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CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT DISCUSSES POSSIBLE WAYS FORWARD

31 January 2017

The Conference on Disarmament this morning held the second public plenary meeting of its 2017 session, in which it discussed possible ways of moving ahead toward agreement on a programme of work.

Japan said that it supported the promotion of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, through realistic and practical measures, in order to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.  Chile believed that the legal void on nuclear disarmament ought to be filled, and stressed that nuclear disarmament was a multilateral process.  Malta, on behalf of the European Union, said that the proposed “way ahead” Working Group and thematic sub-groups should help identify the points of commonalities and divergence. Germany stated that a pragmatic approach seemed to be the only appropriate one, and would include discussions on the four core issues, as well as other topics with a potential of common ground, like cyber security.   Belgium said that the time had come for the Conference to map out a way toward the resumption of its work, and Belgium supported the establishment of the formal Working Group on “the way ahead”, as proposed by the President.

Bulgaria looked favourably at the President’s proposal on the establishment of a subsidiary body on “the way ahead”, which had the potential to bring the Conference closer to fulfilling its tasks.  Norway believed that the issue of fissile materials needed to be addressed with urgency, and the existing stocks had to be dealt with as well.  France said that the Working Group, as proposed by the President, would help the Conference to mitigate the lack of continuity, which was due to very short presidencies, and help ensure consistency between different pillars of the disarmament infrastructure.  Italy called upon the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to cooperate with the international community, and to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.  Spain opined that a flexible approach needed to be applied in the work of the Conference this year; the exercise of sincere creativity should allow for exploring various subjects on the principle of consensus.  Pakistan stressed that a real breakthrough could be achieved only by exercising real political will which would lead to undiminished security for all States.  

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea stated that it had been exposed to a nuclear threat from outside, namely the United States, which had been blackmailing and politically pressuring the country.  Under the pretext of routine exercises, the United States had had military presence on the Korean Peninsula for decades, which had led to the build-up of its nuclear and missile programme.  The Republic of Korea said that the previous year, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had violated a number of the Security Council resolutions, on the average two per month.  The United States stressed that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea needed to end its hostile rhetoric and irresponsible behaviour, and follow international norms.  China said that Security Council’s resolutions should be put into practice and respected, regardless which country or region they referred to, or in which year they had been adopted.

The Conference approved requests by Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Portugal and the Republic of Moldova to participate as observers in the 2017 session of the Conference.

The next public plenary of the Conference will take place on Tuesday, 7 February at 10 a.m.

Statements

ADRIAN COMSIN VIERITA, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations Office at Geneva and President of the Conference, said that he was looking forward to hearing countries’ comments on the non-paper distributed by the Presidency the previous week.  He informed that an additional four States had expressed interest to attend the 2017 session of the Conference as observers. 

The Conference then agreed to invite those four States - Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Portugal and the Republic of Moldova - to participate in the Conference, in line with the rules of procedure.  The President also informed that an informal plenary would be held on 3 February to discuss the non-paper he had circulated, while on 9 February a side event would take place on the subject of the international convention for the suppression of acts of chemical and biological terrorism, as requested by Russia.

Japan said that it was the only country to have ever suffered nuclear bombings in wartime, and, as such, it supported the promotion of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, through realistic and practical measures, in order to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.  The discussion in the proposed Working Group on “the way ahead” should be rendered in a way to lead to future negotiations.  Japan would spare no effort to contribute to having a productive 2017 session of the Conference.

Chile stated that the common goal was breathing new life into the Conference.  It was the duty of Member States to pursue cooperation and overcome the regrettable stalemate.  Chile supported the President’s proposal on the establishment of the Working Group on “the way ahead”; the Conference had the mandate to negotiate and needed to use it.  Chile was pleased to see that the preparatory event for the 2020 Non-Proliferation Review Conference would take place in Vienna in May.  It was hoped that the next conference would lead to an agreed outcome document, unlike the one in 2015.  Chile believed that the legal void on nuclear disarmament ought to be filled.  Nuclear disarmament was a multilateral process, which needed to move ahead because of the possible catastrophic consequences that the use of nuclear weapons would have.  Reducing the role of nuclear weapons in military doctrines had not happened either, which was disconcerting.  All multilateral efforts needed to be brought together to return from the edge of a potential apocalypse, stressed Chile.
 
