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CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT CONTINUES HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT; HEARS FROM GEORGIA, MYANMAR AND MEXICO

3 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 Georgia, Myanmar and Mexico who addressed the Conference.  The President of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, Ambassador Bertrand De Crombrugghe of Belgium, also made a statement.

Tamar Beruchashvili, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, said the Conference could only benefit from greater interaction with civil society and the enlargement of its membership was a necessary process given that the universal goal of international security must by definition be addressed by a universally represented body.  The Minister spoke about disregard for security assurances provided to Ukraine under the Budapest Memorandum, Russian military aggressions against Georgia, and recorded attempts of nuclear smuggling via the Georgian occupied regions. 

Thant Kyaw, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar, said nuclear disarmament remained Myanmar’s highest priority in the pursuit of international arms control and disarmament agenda.  Myanmar, as a non-nuclear-weapon State under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, reasonably believed that necessary assurances should be given to non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.

Juan Manuel Gomez Robledo, Deputy Minister for Multilateral Affairs of Mexico, said Mexico recently concluded its Presidency of the Conference during which it submitted a draft programme of work and tried everything to breathe new life into the perishing forum.  It was a collective failure, said the Minister; reform was only possible if Member States recognized that the situation was inadmissible, intolerable and unsustainable.  Given the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and the constant threat they represented, the international community’s priority must be to negotiate a global instrument prohibiting the use, manufacture, production, acquisition, stockpiling and placing of nuclear weapons. 

Ambassador Bertrand De Crombrugghe of Belgium, President of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, addressed the Conference in his capacity as the President of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.  He said that in 2013 a global total of 3,308 casualties were reported.  Although that was a technical 24 per cent decline, every casualty was one too many.  He called on States to realize the Maputo Declaration to universalize the Convention. 

Russia and Georgia spoke in right of reply. 

The Conference on Disarmament will next meet in public at 10.45 a.m. on Wednesday, 4 March to continue its High-Level Segment and hear statements from dignitaries of Kazakhstan, Costa Rica, Republic of Korea and Latvia. 

High-Level Segment

TAMAR BERUCHASHVILI, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, said the Conference on Disarmament should exercise a significantly greater influence in the field of its competence, especially in the light of the extremely challenging international security situation.  Georgia shared the view that the Conference could only benefit from greater interaction with civil society, said the Minister.  As a member of the Informal Group of Observer States, Georgia viewed the enlargement of the Conference on Disarmament membership as a necessary process, and appealed to the Conference to act upon the understood notion that the universal goal of international security must by definition be addressed by a universally represented body. 

Disregard for security obligations was a major challenge to common security, said the Minister.  The international community had failed to demonstrate enough resolve and unity to adequately respond to that dangerous tendency at the early stage.  Non-compliance could irreversibly erode the security system and produce large-scale negative implications.  Security assurances provided to Ukraine under the Budapest Memorandum in connection with its accession to the Non-Proliferation Treaty had been ignored and one of the guarantor States had itself openly challenged Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.  That extremely dangerous development threatened to have far reaching implications on the process of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. 

The crisis in Ukraine was not an exclusive occurrence, said the Minister.  The first alarm was in August 2008 when Russia launched a large-scale military aggression against Georgia, which resulted in the occupation of more than 20 per cent of Georgian sovereign territory.  The occupation of its regions represented a fundamental threat to Georgia’s security and stability, said the Minister.  Furthermore, the damage transcended its borders.  There had been several recorded attempts of nuclear smuggling via the Georgian occupied regions, and in addition, large amounts of armaments were being accumulated in Georgia’s occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions in grave violation of the fundamental principles of international law as well as Russia’s international commitments, including the 12 August 2008 ceasefire agreement.  Today more than 10,000 occupying Russian troops were illegally deployed in those two regions.  There were no guarantees whatsoever that weaponry in their possession would not be transferred to various terrorists and criminal groups far beyond a particular region. 

