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CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT DISCUSSES REVISED DRAFT PROGRAMME OF WORK

Ambassador Heidi Hulan of Canada Briefs the Conference on the Report of the High-Level Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty Expert Preparatory Group
12 February 2019

The Conference on Disarmament this morning was briefed on the outcomes of the work of the United Nations High-Level Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty Expert Preparatory Group, which were presented by Heidi Hulan, Chair of the Group and Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations Office at Vienna. The Conference then moved on to discuss a revised draft programme of work that Yurii Klymenko of Ukraine, President of the Conference and Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations Office at Geneva, presented on 8 February.

In her presentation on the report and outcomes of the work of the United Nations High-Level Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty Expert Preparatory Group, Ms. Hulan noted that the international community could not be satisfied with the pace of progress on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. The conclusion of the Group’s report was that nothing substantive stood in the way of negotiations. One possibility to break the impasse was to take the treaty outside the Conference on Disarmament and to negotiate it at the United Nations General Assembly. However, the benefits of having the treaty negotiated at the Conference on Disarmament were considerable because the process did not have to be subject to artificial deadlines, because all the needed players were present, and because the rules of procedure ensured predictable and equitable negotiations. Possessor States which had historically opposed negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament needed to show more flexibility, whereas possessor States which had supported negotiations at the Conference needed to work with others to discover what further options were available to break the current impasse, she urged.

In the ensuing discussion, France emphasized the need for an international instrument to ban the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons, noting that the negotiation of such a treaty would constitute an irreversible and irreplaceable step towards a world free of nuclear weapons. The Netherlands stated that the reports of two expert groups (the Group of Governmental Experts and of the High-Level Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty Expert Preparatory Group) provided the Conference on Disarmament with the necessary impetus to move forward with a treaty that would ban the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.

Romania, on behalf of the European Union, fully supported the unanimous recommendation of the High-Level Expert Preparatory Group to begin the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament without delay. Japan said that it was important for the Conference on Disarmament to add value to what it had achieved before and to lay groundwork for further discussions.

Argentina inquired whether it would be desirable and useful to create a new group of experts to progress with a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty if the Conference on Disarmament remained in paralysis. Australia observed that it was important to raise the literacy about a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty at the Conference on Disarmament, and to understand the positions of other countries.

Germany noted that unless the negotiation process was taken forward, the Conference on Disarmament would undermine its own relevance, while the Republic of Korea expressed hope that the Conference on Disarmament could start negotiations as soon as possible.

Poland reminded of the limited number of States participating in the work of the Expert Preparatory Group, adding that one could argue that many important aspects of fissile materials remain unaddressed. Pakistan reminded that it had voted against the establishment of the Expert Preparatory Group because it had objected to the Group’s mandate and composition, and the outlived utility and validity of the Shannon Mandate with its ambiguous approach to the fissile material stocks, which was detrimental to Pakistan’s national security.

The Russian Federation drew attention to the fact that the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty negotiations were not a key item on the agenda of the Conference on Disarmament, reminding that such negotiations were pending the adoption of a comprehensive and balanced programme of work of the Conference of Disarmament. Brazil underlined that Member States first needed to adopt the programme of work for the Conference on Disarmament.

Referring to the argument that the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty was a mature issue, China noted that the same could be argued for some issues, such as the arms race in outer space. The United States noted that the idea of pursuing a comprehensive and balanced programme of work, as proposed by the Russian Federation, was a recipe for deadlock. Turkey supported the calls for systematic, progressive, verifiable and irreversible nuclear disarmament and it encouraged all States that possessed nuclear weapons to take further practical steps in that direction.

Presenting the revised draft programme of work submitted on 8 February (CD/WP.618/Rev.1), Yurii Klymenko, President of the Conference and Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations Office at Geneva, explained that the initial draft programme of work by the Ukrainian presidency had been perceived by some as too ambitious. Accordingly, the Ukrainian presidency had submitted a revised draft, which did not contain a proposal establishing a working group to elaborate a globalized mechanism of governance for existing and potential security threats. The revised draft also included a provision to establish a coordinator for the purpose of exploring issues related to the expansion of membership in the Conference on Disarmament, and it provided for the establishment of a coordinator with a view to explore issues related to working methods of the Conference.

In the discussion that followed, Ecuador said that the revision had weakened the draft programme of work because it did not emphasize the goal of negotiations. Chile favoured considering the issues of increased membership and revising the methods of work of the Conference on Disarmament. Whereas the revised draft was a more practical document, Egypt asked that the mandate of proposed coordinators for membership and methods of work be clarified, and that the schedule of activities be more precise.

