ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe


Conference also discusses the crisis in Ukraine
5 March 2014

The Conference on Disarmament concluded its high-level section this morning under the presidency of Italy, hearing from the Foreign Ministers of Finland, Latvia and Spain.  It also discussed the situation in Ukraine, hearing from Ukraine and Russia, as well as the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Belarus and Iran. 

Peter Stenlund, Secretary of State, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, said regarding Ukraine Finland stressed the importance of adherence to international law and commitments, and that it was important that agreements on security issues, including on security assurances, could be trusted.  Finland spoke about other disarmament developments, including the  Helsinki Conference on the establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and all other Weapons of Mass Destruction. 

Gonzalo De Benito Secades, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for Spain, said the Conference must break the cycle of pessimism and be inspired by past achievements, hand in hand with the spirit of pragmatism.  Regarding Ukraine, Spain said the current situation was cause for grave concern, and said it was essential to maintain a regime of transparency and confidence-building measures. 

Edgars Rinkēvičs, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, spoke about the efforts made by Ukraine in acceding to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear State, as reflected in the Budapest Memorandum.  Latvia condemned the military action of Russia in Ukraine, and called on Russia to honour its international commitments.  Latvia also said that universalization of the membership of the Conference was integral to it adapting to the new and changing international security environment. 

Following the high-level statements several States took the floor to discuss the situation in Ukraine and other matters.  Ukraine and Russia discussed in detail about the situation in Ukraine and the Crimea region.  Ukraine referred to the significance of the negative security assurances encompassed in the Budapest Memorandum to the Conference.  Russia said the situation was an extraordinary one, which meant it required an appropriate reaction, although it greatly appreciated the steps Ukraine had taken in non-proliferation.  Other States said Russia’s actions in Ukraine were a clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity and appealed for dialogue between the parties.  The United Kingdom and United States both said they fully supported the convening of a high-level meeting of parties to the Budapest Memorandum. 

Speaking in today’s discussion were Finland, Spain, Latvia, Ukraine, Russia, Iran, United States, United Kingdom, Sweden and Belarus. 

The next public meeting of the Conference on Disarmament will take place on Tuesday 11 March at 10 a.m.

Statements by Dignitaries

PETER STENLUND, Secretary of State, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, first spoke about the situation in Ukraine and said nationally, and as a Member State of the European Union, Finland had always stressed the importance of adherence to international law and commitments.  The United Nations Charter, bilateral agreements, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Helsinki Final Act and the Budapest Memorandum must be respected.  From the viewpoint of the Conference on Disarmament, it was important that agreements on security issues, including on security assurances, could be trusted.

Finland had always supported the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world with diplomacy and expertise, and continued to provide any assistance that may be useful.  Even though there were differences in approaches, the ultimate goal of a world free of nuclear weapons unites all countries.  The first priority steps related to the long-overdue Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.  Simultaneously, without delays, it was important to extend the voluntary moratorium on fissile material production.  The history of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) showed how a treaty, even before its entry into force, could result in a voluntary moratorium that developed towards a de facto international norm.  Finland called on all States to sign and ratify the CTBT.  The Finnish Facilitator for the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and all other Weapons of Mass Destruction, Under-Secretary of State Jaakko Laajava, was working closely with the conveners of the conference and Middle East States with the aim of organizing the conference in Helsinki as soon as possible.  The Minister encouraged parties to work together so that a conference date could be set without delay. 

Regarding non-proliferation, the Minister said the initiatives launched by United States President Barack Obama were especially encouraging: it was crucial that the owners of the largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons – the United States and Russia – showed leadership in disarmament.  The New START Treaty was a very important step forward.  The Minister also spoke about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and the grim picture of the catastrophic effects of any nuclear weapon detonation painted at the Oslo and Mexico conferences.  Finland praised the landmark Arms Trade Treaty which it would ratify this year, and noted that civil society was a crucial partner in the development and implementation of the treaty. 

