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PRESIDENT OF UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADDRESSES CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT
Conference Opens Second Part of its 2012 Session, President of Conference Presents Draft Schedule of Activities
15 May 2012

The Conference on Disarmament this morning opened the second part of its 2012 session, hearing a statement from Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, the President of the United Nations General Assembly, who warned that the continuation of the current deadlock could continue to have worrying implications on the role, function and even the very future of the Conference. 

Mr. Al-Nasser said the Conference on Disarmament had an unquestioned responsibility in the advancement of the international disarmament agenda, or in efforts to contribute to a nuclear weapon-free world.  Yet, the continuation of the current deadlock had, and could very well continue to have, worrying implications on the role, function and even the very future of the Conference.  The only way to avoid this was for the Conference to promptly take up its responsibility at this session through collective action. 

The President of the Conference, Ambassador Minelik Alemu Getahun of Ethiopia, presented to the Conference a draft schedule of activities CD/WP.571 for the consideration of the Conference.  He highlighted that while the draft provided for the possibility of holding substantive discussions on items listed, the priority for all Presidents of the Conference this year and subsequent years remained conducting consultations and discussions to arrive at a comprehensive programme of work for the Conference.  The Conference had been facing difficulties in its efforts to reach agreement on a comprehensive programme of work.  The schedule of activities was not meant to hide this glaring fact, but it was intended to provide the opportunity of holding substantive discussions that could enable a future compromise, while the Presidents continued the pursuit in parallel of their efforts to reach a comprehensive programme of work. 

Speaking during the plenary this morning were Bulgaria, India, United States, Egypt,
Mexico, and Germany.

Bulgaria said it supported document CD/1933 Rev 1, presented by Egypt during the first part of the 2012 session of the Conference, which was a well balanced compromise that reflected efforts from previous years to narrow down the differences on a programme of work.  India said it would not stand in the way if consensus emerged on a programme of work picking up from where they were in terms of the consensus decision CD/1864, presented by Algeria in 2009, if such a decision facilitated the early commencement of the substantive work of the Conference, including negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT).  The United States said it had been flexible, including on CD/1933, but warned that they could not lose sight of the international community’s long-term goal to begin negotiations on an FMCT.  Others were looking at other options, including perhaps within a United Nations General Assembly framework.  

Egypt said it continued to believe that CD/1933 remained the most realistic basis through which a balanced programme of work could be achieved.  Mexico said it would constructively take part in the President’s proposed schedule of activities, but wished to draw attention that the discussions were taking place instead of properly implementing a programme of work.  Germany said it was organizing a scientific experts meeting on 29 and 30 May in Geneva because it was convinced that an informed exchange about the complex technical issues related to a treaty banning the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other explosive devices would deepen their knowledge and understanding and help build confidence, without prejudice to national positions regarding and during future negotiations. 

According to the draft schedule of activities CD/WP.571, 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 28 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.  The President said any country wishing to comment about the draft schedule of activities could do so on 22 May, and urged all who wished to speak on nuclear disarmament to prepare their statements for that day and advise the secretariat.

The next public plenary of the Conference will be held on Tuesday, 22 May, when it will hear statements comments on the draft schedule of activities CD/WP.571.  It will then hear statements on “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.

Statements

NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER, President of the United Nations General Assembly, said it was with great pleasure that he addressed the Conference on Disarmament today in this historical chamber, which had witnessed the negotiation of major multilateral arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation agreements.  Before he came here, he had learned about the difficulties witnessed during this year’s session, but rather than reconsider his visit to address the Conference, he chose to remain confident that the leadership of the President and their individual and collective sense of responsibility would bring the work of the session to a successful conclusion.  He commended the recent calls by Mr. Tokayev urging the Conference to continue to pursue a programme of work as its first priority, and to consider, as appropriate, the issue of procedural reform as means to build further trust and momentum in the work of the Conference. 

