Conference on Disarmament and return to substantive work.
Responding to an earlier comment from a speaker about commitments under the NPT, Pakistan said that at least three countries that were members of the Conference were not members of the NPT. Pakistan, not being an NPT State Party, was not bound by the decisions taken in the NPT context. Pakistan also expressed appreciation for the thoughtful statement made by the Secretary General Mr. Tokayev and assured him of its full consideration.
Cuba said that there was very great merit to the draft programme of work and the integrated balanced approach reserved for all core items of the agenda was appreciated. The pragmatic approach to seek the lowest common denominator was appreciated. The main downside was the lack of a negotiating mandate, particularly on a nuclear weapons convention. Cuba hoped that if the programme of work was adopted that real work could commence.
Germany welcomed the President’s determined effort in drafting a ‘simplified programme of work’ in order to reach consensus. Some Members had made the process difficult by insisting that issues of small print stood in the way of finding consensus, or by blocking certain items on the agenda all together. Germany was relaxed to some extent about how substantive work came about, and perhaps even the word “negotiate” was not necessary, as long as the Conference began negotiating disarmament treaties. However, the danger was great that such a ‘smallest common denominator’ would only lead to a continuation of the discussions that had been had for years on end without the prospect of getting into proper negotiations. The Conference should not give the impression to the international community that it had agreed on a working method after 17 years by taking a shortcut to reduce its level of ambition to only develop proposals on all four issues. Delegations had already been discussing proposals for the past 17 years without a programme of work, both in plenary and informal groups, as seen in document CD/WP.560 of June 2010.
Poland said that they agreed with the statement of Germany and attached great importance to the Conference on Disarmament’s mandate to negotiate treaties.
Sweden attached great importance to the Conference on Disarmament’s mandate to negotiate treaties, and especially of an FMCT. The draft programme of work clearly did not provide for such negotiations. The wording of the draft did not sufficiently reflect commitments made under the NPT. Sweden would like to see clearer reference to commitments to reduce production of fissile material and would appreciate a reference to CD/1299 in the paragraph that refers to the issue of fissile material.
France said they would repeat some points of crucial importance for the work of the Conference on Disarmament. France wanted to see the Conference find a way out of the current deadlock and carry out its negotiating mandate, which was one that should be kept at the top of the list in efforts to come up with a programme of work. Secondly, Members must take into account the Conference’s achievements, such as the Shannon Mandate and General Assembly Resolution 67/72 adopted by consensus in December 2012. The NPT was the cornerstone of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. One hundred and ninety States were covered by the NPT and its Action Plan and committed by it.
United Kingdom said that while the new paper was clever in approach it moved away from the commitments taken by all NPT Member States. As Secretary-General Tokayev said, the Conference was the negotiating arm of the disarmament machinery. Mr. Tokayev’s statement held much food for thought that must be considered before consensus could be found.
India asked whether the draft would take the Conference on Disarmament closer to negotiating multilateral binding instruments, and how would the Working Groups on FMCT and nuclear disarmament lead to negotiations on those core issues. It stressed that a lot of work went into agreeing on a common understanding on the framework within which negotiations should take place and that such agreement should not be changed. India agreed with the President that the priority was to preserve and strengthen the role of the Conference, which must stay in the vanguard of progress on disarmament issues.
Ambassador MOHSEN NAZIRI ASL of Iran, President of the Conference on Disarmament, thanked all delegations for their views. Some delegations referred to the NPT 2010 document, to which Iran also attached great importance, but Members should not lose sight of the need for consensus. Some Members of the Conference on Disarmament were not party to the NPT. Some delegations had national positions that were not reflected in the draft. However, if the CD reflected all national positions it might be unable to break the deadlock at all. The President noted that while many delegations had highlighted the importance of a negotiating mandate, the Conference had not always had a negotiating mandate in the past.
For use of information media; not an official record