THANT KYAW, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar, said nuclear disarmament remained Myanmar’s highest priority in the pursuit of international arms control and disarmament agenda.  The catastrophic consequences in a scenario of accidental or intentional use of nuclear weapons were terrifying.  It encouraged all parties to focus on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons in relevant fora.  Myanmar, as a non-nuclear-weapon State under the Non-Proliferation Treaty reasonably believed that necessary assurances should be given to non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.  The Minister urged all nuclear-weapon-States, particularly those with large nuclear arsenals, to fully and immediately comply with the 22-point action plan on nuclear disarmament contained in the final document of the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.    

Myanmar had undergone political, economic and social reform since the new Government took office in 2011 and had been taking progressive steps to enhance its status in connection with a number of disarmament-related conventions.  In September 2013 Myanmar signed the additional protocol to the agreement between Myanmar and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the application of safeguards in connection with the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  On 1 December 2014 Myanmar deposited the Instrument of Ratification of the Biological Weapons Convention with respective depositories; Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.  Now that it was a State party to the Convention, Myanmar would continue efforts to implement it and improve the bio-safety and security system in Myanmar.  Furthermore, in January 2015 the Union Parliament of Myanmar unanimously approved the proposal to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention. 

Myanmar welcomed the call for the appointment of a special coordinator on expansion of the Conference on Disarmament, and supported strengthening of its interaction with civil society.  The Minister called upon all Member States of the Conference on Disarmament to show the utmost flexibility and political will in their deliberations in order to move the Conference forward.  As one of the Presidents this year, Myanmar would work closely with all Member States to incorporate their constructive inputs in the work of its Presidency. 

JUAN MANUEL GOMEZ ROBLEDO, Deputy Minister for Multilateral Affairs of Mexico, said the Conference’s paralysis ran counter to multilateralism and its mandate was now exhausted as it was not negotiating.  Some blamed the lack of political will for the lack of action in the Conference, but if anything had changed over the last 19 years it was international circumstances.  Mexico recently concluded its Presidency of the Conference, a task it undertook with great earnestness and robust commitment, during which it submitted a draft programme of work and tried everything to breathe new life into the perishing forum.  It was a collective failure, said the Minister, and everybody was responsible for having promoted a ‘Conference sub-culture’ which granted all members the power to exercise the veto even on an absolutely trivial matter of procedure and preferred informal groups which came up with programmes of work that would never be implemented, instead of being accountable and transparent, including under the searching gaze of civil society.  Perhaps the positions taken boiled down to the fear of a handful of States that agreement may be found once negotiations got underway, said the Minister.   Reform was only possible if Member States recognized first and foremost that the situation was inadmissible, intolerable and unsustainable. 

It was clear that Article 6 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty had not been fulfilled because it obliged all parties to hold negotiations in good faith on effective measures on nuclear disarmament, said the Minister.  The International Court of Justice in its 1996 historic advisory opinion clearly restated that it was not an obligation of means but rather of results, despite all of the pressure on the court at that time.  It was in the best interests of nuclear-weapons States for the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference this spring to yield new agreements in all of its provisions, said the Minister.  Mexico would not accept half-way results.  Each and every one of Mexico’s initiatives had been fully documented and would be fully and appropriately consulted, as grounded in good faith.  The least that could be expected of nuclear-weapons States was a similar approach. 

The three conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons convened during 2013 and 2014 in Norway, Mexico and Austria highlighted the profound contradictions of the status quo.  There had been cutbacks in certain arsenals but there continued to be more than 16,000 nuclear weapons on high operational alert.  The resources devoted to their maintenance, modernization and conservation were radically countering and jeopardized resources that ought to be devoted to other sectors including development.  Nuclear-weapon States said current circumstances justified their argument of the need to have a nuclear deterrent, which were exactly the same as Cold War arguments and left the world open to horizontal nuclear proliferation, an assumption proven by facts.  The original five nuclear-weapon States moved to nine, and then to eight, said the Minister, and today there were more States adding or aiming to add their names to that list of privileged few. 