Since the Conference’s establishment as a result of the first Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly devoted to Disarmament held in 1978, the Conference on Disarmament remained the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community.  In its resolutions on revitalizing the work of the Conference and taking forward multilateral disarmament negotiations, the General Assembly recognized that the political will to advance the disarmament agenda had been strengthened in recent years.  Yet it had expressed grave concern about the current status of the disarmament machinery, including the lack of progress in the Conference on Disarmament.  It had stressed the need for greater efforts to advance multilateral disarmament negotiations.  There was a need to exert more efforts and flexibility from all involved parties to advance multilateral disarmament negotiations.  The Conference had an unquestioned responsibility in the advancement of the international disarmament agenda, or in efforts to contribute to a nuclear weapon-free world. 

Mr. Al-Nasser said the continuation of the current deadlock had, and could very well continue to have, worrying implications on the role, function and even the very future of the Conference.  The only way to avoid this was for the Conference to promptly take up its responsibility at this session through collective action.  The future of the Conference was in the hands of its Member States.  The agreement on a programme of work was the least Member States could agree on, it was not a miracle.  The Conference had already adopted a programme of work by consensus in 2009, represented in document CD/1864.  He invited delegations to use the programme agreed in 2009 as a lead common denominator for negotiations aimed at adopting a 2012 programme of work without delay.  He remained totally confident in the ability of the Conference as an institution to produce substantive outcomes.  He was also equally confident that such ability required collective action from all.  Mr. Al-Nasser reiterated his full support to the work of the Conference and his preparedness to provide any help possible to revive the Conference and enable it once again to fulfill the function for which it was established.  Disarmament remained a high priority on the General Assembly’s agenda and with their work, the Conference could substantially contribute not only to the advancement of this agenda but also to the advancement of international peace and security through negotiating new instruments that contributed to a safer world.

Bulgaria said unfortunately the Conference was in a deep crisis, unable to reach consensus on a simple programme of work.  Bulgaria supported document CD/1933 Rev 1 not only because they had always sought to play a constructive role in this body and had supported every major initiative designed to overcome the deadlock in the Conference.  The merit of the draft decision itself was the other reason for their support.  Bulgaria found it to be a well balanced compromise that reflected efforts from previous years to narrow down the differences on a programme of work.  Given the current international situation deemed favourable to make progress in the field of nuclear disarmament, Bulgaria believed that the Conference should take this chance to prove able to live up to the expectations of the outside world.  Bulgaria would continue to firmly support the enlargement of the Conference with new members, would continue to play a constructive role in these efforts and would continue to support the appointment of a special coordinator on the expansion of the membership of the Conference.  The time for accusing the international situation of being guilty for the impasse in the Conference had expired.  Now it was time for all to assume their political responsibility. 

India said India attached importance to the Conference on Disarmament as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum.  It shared the disappointment that the Conference had so far been unable to undertake its primary task of negotiating multilateral treaties.  For India’s part, it would not stand in the way if consensus emerged on a programme of work picking up from where they were in terms of the consensus decision CD/1864, if such a decision facilitated the early commencement of substantive work of the Conference, including negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT).  India was committed to working with the international community to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  They subscribed to a policy of credible minimum nuclear deterrent.  India had espoused a policy of no first-use and non-use against non-nuclear weapon States and was prepared to convert these undertakings into multilateral legal arrangements.  Without prejudice to the priority India attached to nuclear disarmament, India was committed to negotiate a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty to ban the future production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.  The Conference was the appropriate forum for negotiating the FMCT.  India was also against the weaponization of outer space. The priority now should be for the Conference to commence substantive work. 