Austria said that the revised draft was a test for the political will of this chamber to come closer to fulfilling the Conference’s negotiating mandate and bring it back to substantive work. Brazil expressed preference for more forthcoming language with regard to the Secretary-General’s disarmament agenda and additional clarity on negative security assurances. Mexico supported the discussions on broadening the membership of the Conference on Disarmament and on its methods of work, and requested that their terms be broad, constructive, and without previous restrictions.

The Russian Federation reiterated its position concerning the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament and said that the link between the agenda and the Conference had not been established. The United States stressed that membership expansion and a revision of working methods were essential to “rebooting” the Conference and fundamental to moving this body forward. Iran wondered whether those two issues had indeed been the root causes of lack of progress on the Conference’s core mandate.

India fully supported the commencement of the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty and preferred stronger language for concluding legally binding instruments. Indonesia said the Conference was not ready to negotiate issues under agenda items 5, 6 and 7, adding that some issues under those agenda items were more appropriate to be addressed in other fora. Turkey said that the revised programme of work constituted a good basis for discussions and added that the Conference should capitalize on the progress made in 2018 through the work of subsidiary bodies, and not be distracted by other issues.

Venezuela stressed the importance of negotiating a legally binding instrument on negative security assurances, and the importance of reaching an agreement on a programme of work in order to overcome the paralysis in the Conference. Argentina said that, in light of the paralysis in the work of the Conference on Disarmament, the publication of the Secretary-General’s disarmament agenda was useful and that the draft programme of work should take note of issues raised in that agenda, in a manner satisfactory to the Member States.

Poland said that this body should not be afraid to examine the issues of membership expansion and methods of work, which would give it a better chance to deal with substantive issues in the future. Cuba said that the language concerning negotiating mandates must include the aim of reaching legally binding instruments, and that the attention to membership expansion and methods of work should not divert the Conference from its core mandate, which was to negotiate legally binding instruments. Syria remarked that the current moment was not conducive to reaching a consensus on the issue of methods of work and on membership expansion, and that was why Syria could not support this proposal.

The next plenary meeting of the Conference on Disarmament will take place at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 14 February, to allow the continuation of discussions, including on the draft programme of work.

Briefing on the Report of the High-Level Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty Expert Preparatory Group

YURII KLYMENKO, President of the Conference and Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in his opening remarks, said that the Conference would today discuss the revised draft programme of work circulated on Friday, 8 February. First, he gave the floor to Heidi Hulan, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations Office at Vienna and Chair of the United Nations High-Level Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty Expert Preparatory Group,

HEIDI HULAN, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations Office at Vienna and Chair of the United Nations High-Level Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty Expert Preparatory Group, shared her own impressions on the work of the Expert Preparatory Group and the next steps. She noted that a great deal remained to be done about a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty because the effort was inherently in the interest of all members of the Conference on Disarmament and because it had the potential to contribute a much-needed momentum to the global disarmament and non-proliferation aspirations. The international community could not be satisfied with the pace of progress on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. For the past 25 years, a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty had been considered as the next logical step towards nuclear disarmament. For most of that time very little progress had been done towards that goal. The international community had not progressed beyond the exchange of well-known positions. Since then the United Nations General Assembly had provided the international community with a venue for substantive, expert-level discussions on a treaty covering both technical considerations and broader diplomatic issues, first through the establishment of a group of government experts on fissile materials, and laterally by the creation of the Expert Preparatory Group. In 2015, the group of government experts had produced a report that fundamentally deepened the understanding of issues underlying a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. It had made a particularly important contribution to the future negotiations by demonstrating unequivocally that the contentious issue of scope was not a mere binary choice between including stocks and not including stocks in a future treaty. The conclusion of the report was that nothing substantive stood in the way of negotiations. That was a landmark moment in the debate.

The Expert Preparatory Group had been created to build on that progress in the continued absence of negotiations. The Group had carried out the type of preparatory work usually done at the outset of negotiations, but which could equally be carried out in advance. The Group’s report was laid out in much the same structure that one would expect from an eventual treaty. It contained a concise, plain language manual of potential treaty provisions across all treaty aspects, including a treaty’s definitions, scope, verification, and legal and institution framework. It also contained a considerable list of recommendations, which not only underscored that negotiations should begin without delay outlined, but which also delineated what further work could be undertaken. The report of the Expert Preparatory Group represented a meaningful contribution in at least three ways. First, the report broke genuinely new substantive ground on some of the key issues related to a future treaty, including its legal and institutional arrangements. Second, by outlining a range of possible treaty provisions, it laid ground for a more efficient negotiation in the future. Third, the report had taken the state of the art on the substantive debate on fissile materials and it had distilled its essence to readily understandable and readily usable form. All United Nations Member States had a stake in a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, but not all of them had the same depth of expertise within their Governments for the negotiations. Ms. Hulan stressed that the report of the Expert Preparatory Group had democratized the issue in a way that would serve the international community well when the time came to negotiate that treaty.

