UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL ADDRESSES OPENING PLENARY OF 2014 SESSION OF THE CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT
Ban Ki-moon Urges the Conference on Disarmament to Develop Treaty Frameworks and Proposals through Structured Discussions
21 January 2014
The Conference on Disarmament this morning opened its 2014 session under the Presidency of Israel, hearing a statement from the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The Conference observed a minute of silence in honour of the victims of the terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan on Friday 17 January. It also adopted its agenda and agreed requests by 33 States to participate in the 2014 session as observers.
Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General, said although the Conference remained unable to begin substantive negotiations, the world had not waited. He recalled the condemnation of the atrocious use of chemical weapons in Syria in 2013 by the international community and said the abhorrent use of chemical weapons was a stark reminder of the need to confront the dangers of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. The Secretary-General urged the Conference not to hide behind utopian logic which said that until there was a perfect security environment, nuclear disarmament could not proceed. The Conference must face the realities of the 21st century, he said. The Secretary-General suggested the development of treaty frameworks and proposals through structured discussions which would lay a foundation for future negotiations.
Eviatar Manor, President of the Conference on Disarmament and Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that for over 17 years the Conference on Disarmament had been unable to engage in substantive work, but in that time the challenges to global stability had only increased. Israel valued the Conference and viewed it as a unique body, the only international body after the Security Council that included all the relevant States that were not only significant military powers but could also influence and contribute to global stability and security.
In the ensuing discussion speakers outlined priorities for disarmament in 2014, including agreement on a programme of work. In confronting the impasse of the Conference it was essential to avoid any temptations to lower the level of collective ambition, a speaker said. Another emphasized that 2014 was a critical year for the Conference, and its relevance would be further questioned if it did not succeed in coming to an agreement. Several speakers said negotiating a verifiable ban on the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons and other explosive devices was a clear priority. The growing risk of an arms race in outer space, given the absence of legal prohibition, was also raised. Other speakers praised the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty in 2013, following eight years of difficult negotiations.
Speaking during the plenary this morning were Israel, Greece on behalf of the European Union, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Iceland, Serbia, Albania, Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia; Russia, Italy, United States, Mexico, Belarus, Germany, Canada, Ireland, Netherlands and France.
The next public plenary of the Conference will be held on Tuesday, 28 February at 10 a.m.
President of the Conference on Disarmament
EVIATAR MANOR, President of the Conference on Disarmament and Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, welcomed delegates to the 2014 session of the Conference on Disarmament. The Conference then adopted the agenda for the session contained in document CD/WP.587.
The President read out a list of States that had submitted requests to participate in the work of the Conference on Disarmament for the 2014 session. The States were Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Holy See, Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Nepal, Oman, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Moldova, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, Thailand, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Arab Emirates and Uruguay (as listed in document CD/WP.577).
The Conference decided to invite all of the States listed above to participate in its work as observers in accordance with the rules of procedure.
The Conference on Disarmament then observed a minute of silence in honour of the victims of the terrorist attack that took place in Kabul on Friday 17 January and killed citizens of at least nine nationalities, including four United Nations staff members.
Secretary-General of the United Nations
BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, opened his speech by wishing delegates all the best for the new year and hoping that the august forum of the Conference on Disarmament - the sole standing body on disarmament negotiations – would take inspiration and make 2014 a year of creativity and action. The Secretary-General said that in frank terms, when he considered addressing the Conference on Disarmament once again today, some of his advisors counselled against it. They said there were little prospects for progress this year, and wondered about the point of taking time out of an already full schedule on the eve of the Geneva Conference on Syria. However, the Secretary-General said he decided to come and meet the Conference because he was a strong believer in multilateralism. The Secretary-General said he had not given up hope for the noble body, but encouraged it to live up to the international community’s expectations.
Since his last visit in 2011, the Conference on Disarmament had remained unable to begin substantive negotiations. But the world had not waited, the Secretary-General said.
Last year, the international community reacted in horror to the atrocious use of chemical weapons in Syria. In one voice, the world condemned these acts as an outrageous violation of international humanitarian law and a war crime. The abhorrent use of chemical weapons was a stark reminder of the need to confront the dangers of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. They could not wait for new catastrophes to act, said the Secretary-General.