Malta, speaking on behalf of the European Union, stated that 16 January 2017 marked the first anniversary of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran.  One year since the entry into force it could be said that there were tangible benefits for all.  A full and effective implementation of the agreement needed to be ensured.  The Iran nuclear deal was a multilateral endeavour which demonstrated that it was possible to find diplomatic solutions even to the most pressing challenges.  The Conference as the single multilateral negotiating forum on disarmament should fulfil its mandate.  Renewed efforts were required to reach an agreement, for which creative thinking and cooperation were needed.  The proposed “way ahead” Working Group and thematic sub-groups should help identify the points of commonalities and divergence.  The European Union continued to be in favour of the expansion of the Conference, as well as enhanced interaction with civil society.  The conclusion of discussions on a treaty banning the production of fissile materials remained a clear priority for the European Union.  The European Union continued to promote the use of space for peaceful purposes and its preservation for all.  An international code of conduct for outer-space activities would be a welcome development.  A new review cycle of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty should lead to the treaty’s preservation and further progress toward a world free of nuclear weapons.  The universalization of the treaty banning nuclear tests remained another priority for the European Union.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was urged to engage in meaningful discussions with the international community, and to cease immediately all activities related to its nuclear programme.

Germany noted that the general security environment continued to be very fragile and challenging.  The conflicts in the Middle East and eastern Ukraine were smouldering on and international terrorism had seen new tragic pinnacles.  On the other hand, the first year of the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran was clearly a positive development.  New approaches ought to be found to overcome old blockades related to the non-proliferation review process.  Any negotiations on a ban treaty without the participation of nuclear States would have no added value beyond what was already enshrined under Article 6 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Progress was possible, provided that there was political will.  Germany had been advocating the legitimate interest of non-nuclear weapon States in receiving unequivocal, legally binding and effective security assurances from nuclear-weapons States.  After 21 years of stalemate in the Conference, it had to be repeated: there was no alternative to continuing to try to develop new ideas and reassess those already made in the past.  A pragmatic approach seemed to be the only appropriate one, and would include discussions on the four core issues, as well as other topics with a potential of common ground, like cyber security.   

Belgium regretted the continued deadlock affecting the Conference, and strongly hoped that substantive work would continue in the Conference.  The Conference, and the bodies which had preceded it, had negotiated paramount agreements, which should not be forgotten.  The time had come for the Conference to map out a way toward the resumption of its work, and Belgium supported the establishment of the formal Working Group on “the way ahead”, as proposed by the President.  Endless discussions on the possible subjects of attention in discussions ought to be avoided.  The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty had to be preserved and strengthened.  All countries benefited from it, but also bore responsibility to make sure it continued to function.  A new review cycle was to begin in May 2017, and the efforts by the Netherlands in that regard were most appreciated.  Belgium remained committed to a world free of nuclear weapons, but wanted to achieve that goal in a pragmatic, realistic way.  Preconditions for security needed to be taken into consideration; any agreement negotiated without nuclear weapon States would be counterproductive.  Negative security assurances had an important role to play in the process, and could be addressed in an annex to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  It was vital that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty be made irreversible.  Belgium would continue to work towards its entry into force, which was essential for a future world free of nuclear weapons.

Bulgaria remained firmly committed to the objectives of multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation.  Now more than ever a firm commitment and a sustained political will on behalf of all Conference members was needed.  The continuous stalemate had led to pursuing ways outside the Conference to seek progress on disarmament issues, including on nuclear disarmament.  In 2016, regrettably, an opportunity had been missed to put the Conference back on track.  Effective measures towards a world free of nuclear weapons could be achieved only through an inclusive approach and due consideration of the complex security environment and the strategic context.  Efforts should also be made to ensure expedited entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, as a key building block in achieving a world without nuclear weapons.  Bulgaria looked favourably at the President’s proposal on the establishment of a subsidiary body on “the way forward”.  The proposal had the potential to bring the Conference closer to fulfilling its tasks.  Bulgaria was also a firm support of the enlargement of the Conference.
 
Norway said that the deadlock had not yet been broken.  A difference needed to be made between deliberations and negotiations.  It was vital that both nuclear and non-nuclear weapon States would be engaged in a process of negotiations on a world free of nuclear weapons.  The challenge was to foster confidence between different States; commencement of substantive work in the Conference would provide such an impetus.  The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty constituted a cornerstone for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, said Norway.  It was vital that the upcoming review cycle succeed.  While there had been progress in implementing commitments, it was clear that much more needed to be done, including further rounds of reductions of nuclear weapon stocks.  The issue of fissile materials needed to be addressed with urgency, and the existing stocks had to be dealt with as well.  An early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would be another important step forward.  Efforts ought to continue on securing sensitive nuclear materials. 