United States said the President of the General Assembly today, like many of his predecessors, had voiced frustration that was broadly shared by the international community, including most of those present in the Council Chamber, with the inability of the Conference to perform its mandate of conducting disarmament negotiations.  Sadly they had heard this lament now for 15 years and despite their best efforts, they were no closer now to meeting this responsibility than they were three years ago when they had finally reached consensus on a finely balanced programme of work in CD/1864.  The United States had been flexible, including with the Egyptian President who had energetically put forward CD/1933.  Yet the Conference remained stuck, and all were evaluating options.  The United States was working with partners to galvanize the Conference on Disarmament in an effort to find a way forward.  They could not lose sight of the international community’s long-term goal to begin negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT).  Others were looking at other options, including perhaps within a United Nations General Assembly framework.   For the part of the United States, it was essential that any options be predicated on a consensus working basis and include key stakeholders, such as those who had the capacity to produce fissile material, in order to meet the objectives of the treaty.  The United States was open to substantive discussions on the agreed core issues, but the international community had long been ready to negotiate an FMCT.  The United States had sent its delegation to the Conference to negotiate substance, beginning with this next step for nuclear disarmament.  If they could not take this next step in the Conference, all those who shared the goal of a world without nuclear weapons would have to find other means to accomplish it. 

MINELIK ALEMU GETAHUN (Ethiopia), President of the Conference on Disarmament, introducing the working paper on the draft schedule of activities CD/WP.571 for the consideration of the Conference, said while the draft provided for the possibility of holding substantive discussions on items listed, the priority for all Presidents of the Conference this year and subsequent years remained conducting consultations and discussions to arrive at a comprehensive programme of work for the Conference.  The Conference had been facing difficulties in its efforts to reach agreement on a comprehensive programme of work.  The schedule of activities was not meant to hide this glaring fact, but it was intended to provide the opportunity of holding substantive discussions that could enable a future compromise, while the Presidents continued the pursuit in parallel of their efforts to reach a comprehensive programme of work.  The schedule provided sensible and predictable advance notice to members of the Conference on the order of items for substantive discussion and for the Presidents of the Conference to organize time efficiently.  The draft schedule would maintain its balance only if they started the substantive discussions on Tuesday, 22 May.  Countries wishing to speak on the first item should prepare themselves to speak next Tuesday.

Egypt said that many of the delegations at the Conference had just returned from Vienna where they attended the first Preparatory Committee Meeting of the Ninth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).  In launching this new cycle of the NPT’s review, progress had been recognized and cemented.  It was hope that they would also be able to achieve progress in the Conference on Disarmament.  During Egypt’s Presidency of the Conference this year, Egypt had tried to formulate a balanced and comprehensive programme of work.  Egypt continued to believe that CD/1933 remained the most realistic basis through which a balanced programme of work could be achieved. 

Mexico thanked the President for the proposed draft schedule of activities.  It was also happy that the discussions would be in plenary session.  Mexico would constructively take part in the discussions.  However, it wished to draw attention that the discussions were taking place instead of properly implementing a programme of work.  They were simply keeping the Conference busy instead of working on a programme of work.  Mention of these discussions should not be in the annual report.  The Conference would not be conducting multilateral negotiations on disarmament, notably nuclear disarmament, it was only discussing issues related to the agenda.  They were thus weakening the Conference and endorsing its non-negotiation.   Mexico wanted this comment to appear in the annual report of the Conference.

Germany said they were now halfway through the Conference on Disarmament’s 2012 session.  Unfortunately, despite all efforts, they had so far once again failed to respond to the General Assembly’s call to adopt and implement a programme of work and to resume substantive work on their agenda.  An ever more growing frustration had started to pervade the Council Chamber.  Germany had repeatedly stated that it saw the start of negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other explosive devices as the next logical step on the multilateral disarmament agenda.  Germany was therefore organizing a scientific experts meeting on 29 and 30 May in Geneva because it was convinced that an informed exchange about the complex technical issues related to that subject would deepen their knowledge and understanding and help build confidence, without prejudice to national positions regarding and during future negotiations.  At the same time, Germany remained committed to taking forward disarmament negotiations as a whole and would contribute constructively to further efforts to revitalize the work of the disarmament machinery.  Germany also fully supported the invitation to the Conference to structure the remainder of the 2012 session in accordance with the circulated schedule of activities.  All Member States should continue to seek and make possible agreement on a programme of work, but in its absence, they believed it was incumbent on all to make use of their plenary meetings in the most sensible way.


For use of the information media; not an official record

DC12/016E