The prospects for actually launching the negotiations in Geneva were not what they should be, Ms. Hulan emphasized. Everyone should be concerned about the implications for the Conference on Disarmament if there was no breakthrough on that file. She expressed hope that the work of the Expert Preparatory Group could inform other processes and perhaps provide inspiration to the Conference. A few aspects of the Group’s work really stood out and could be taken as lessons learned for other processes, such as open engagement, transparency, inclusivity, and focusing on areas of convergence. The discussions in the Expert Preparatory Group had revealed the value of transparency and confidence building measures. It was clear that the entrenched positions on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty would continue to aggravate the prospect for success, which was why more work needed to be done in terms of transparency and confidence building measures. Ms. Hulan stressed the need for having the necessary technical and scientific expertise at the negotiating table. The diplomatic process benefitted tremendously from the presence of experts. She urged the Conference on Disarmament to keep in mind the underlying premise that the production of fissile materials for the production of nuclear weapons must be expressly prohibited. The stockpiles of fissile materials for the production of nuclear weapons created multiple and unacceptable risks. There were options to manage those risks alongside legitimate national security interests, Ms. Hulan emphasized.

The time for discussing the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons was over and it was a time for a treaty. One possibility to break the impasse was to take the treaty outside the Conference on Disarmament and to negotiate it at the General Assembly, and nothing prevented possessing States to negotiate a treaty amongst themselves. However, the benefits of having the treaty negotiated at the Conference on Disarmament were considerable because the process did not have to be subject to artificial deadlines, because all the needed players were present, and because the rules of procedure ensured predictable and equitable negotiations. The negotiation of a treaty at the Conference on Disarmament would likely be a lengthy process. Considerable technical issues would need to be resolved, notably on verification. A concerted political and diplomatic effort was needed for the negotiations to happen. Possessor States that had historically opposed negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament needed to show more flexibility. Possessor States which had supported negotiations at the Conference needed to work with others to discover what further options were available to break the current impasse, Ms. Hulan urged. It was not in anyone’s interest to let the pursuit of the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty lapse.

Argentina asked whether it would be desirable and useful to create a new group of experts to progress with a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty if the Conference on Disarmament remained in paralysis.

Australia observed that it was important to raise the literacy about a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty at the Conference on Disarmament, and to understand the positions of other countries. It encouraged everyone to have a look at the report of the Expert Preparatory Group on the issue of fissile material stocks. Was there a discussion in Vienna about institutional arrangements and verification?

Pakistan expressed hope that more attention would be devoted to the real reasons that prevented the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. It reminded that it had voted in 2016 against the establishment of the Expert Preparatory Group because of three main concerns. First was the issue of the Group’s mandate, and the outlived utility and validity of the Shannon Mandate with its ambiguous approach to the fissile material stocks, which was detrimental to Pakistan’s national security. The second concern for Pakistan was the Group’s composition, which did not adequately reflect all States possessing nuclear weapons. Only the Conference on Disarmament had the ideal composition to consider the issue of fissile materials on a consensual basis. The third concern was the repeating of the tried and tested approach. The 2015 report had revealed vastly divergent views on the objectives and scope of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. Without resolving those two fundamental issues there could be no moving forward. Without a change in the strongly held positions by major stakeholders, the Expert Preparatory Group had been bound to meet the same fate as the previous expert group. Pakistan thus rejected the report of the Expert Preparatory Group, which could in no way constitute the basis for the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty by the international community, whether inside or outside of the Conference on Disarmament. Progress could not be achieved by changing the format or through the exclusion of the views of major stakeholders.

HEIDI HULAN, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations Office at Vienna and Chair of the High-Level Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty Expert Preparatory Group, agreed that raising the literacy level about a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty was important, especially on the current verification methodology. Those issues were discussed in Vienna and colleagues there were very conscious of the work done at the Conference on Disarmament. As for the establishment of a new group of experts, Ms. Hulan said that she was not aware of any fundamental positions outside the scope of range of possibilities identified by the two expert reports. She did not see what a new group of experts could be tasked to do. Responding to Pakistan’s comments, she regretted that Pakistan had chosen not to take part in the work of the Expert Preparatory Group, adding that the discussion on the utility of the Shannon Mandate would likely end up in the same formula proposed by the Shannon Mandate itself.

France thanked Ambassador Hulan for her able and efficient presidency of the Expert Preparatory Group. It reminded that the 25 members of the Group had been able to reach an agreement on a series of recommendations, despite their different views. France emphasized the need for an international instrument to ban the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. The negotiation of such a treaty would constitute an irreversible and irreplaceable step towards a world free of nuclear weapons.