The history of multilateral disarmament showed the weapons that had been eliminated were those that were previously, expressly prohibited in legally binding instruments.  Given the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and the constant threat they represented, Mexico believed the priority of the international community must be to negotiate in good faith with everyone’s involvement a global instrument prohibiting the use, manufacture, production, acquisition, stockpiling, placing or use of nuclear weapons.  Would the Conference demonstrate the political will or would it continue to be an obstacle to bringing about a world free from nuclear weapons, he asked. 

Ambassador BERTRAND DE CROMBRUGGHE of Belgium, President of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, said it was an honour to address the Conference on Disarmament in his capacity as the President of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Ottawa Convention).  On 1 March 2015, the sixteenth anniversary of the landmark humanitarian and disarmament instrument, it had 162 States parties, and it moved gradually closer to its goal of universal membership.  More than 47 million stockpiled anti-personnel mines had been destroyed since the Convention entered into force, which was remarkable.  The same could be said about clearance from the field.  Yet sizeable stocks remained and in too many places minefields represented a danger for civilian populations. 

There had been at least four reported instances of landmines on the territory, whether current or formally controlled, of States parties to the Convention; three States parties had not been able to destroy their anti-personnel landmines within the period mandated by the Convention; and two other States parties faced the challenging task of complying with 2015 deadlines.  In the meantime the victims of landmines continued to suffer.  In 2013 a global total of 3,308 casualties were reported.  Although that was a technical 24 per cent decline compared with 4,325 victims in 2012, every casualty was one too many.  He called on States to realize the Maputo Declaration to universalize the Convention, to fund its activities and implement its obligations and to promote its activities.  Such action was owed to the thousands of victims who carried the scourge of anti-personnel landmines for the rest of their lives, he concluded. 

Statements in Right of Reply

Russia, speaking in a right of reply regarding the statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, said it would address accusations of its occupation in Georgia.  Georgia was attempting to conceal its own unprovoked military strike on South Ossetia when it conducted a massive strike on the capital city late at night.  Georgian aggression also sustained casualties within the battalion of Russian peacekeeping forces which was stationed in South Ossetia in accordance with international agreements.  Russia was left with no choice but to retaliate as all other options had been exhausted.  Consequently South Ossetia split from Georgia creating two independent sovereign States which were recognized by Russia.  Russian military units were located within both Republics based on bilateral agreements. 

Russia said that many international conflicts were only viewed through the prism of open diplomacy.  He referred to the Geneva Talks on security and stability in the Trans-Caucasus region, in which all parties were participating along with international intermediaries that included Russia.  Around 30 rounds of the talks had already been held but a legally-binding instrument on the non-use of force had not yet been concluded, nor had any declaration or instrument.  Russia asked Georgia, which was an Observer State of the Conference on Disarmament, to pay more attention to the Geneva Talks to resolve the situation rather than using public diplomatic statements.  The Conference on Disarmament was not the most appropriate forum to deal with the issue. 

Georgia, speaking in a right of reply in response to Russia’s remarks, said Russia committed military aggression against Georgia in 2008 and consequently occupied two regions of Georgia in contravention of United Nations Security Council resolutions.  Russia was an occupying power and was solely responsible for the situation in both those regions.  In her statement the Foreign Minister of Georgia spoke about various issues of relevance to the Conference on Disarmament, including the smuggling of nuclear weapons.  As a responsible Member State the least Russia could do was allow international observers to access the region. 
 
Russia, speaking in a second right of reply, said some statements were a blatant exploitation of the spirit in the Conference on Disarmament which allowed anyone to express any view on any subject even if it had no relevance to the mandate of the Conference.  Russia asked those in favour of expanding the membership of the Conference to consider its point, saying they had witnessed a very serious attempt to politicize the work of the Conference with a statement that contained no proposal, just the expression of a national position.  Statements on national positions could not bring the Conference closer to compromise.  Russia asked all members to reflect on whether the Conference membership truly did need to be expanded. 


For use of the information media; not an official record

DC15/016E