The Chemical Weapons Convention was the legacy of the Conference on Disarmament, which brought it to life. The presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was recognition of the importance of disarmament and non-proliferation for world peace. The Secretary-General said he hoped the Conference would be inspired by that. The Secretary-General urged the Conference not to hide behind utopian logic which said that until they had the perfect security environment, nuclear disarmament could not proceed, saying that was “old-think” and the mentality of the Cold War. They must face the realities of the 21st century, the Secretary-General said, adding that the very mission of the Conference was to be a driving force for building a safer world and a better future.
Disarmament and non-proliferation were a leading priority on the United Nations agenda, the Secretary-General said. A functional machinery could and must contribute substantially to international peace and security. Savings in weaponry could contribute to development and improve global well-being. The Conference’s work could make a significant contribution as the international community strove hard to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and craft a solid post-2015 development agenda. There was progress on which to build. The open-ended working group convened last year in Geneva generated some new thinking on the way forward. The High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament demonstrated that that issue remained a major international priority and deserved attention at the highest levels. There was growing understanding of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.
The Secretary-General said he recognized and welcomed the serious efforts the Conference on Disarmament had made to end the impasse. While there was no breakthrough, a constructive spirit prevailed last year. The various Presidencies engaged in active consultations. The Informal Working Group represented an innovative attempt to take modest steps forward. However, the pervasive cycle of pessimism in the body must still be overcome or else the Conference on Disarmament would be overtaken by events, he said. The Secretary-General suggested a way forward by the development of treaty frameworks and proposals through structured discussions, saying that laying such a foundation for future negotiations would be a concrete first step towards revalidating the relevance of the Conference. He hoped the Conference would make good progress before the third preparatory meeting for the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in the Spring, which would significantly boost the morale for that important event.
The Secretary-General took the opportunity to formally present Mr. Michael Møller, Acting Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament and his Personal Representative to the Conference, commending him for bringing long experience to the role. In conclusion the Secretary-General said he hoped the progress of the past session, previous successes and a renewed sense of commitment would serve as a stepping stone towards resuming substantive work.
President of the Conference on Disarmament
EVIATAR MANOR, President of the Conference on Disarmament and Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said it was the second time in 11 years that Israel had assumed the Presidency of the Conference on Disarmament but the first time it had been charged with opening the new year session. He hoped that this year would bring about changes for the Conference on Disarmament.
In a national statement, the President said that for over 17 years the Conference on Disarmament had been unable to engage in substantive work, but in that time the challenges to global stability had only increased. The last few days had only been a stark reminder of how unsafe the world remained to be. The terrorist attack in Kabul that took the lives of 20 people, including four United Nations personnel, cast a dark shadow. The Conference on Disarmament’s inability for over 17 years and more than 100 presidencies to address the longstanding stalemate raised many questions, he said. Israel valued the Conference on Disarmament and wished to contribute to its work. It viewed it as a unique body, the only international body after the Security Council that included all the relevant States that were not only significant military powers but could also influence and contribute to global stability and security.
Israel took up Presidency with a sense of realism, and the President quoted a Hebrew proverb: “It is not up to you to complete the duty but nevertheless you are not at liberty to shut it away”. Therefore, he said, with Israel’s P6 colleagues it would explore ways to move forward and serve as the international community’s single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum. Israel would look for the right formula for a programme of work, robust in substance and sustainable, and would also explore the possibility of a structured schedule of activities to further explore all agenda items adopted in previous years.
Greece spoke on behalf of the European Union, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Iceland, Serbia, Albania, Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia. The European Union was pleased to have started the new year with a positive development: on 10 January 2014 the E3/EU+3 and Iran reached a common understanding on the implementation modalities as set out in the Geneva Joint Plan of Action of 24 November 2013 on the nuclear programme of Iran. The foundations for a coherent, robust and smooth implementation of the Joint Plan of Action over the six-month period had been laid, with the first step being taken by E3/EU+3 and Iran yesterday, 20 January 2014. Greece reiterated European Union Member States’ longstanding commitment to the enlargement of the Conference on Disarmament and strong support for the appointment of a special co-ordinator on that issue. A clear priority of the European Union was the immediate commencement and early conclusion in the Conference of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and all Member States were called upon to start negotiations on such a treaty without delay. The European Union also remained ready to engage in substantive discussions on the other items included in the most recent programme of work, CD/1864, on practical steps to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons, on the prevention of an arms race in outer space and on negative security assurances, as well as other issues on the agenda. The European Union also looked forward to enhanced interaction with civil society, and strengthening the contribution of non-governmental organizations and research institutions to the work of the Conference.