Finland supported the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons through its high-respected Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (VERIFIN) which contributed towards the investigation of chemical weapons attacks in Syria in August 2013.  The destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons programme was a significant endeavour for the international community; Finland had contributed €650,000 to OPCW’s two Syrian Trust Funds and was taking part in the maritime transportation operation with Denmark and Norway, as well as in the destruction of the materials.  In concluding words, the Minster said Finland hoped the Conference on Disarmament could rise again from its current stalemate to meet expectations and become a modern disarmament and arms control negotiation forum to the benefit of all. 

GONZALO DE BENITO SECADES, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for Spain, said the United Nations Secretary-General’s clear message to the Conference at the beginning of the year that it must break its cycle of pessimism was a very accurate assessment, as a climate of pessimism was not just in the Conference but had expanded to other disarmament mechanisms in the United Nations system.  The reason were the delays and failures of some countries to commit to, or to achieve, objectives such as the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)  or negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. 

However, there were reasons for optimism.  In September 2013 the Security Council adopted Resolution S/RES/2117 on non-proliferation of small and light weapons; followed by Resolution S/RES/2118 supporting a joint proposal of United States and Russia on destruction of chemical weapons held by Syria, although delays in implementation and favours in compliance with the intermediate deadlines (there) were a concern.  In November in Geneva the E3+3 achieved an agreement with Iran on its nuclear programme.  The adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty last year was another success, to be ratified by Spain’s parliament at the end of March.  Expert groups on fissile materials, on certain conventional weapons, and on Autonomous Robots would meet in Geneva this year.  There was a clear will to tackle challenges on a multilateral level while still meeting national concerns. 

Optimism must go hand in hand with pragmatism, and Spain therefore felt the Non-Proliferation Treaty was the best way forward.  The recent proposal by President Obama to reduce by one third the nuclear arms of the United States was very valuable, and Spain hoped it would be taken up by other nuclear weapon States.  Spain also supported the work being done to hold a Conference on the establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons in a very complex political environment.  Spain called for the beginning of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. 

The Secretary of State then turned to the crisis in Ukraine.  He said that despite the efforts for détente in Europe in recent years, the current situation in the Ukraine was very uncertain and cause for great grave concern, particularly the grave tensions in Crimea.  It was essential to maintain a regime of transparency and confidence-building measures, set down in forums such as Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to avoid an escalation on tension in the region.  Also full respect for international agreements guaranteeing sovereignty and independence of Ukraine should be maintained, particularly the Budapest Memorandum of 5 December 1994.  The situation must be contained, and approached through dialogue, with inclusive measures taking into account all regional and political sensitivities.  Spain repeated its full support to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and its hope that democratic normally could be restored as soon as possible.  Spain invited all international actors to cooperate in seeking a solution that avoided the use of military forces. 

EDGARS RINKĒVIČS, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, said they recognized and commended the unique legacy of the Conference, due to which the international community had instruments such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention and others at their disposal.  In that context Latvia spoke about the efforts made by Ukraine in strengthening the regime of the Non-Proliferation Treaty by abandoning its nuclear arsenal and acceding to the Treaty as a non-nuclear-weapon State.  That step forward was reflected in the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances of 1994.  According to the Memorandum, its signatories would respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine.  Latvia condemned the military action of Russia in Ukraine, which violated international law, including the United Nations Charter.  Its actions also undermined the credibility of nuclear non-proliferation efforts.  Latvia called on Russia to honour its international commitments, including those set out in the Budapest Memorandum. 

Latvia was deeply concerned about the prolonged stalemate of the substantive work in the Conference and outlined three aspects to be considered.  First was the re-establishment of the climate of trust and confidence among participating States.  Second, that current and future participating States should keep their sights on the tremendous success achieved by the Conference.  That fact that the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons demonstrated what an important influence the work of the Conference could have for international peace and security.  Thirdly, Latvia was convinced that the universalization of the membership of the Conference was integral to it adapting to the new and changing international security environment.  Doing so would give a voice to all interested States in negotiating agreements that were universally applicable.  Since 1982 27 States had applied for membership of the Conference on Disarmament and Latvia was one of them.  Latvia commended the decision to re-establish the Informal Working Group to develop a Programme of Work, and reaffirmed its support for the immediate commencement of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. 