France stressed that the recommencement of the work of the Conference was a priority for 2017, which had commenced in a context of global insecurity.  Only consistent efforts to alleviate international tensions would allow to ensure that common goals of disarmament enjoyed credibility.  France remained convinced that the distinction between discussions and negotiations was permeable, and an artificial barrier should not exist between the two.  The Conference was the only negotiating body, but also a place to exchange opinions on technical subjects.  Dialogue needed to be pursued, including at the technical level.  The President’s approach was constructive, and his non-paper included an innovative approach.  The Working Group on “the way ahead” would help the Conference to mitigate the lack of continuity, which was due to very short presidencies.  The Working Group, with its thematic sub-groups, would help ensure consistency between different pillars of the disarmament infrastructure.  France stood ready to contribute to the resumption of the work of the Conference as soon as possible.    

Italy said that 2017 was a challenging one for Italy in multilateral affairs, with the country becoming a non-permanent member of the Security Council, chair of the G-7, and the next chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.  Multilateralism and international cooperation were crucial, and the re-launch of the Conference was crucial, especially in the light of multiple challenges the world was facing.  The first anniversary of the deal with Iran was an occasion to look back at the clear progress achieved; efforts should be made to maintain it as a success story.  Italy remained concerned by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s missile launches, which were seen as a threat to international security.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was called upon to cooperate with the international community, and to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.  Those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria ought to be held accountable.  Italy supported full implementation of all relevant instruments on preventing terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction.  Italy believed in a firm and progressive approach to nuclear disarmament.   The four draft programmes of work put forward in 2016 were a sign that the delegations retained interest in the Conference and were ready to look for ways to move its work forward.   The Conference would also benefit from a structured interaction with civil society and academia.

Spain stressed the responsibility of the Conference to approve a programme of work in the near future.  Inertia was not an option in the current international environment.  Spain supported the President’s proposal of establishing a Working Group on “the way ahead”.   A flexible approach needed to be applied this year; the exercise of sincere creativity should allow for exploring various subjects on the principle of consensus.  Spain hoped for the necessary political will and stability that would lead towards the completion of the fissile material cut-off treaty.  Ideally, a future treaty should broach both disarmament and non-proliferation.  Spain was concerned about chemical weapons in Syria, and would continue to work with the Joint Investigative Mechanism to try to ascertain who was responsible for chemical weapons ending up in the hands of non-state actors.  In May, the first preparatory event for the review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was scheduled to take place; the 2010 Action Plan, an ambitious document, continued to be important in that regard.  A high level of mutual trust and transparency was of critical importance for moving forward.     

Pakistan commended the President for circulating the non-paper the previous week, which offered a way forward out of the current impasse.  Pakistan was studying the proposal carefully and waiting for instructions from its capital.  Pakistan attached great importance to the work of the Conference, whose strength lay in its representativeness and inclusivity.  Those attributes were indispensable for any forum dealing with disarmament.  A real breakthrough could be achieved only by exercising real political will which would lead to undiminished security for all States.  Pakistan could not be expected to join any endeavour which would be detrimental to its national security.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in a reply to the statements by several European delegations, said that those statements were deliberately disregarding the reality for political reasons.  Some countries had continuously tried to take advantage of the Conference for political purposes.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been exposed to a nuclear threat from outside, namely the United States, which had been blackmailing and politically pressuring the country.  Under the pretext of routine exercises, the United States had had military presence on the Korean Peninsula for decades, which had led to the build-up of its nuclear and missile programme, purely for self-defence purposes.  As long as the United States did not stop its nuclear war games at its door, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would continue to bolster its own capacities.

Republic of Korea, in a reply, asked the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea whether there was anything factually incorrect or untrue in what a number of European delegations had said.  In 2016, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had violated a number of the Security Council resolutions, on the average two per month.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea could either have its cake or eat it, but it would need to choose.  What the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had just said went against the message of the Secretary-General to the Conference the previous week.

United States, in a reply, stressed that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea needed to end its hostile rhetoric and irresponsible behaviour, and follow international norms.  The United States’ commitment to the defence of its allies – the Republic of Korea and Japan – was iron-clad.  The United States did not, and would not, recognize “North Korea” as a nuclear weapon State. 

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea found it deplorable that “South Korea” used the Conference on Disarmament as a platform for confrontation with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The latter was developing nuclear weapons in order to protect itself from the United States, and not to harm its fellow countrymen.  The nuclear hostility on the Korean Peninsula came from the United States’ engagement there, while the internal issues should be resolved by the Korean peoples themselves.  The United States was to blame for pushing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea towards nuclear deterrence. 

China hoped that the Korean Peninsula would maintain its peace and stability, and expressed its opposition to the rise of tensions in the area, at China’s doorstep.  All parties were called upon to exercise calm, and promote denuclearization and a lasting peace.  As a permanent member of the Security Council, China stressed that Security Council resolutions should be put into practice and respected, regardless which country or region they referred to, or in which year they had been adopted.  No double standards should be tolerated in that regard.



For use of the information media; not an official record

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