Russia said it welcomed the agreements achieved on the Iran nuclear programme and disarmament and the successful carrying out of the work to destroy chemical weapons in Syria. Russia said it would continue to support the agreements with Iran and the work of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. Russia then turned to the New START treaty between it and the United States, which was of paramount importance in the field of nuclear disarmament. Russia said it could not be denied that the two leading nuclear powers were fulfilling in deeds, not just words, their obligations under the first part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Russia fully shared the noble goal of freeing the planet from weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear arms, but said new approaches were needed. The growing risk of outer space becoming the arena of armed confrontation was a further challenge, given the absence of legal prohibition. Russia’s main priority in the Conference on Disarmament was the prevention of a nuclear arms race in outer space. It said that a growing number of States also agreed that it was a pressing issue due to clearly understandable concerns. Russia announced plans to submit to the General Assembly a draft resolution on the subject of prevention of an arms race in outer space. However, the most serious challenge before the Conference was its stalemate: Russia said it believed the way out of the impasse lay in overcoming objections and finding political will. Russia called on all States to be creative in seeking a common denominator to that end.
Italy said it aligned itself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, but wished to recall some issues from a national point of view. Italy continued to believe that effective multilateralism was crucial in the field of disarmament. The continuous stalemate of the Conference on Disarmament undermined its credibility. The adoption of a programme of work should be the main concern and every delegate should be deeply engaged in reaching that goal. All delegations should exert flexibility to the maximum possible extent. Italy said it supported the proposal of former Secretary-General of the Conference, Mr. Tokayev, to establish an informal working group with a mandate to produce a programme of work robust in substance and progressive over time in implementation. Unfortunately the discussions showed that further negotiations were needed for a programme of work to be adopted.
United States said that in confronting the impasse of the Conference on Disarmament it was essential to avoid any temptations to lower the level of collective ambition. It took that view against the backdrop of the ongoing and ambitious United States agenda to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons. Working with its partner Russia, no country had taken deeper and broader reductions to its nuclear arsenal, the United States said. The United States had reduced its nuclear weapons stockpile by 84 per cent since its highest levels during the Cold War, and that work continued. The daily intensive implication of the New START Treaty was on track to cut American and Russian deployed strategic nuclear warheads to their lowest levels since the 1950s. The United States believed the next logical and necessary step to achieve shared nuclear disarmament goals was the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), simply because they could not get to the end if they did not start at the beginning. A verifiable ban on the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons was necessary if the international community was to create conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. The United States emphasized that it did not discount the important of other ‘core’ issues on the Conference on Disarmament’s agenda: nuclear disarmament, negative security assurances and prevention of an arms race in outer space and outlined practical steps taken to advance each of those issues. The United States also said that it continued to work determinedly to create the conditions for a conference on a Middle East Weapons Of Mass Destruction-Free Zone.
Mexico said starting at the conventional level, it particularly welcomed a major multilateral success story: the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty by the General Assembly, and its opening for signature on 3 June 2013. Mexico was the seventh country to ratify that treaty and hoped it would enter into force in the near future. It recalled the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the outcome document of the 1978 General Assembly Special Session on Nuclear Disarmament which led to the birth of the Conference on Disarmament. Everyone was well aware of the global consequences of a nuclear weapon explosion, be it accidental or intentional. No country would be unable to withstand the bloody consequences of the discharge of a nuclear weapon today. To that end Mexico was hosting the Second International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in 14 February 2014 in Nayarit, and invited all delegations to attend. The lack of substantive work that marred the Conference continued to be unacceptable, said Mexico. The analysis and concerns outlined by the Secretary-General were shared by Mexico, which said it fully supported the roadmap he sketched out this morning. In conclusion, Mexico said it was well aware that the incentives that encouraged the stalemate were as deep today as they had been for years, and that unless those incentives changed, it would be difficult to progress.
Belarus spoke about the rules of procedure of the Conference on Disarmament which enshrined the principle of consensus – it said the use of consensus was a guarantee of the supreme interest tha§t national concerns of Member States were being taken care of. Belarus was in favour of those rules of procedure, which were fair and balanced. It also believed in the rotation of the Presidency, which was the most democratic approach. Belarus said that the negotiation mandate was not being fulfilled because of the different views among States. To overcome the impasse consensus was particularly needed by the Permanent Members of the Security Council. The priority was the prohibition of the appearance of new forms of weapons of mass destruction, said Belarus. If the start of negotiations on the core issues were not possible, Belarus said informal discussions could take place on other issues, for example in an informal working group, which would allow for the revitalization of substantive work.