Ukraine said it wholeheartedly thanked all high-level dignitaries and delegations that had expressed solidarity in a very challenging time and called for the importance of strict adherence to international law and commitments.  Under the rules of procedure of the Conference on Disarmament, Ukraine said it wished to elaborate further on the issues raised in its statement of Monday 3 March.  Leaving the politicized issues relating to the situation in Ukraine to the United Nations Security Council, Ukraine said it would like to draw delegations’ attention exclusively to the pressing matters of relevance to the Conference on Disarmament.  The non-proliferation regime established by the Non-Proliferation Treaty negotiated by the Conference on Disarmament, and negative security assurances encompassed in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 were part of a wider Non-Proliferation Treaty framework and were beyond doubt of particular significance to the Conference and stood at the core of its agenda.

Ukraine drew the Conference’s attention to its appeal to the international community in which it said the current situation provokes misbalance in the international security system and could lead to a violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Twenty years ago Ukraine became a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty exclusively under certain conditions. Those conditions envisaged granting security assurances to Ukraine by the five nuclear States in connection with the Ukraine joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear State.  On 5 December 1994 the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia signed the Budapest Memorandum on security assurances with Ukraine.  France and China supported the memorandum by signing separate declarations.  During its Non-Proliferation Treaty membership Ukraine has been thoroughly implementing all provisions of the document.  Ukraine had additionally successfully fulfilled additional obligations by getting rid of all of its stockpiles of highly enriched uranium.  In 2009 Ukraine raised the issue of acquiring legally binding negative security assurances with the aim of enforcing the Budapest Memorandum.  The reluctance of the P5 States to take such a step was then justified by the absence of a real threat to the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the inviolability of its State borders.
The Guarantor States had also referred to the comprehensive bilateral agreements with Ukraine.  Today we witness a situation when Russia attempted to undermine the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime by violating the Budapest Memorandum.  The non-adherence of one Guarantor State, Russia, to its commitments has created a situation where the threshold States can consider international legal instruments as insufficient to ensure sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of its borders. 

Thus current developments in Ukraine will define future relations of the international community with States that can choose the nuclear option.  In that regard Ukraine continued to urge its Budapest Memorandum Guarantor States to take immediate steps and exert additional pressure on the invader with the aim of preserving the treaty and to preserve the treaty and avoid mass violations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty by the threshold States.  Ukraine also urged all non-nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty States to influence Russia in all possible ways in that regard.  The existing circumstances require immediate and effective action. 

Iran spoke about the ‘unconstructive attitude and unfounded positions’ expressed by Canada and said it wished to clarify some points.  The representative of  Iran said that it was not the first time that Canada, the self-appointed guardian of the non-proliferation regime, had made an effort to raise issues which were not only outside the competence of the Conference but also undermined its credibility.  Canada’s selective and double-standard record towards the implementation of Non-Proliferation Treaty positions was well known.  Its systematic denial of the right of developing countries to the peaceful use of nuclear energy,  and its cherry-picking approach to nuclear disarmament were just a few illustrated examples of its ineffectual polices.  After more than four decades of the Non-Proliferation Treaty there was still serious doubt about Canada’s good faith towards the non-proliferation regime.   There was no need to elaborate on Iran’s high record in the Middle East through its accession to all weapons of mass destruction instruments.  Iran’s persistent policies towards a world free of nuclear weapons was a clear indication of its commitment to non-proliferation and disarmament. 

Sweden said it added the voice of its delegation to those of European Union Member States who had addressed the situation in Ukraine.  Sweden also appealed for respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and supported the involvement of the international community in finding a peaceful solution to the situation.  Regarding the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, Sweden drew attention to the conclusions of the Council of the European Union which on Monday 3 March not only outlined the European Union’s broad view but also addressed the issue of the Budapest Memorandum.

Russia said its position on the mandate of the Conference on Disarmament and on the issues on its agenda remained unchanged.  Russia had never put, and was not putting into doubt, the international obligations of Russia.  Moreover, Russia had consistently taken the floor to advocate the unswerving strict adherence to the norms and standards of international law and to strengthening the central role of United Nations in settling all conflict situations.  Today, we were hearing that a divergence had been noted from those principles, the Russian representative said.  In his statement on Monday 3 March the representative of Ukraine himself called the situation “an extraordinary situation” which meant it required an appropriate reaction.  That did not mean that Ukraine’s rush towards disarmament was being questioned.  Russia greatly appreciated the steps Ukraine had taken and was taking in non-proliferation, including in complying with the provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

However, given the current situation in the country, Russia referred to the Security Council where the corresponding consultations were underway.  The discussions today were outside the scope, remit and mandate of the Conference on Disarmament.  But if it was being discussed all the different factors needed to be brought into account.  Moreover, Russia could read out the evaluation of the situation that President Putin gave yesterday in a widely-disseminated interview.  A constitutional uprising and a military taking of power had taken place.  It happened despite the 21 February agreement.  Yanukovych was legally the legitimate President of Ukraine and remained so, the representative said.  Yanukovych complied with everything demanded by the opposition.  But after the 21 February agreement authoritative bodies were formed that were not legitimate. Today, a vacuum existed in the constitutional authorities and they were unable to control the situation in the regions. 

Ukraine was a neighbour of Russia and Russia could not remain indifferent to what was happening in its neighbouring country, as confirmed by the Russian President yesterday.  The representative of the Ukraine and other delegates had spoken today as if it were a fact that Russian forces had already gone into Ukraine.  But the situation was completely different.  Pursuant to the agreement with Ukraine the only Russian troops there were the troops of the Black Sea Fleet, and they were there in their permanent place of location.  Measures had been taken by Russia to ensure the safety of those facilities.  The Council of the Russian Federation made a decision to give the President of Russia the right to use Russian armed forces, and the President underscored yesterday that he had not used that right yet and it was an extreme measure.  However, that possibility remained.  The President had that right if there was a case of destabilization of the situation in Ukraine. 

United States said it remained unwavering in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and urged all parties to avoid steps which could be misinterpreted or lead to miscalculation at this delicate time.  As said on Monday, Russia’s actions in Ukraine were a clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and a breach of international law and a threat to international peace and security.  Dialogue between Russia and Ukraine must start immediately with international facilitation as appropriate.  The United States rejected the Russian justifications for their actions.   The United States had seen no evidence of attacks or discrimination against ethnic Russians. 

Moreover Mr. Yanukovych had lost his legitimacy as the leader of Ukraine as he abdicated his responsibilities by fleeing during a political crisis and before signing a critical piece of legislation necessary to implement the 21 February agreement.  A near-unanimous vote of the Rada, including virtually all members of Mr. Yanukovych’s own party, then elected a new speaker of the Rada who now serves as acting President.  The United States also supported calls for a high-level meeting of the parties to the Budapest Memorandum: Ukraine, Russia, United Kingdom and United States.  In the Budapest Memorandum and in accordance with the United Nations Charter those parties committed to refrain from threat or use of force against territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine. 

Ukraine took the floor in the right of reply.  It said it had not asked Russia to assist in stabilizing the situation in Ukraine.  Ukraine had new, legitimate authorities.  Neither the acting President and the Government did not address Russia for help in stabilizing the situation.  Regarding the 21 February agreement, Ukraine said it continued to be a roadmap in stabilizing the situation and some elements of the document had already been implemented, for example the return of Ukraine to the 2004 Constitution and some other provisions.  The new Government, the acting President and the Rada, the Parliament of Ukraine, were committed to that document, the representative said.  He put a question to Russia, which was what were more than 6,000 additional Russian troops doing now in Crimea?  What was their mission?  Their presence was a very destabilizing factor, not only in Ukraine but in the region as a whole. 

Belarus said that two countries which had provided negative security assurances to Belarus under the Budapest Memorandum had violated their obligations – the guarantee of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Member States.  Several times Belarus had called upon those countries to complete their obligations under the Budapest Memorandum but that had not been done. Belarus could see economic sanctions being applied despite that important document. 
United Kingdom reiterated that it remained fully supportive of Ukraine and fully supported the statements made today by Ukraine, the United States and Sweden.  The actions by Russia were a clear violation of the sovereignty of Russia.  United Kingdom continued to call on all States to show restraint in the crisis and fully supported calls for a high-level meeting of parties to the Budapest Memorandum.  