Germany gave a brief review, noting that the adoption of an Arms Trade Treaty in 2013 after eight years of difficult negotiations was a remarkable achievement. Through Syria’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention in September 2013 a solution was finally found to deal with the threat posed by chemical weapons in that country. It was deplorable, however, that that move only came after chemical weapons had been used in Syria. It proved that the absolute ban on chemical weapons was a lesson for the future. The successful E3+3 talks with Iran on its nuclear programme had led to solid agreement and verifiable steps. And even the Conference had made limited progress in the informal working group. Germany said that the mandate of the informal working group should be renewed as soon as possible, as for the time being it was the most promising approach to reach consensus on a programme of work. It also advocated that a substantive schedule of activities should be agreed on for 2014 that would provide room and time for substantive discussions on all issues on the agenda of the Conference on Disarmament. Germany underlined the need for a coherent approach for 2014 in order to accelerate progress towards a balanced programme of work, which included coordination among all the Presidents of Conference on Disarmament. 2014 would be a critical year for the Conference, Germany said, and its relevance would be further questioned if it did not succeed in coming to an agreement on the most urgent issues before it.
Canada congratulated Israel on taking up the Presidency of the Conference, and said Israel faced the same challenge that every recent incoming Conference President had confronted since the negotiation of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty: finding the most effective means to return the Conference to its mandated role as a multilateral disarmament body. Canada said it would like to see progress on the core issues identified, and a return to substantive negotiation beginning with the negotiation of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices. Canada said it was pleased to join consensus in 2013 on the creation of an informal working group of the Conference. However, not all States approached the informal working group with the requisite spirit of cooperation and a willingness to work together to achieve a common purposes – a programme of work. Ultimately, the informal working group was not afforded sufficient time to work in 2013, and consideration should be given to renewing its mandate in 2014, said Canada.
Ireland expressed its appreciation to all members of the Conference for the flexible and cooperative spirit shown in the finalization of the annual report of the Conference on Disarmament for 2013 and the resolution thereon to the General Assembly, which took place under the Irish Presidency of the Conference. The willingness to explore new ways in which to get the Conference back to the vital and substantive work that it had been charged with by the international community was evident in the work of the Informal Working Group. During consultations on the General Assembly resolution on the Conference’s annual report there was an overwhelming expression of appreciation for the vital role that the Conference had carried out in the past – the negotiation of multilateral legally binding instruments in the field of disarmament – and equally overwhelming expression of a shared desire by the international community that the Conference resume that vital role. Ireland said it believed that by acting collectively the Conference could again live up to the trust placed in it to negotiate.
Netherlands said the clear and inspiring message of the Secretary-General today was that the Conference on Disarmament could not afford to waste another year, the world needed multilateral negotiations on disarmament treaties; there was work to do. As would be discussed in Mexico, the humanitarian consequences of the failure to further disarmament were too costly. It was up to all members to get the Conference on Disarmament back to work. The Netherlands said it would be in favour of continuing the work of the informal working group in 2014, which would be a pragmatic start to see if agreement on a programme of work could be reached by informal negotiations. The Secretary-General spoke about blue horses. In the Conference on Disarmament the horses were too far behind the carriage – it was time to put the horses in front to pull the Conference on Disarmament to real progress.
France spoke about the achievements of the Conference on Disarmament, and said members should pull out all the steps to achieve progress as raking over the achievements of the past would only be a retrograde step. Turning to the informal working group of 2013, France said that discussions within it showed willingness to reach consensus. France’s priorities for the coming year started with negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) prohibiting the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. The launching of negotiations on such a subject would be the logical next step forward in creating a nuclear weapon free world, by first tackling the basic raw materials of those weapons. The resolution which envisaged the creation of a governmental group of experts on a fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT), adopted at the sixty-seventh General Assembly with the support of 166 Member States, demonstrated the support of the international community on that issue. France has unilaterally ceased production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and dismantled its production facilities in unprecedented conditions of transparency and permanency. In 2008 and 2009 representatives of the Conference on Disarmament were able to visit the sites of Pierrelatte and Marcoule for themselves. Following the success of the adoption of the arms trade treaty in 2013, France said it hoped 2014 would see its entry into force. Finally, France announced that on 23 December 2013 its President passed a law ordering France to ratify that treaty, once the relevant legal conditions were met at the European Union level.
For use of the information media; not an official record