Russia reiterated that the highest authority in Russia, President Putin, the Head of State, had given his assurances on the situation.  If people in the Conference now started to doubt the assurances of the Head of State then, the Russian representative said, he did not know where we would end up.  The Head of State said the use of force would only be used in extreme circumstances and exclusively to protect compatriots in Ukrainian territory if there was a severe deterioration in the situation.  The President of Russia said that the military exercises had no relation to what was happening in Ukraine, and were just training exercises that had now ended.  President Putin said he was not examining the Crimea joining the Russian Federation, it was an issue for the people and nobody else could interfere in that, the President clearly said.  However, if some people had the right to devolution, such as Scotland, why should other people (such as Crimea) not have the same right?  Regarding Yanukovych losing his legitimacy, the representative said the issue of State sovereignty and the Head of State as a guarantor of sovereignty was a very delicate issue.  To interfere on that level, at our level, was rather delicate. 

The representative of Russia invited States to read the words of President Putin on that topic.  He said perhaps the legislation of Ukraine had changed so much it has been completely re-written, but as President Putin said, there were only three ways to change a President: his death, his resignation or impeachment.  Those had not happened and so President Yanukovych was still in place.  He had requested asylum in Russia as he was afraid for his life.  The streets of Kiev were now being controlled by armed individuals subordinate to no known superior.  That was the main reason why the President of Russia put questions to the only legitimate President of Ukraine on using Russian armed forces to protect the lives of Ukrainian citizens. 

Ukraine assured Russia that they were well informed about the interview given yesterday by the President of Russia.  Nevertheless, in response to assertions that the military training drills were over, the representative said there were still troops present, including units of the Black Sea Fleets, and according to relevant information, the presence of two additional Russian fleets in Crimea.  Regarding the legitimacy of the former president of Ukraine, the representative returned to the events of 9 February when there was an extraordinary situation: bloodshed on the streets and no president in the country.  The Parliament of Ukraine had to take responsibility for the country. 

All the decisions regarding the acting President of Ukraine, the Government and the laws which were adopted by the Parliament of Ukraine, almost all of them had the constitutional majority, even representatives of the opposition parties voted in favour of those pieces of legislation.  Last but not least, regarding the deterioration of the situation of the Russian-speaking minority of Ukraine, the representative highlighted the briefing note circulated in Geneva by the Permanent Mission of Ukraine and recommended his distinguished colleague of the Russian delegation to read it carefully. 

Russia replied with regard to the rights of Ukrainian minorities in Russia.  He said there were currently 3.5 million permanently resident Ukrainians living in Russia.  Pursuant to official statistics from of the Federal Migratory Service of Russia, at the start of the year the Ukrainian-Russia border was crossed by more than 650,000 individuals; and 150,000 people had crossed in the last two weeks.  A marked increased had also been noted in the number of people asking for Russian citizenship, who said they wanted to sit out the difficult times in Russia.  The figures were no invention, they were official statistics of Russia.  Nevertheless, discussions were moving further away from the mandate of the Conference on Disarmament.  It was just not possible that two additional fleets were in the Crimean Peninsula: Russia only had four fleets, and one flotilla, it was just not realistic to have moved two fleets to the very small Black Sea from the northern part of the Pacific Ocean was just not possible.  Regarding the assertion of the presence of more than 6,000 Russian troops, the representative said that if President Putin said there was only the Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine, then that was the situation and there was nothing further to add. 

Ukraine said the statistics provided were Russian, and the Ukrainian authorities did not have such figures.  They would double-check, and as soon as the Ukrainian side provided the final figures they would be shared will all interested parties.  The representative clarified that he was referring to units of fleets, not fleets.  According to Ukrainian information they were units of the Baltic Sea Fleet and the North Sea Fleet. 

For use of the information media; not an official record