Netherlands stated that the reports of two expert groups provided the Conference on Disarmament with the necessary impetus to move forward with a treaty that would ban the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. What sort of further transparency and confidence building measures could be pursued in future negotiations?

Romania, speaking on behalf of the European Union, reiterated the European Union’s longstanding support for the immediate commencement and early conclusion of the negotiation in the Conference on Disarmament of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. It thus fully supported the unanimous recommendation of the High-Level Expert Preparatory Group to begin the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament without delay. The start of such negotiations would not threaten anyone’s national security interests. The European Union called on all members of the Conference on Disarmament to exert their utmost flexibility in that respect, and it called on those nuclear weapon States and all other States possessing nuclear weapons to declare and uphold an immediate moratorium on their production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. The European Union agreed with the recommendation of the High-Level Group that further expert work could be useful in various verification models to determine how they might work in practice. At a time when there was a real prospect of weapon numbers increasing, the logic for a treaty stopping the production of the material from which they were made was even clearer. The Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty was the next logical step in nuclear disarmament and it would make a significant ad practical contribution both to non-proliferation and disarmament objectives.

HEIDI HULAN, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations Office at Vienna and Chair of the High-Level Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty Expert Preparatory Group, noted that technical experts working inside or outside the Conference on Disarmament could helpfully map out verification models and processes, and urged delegations to take part in the United Nations high-level discussions on the cessation of production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. As for further transparency and confidence building measures to be pursued, Ms. Hulan said that it would be a very interesting question for the subsidiary bodies of the Conference on Disarmament to consider.

Germany fully shared the recommendations outlined in the report of the Expert Preparatory Group, adding that there was no reason not to proceed with the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. Options had been sketched out, such as the possibility of establishing a team of global scientific experts, and taking the discussion to the subsidiary bodies. Unless the negotiation process was taken forward, the Conference on Disarmament would undermine its own relevance.

Poland said that the number of States participating in the work of the Expert Preparatory Group was limited due to objective reasons. Accordingly, one could argue that many important aspects of fissile materials remain unaddressed. Was it worth it to repeat the process?

Republic of Korea noted that it was timely and pertinent to discuss the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty negotiations as the Conference on Disarmament was discussing its programme of work. It welcomed the report of the Expert Preparatory Group as it contained a good basis for future negotiations, and expressed hope that the Conference on Disarmament could start the negotiations as soon as possible.

HEIDI HULAN, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations Office at Vienna and Chair of the High-Level Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty Expert Preparatory Group, responding to Poland, said that it was very difficult to see how an additional value to the two reports could be created if the process was repeated. Nevertheless, it would be an interesting and potentially useful exercise to identify the missing concrete treaty provisions in the context of the subsidiary bodies of the Conference on Disarmament.

Russian Federation drew the attention of Ambassador Hulan to the fact that the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty was not a key item on the agenda of the Conference on Disarmament. The negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty should start in the context of a comprehensive and balanced programme of work of the Conference of Disarmament. Provided that the draft programme of work met those criteria, Russia was ready to take part in the negotiations.

Pakistan noted that it should not be expected that countries accept positions prior to the start of negotiations, especially in cases where vital national security interests were at stake. Pakistan called on those countries which argued for their national security interests during negotiations to heed their own advice.

Japan said that it was important for the Conference on Disarmament to add value to what it had achieved before and to lay the groundwork for further discussion.

Brazil underlined that Member States could not take a standalone decision on the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. Member States first needed to adopt the programme of work for the Conference on Disarmament. Any process toward the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty would have to be based on the Shannon Mandate.

United States reminded that it had earlier proposed the idea of a clear mandate to those countries that opposed the Shannon Mandate. The Conference on Disarmament needed to move away from linkages if it was ever to negotiate a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. The idea of pursuing a comprehensive and balanced programme of work, as proposed by the Russian Federation, was a recipe for deadlock.

Russian Federation recalled that all States had agreed that the Conference on Disarmament should immediately start negotiating a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty within the context of a comprehensive and balanced programme of work.

United States repeated that sticking to the idea of reaching a comprehensive and balanced programme of work for the Conference on Disarmament prevented the body from conducting substantive work.

Pakistan clarified that its position was that the Shannon Mandate needed to be amended in order to explicitly address the issue of fissile material stocks.

HEIDI HULAN, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations Office at Vienna and Chair of the High-Level Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty Expert Preparatory Group, referring to the statement of the Russian Federation, noted that the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty went to the core of the agenda of the Conference on Disarmament. As for the Shannon Mandate, Ms. Hulan reiterated that discussing a new formula would probably result in one very similar to the current Shannon Mandate. Not all issues were equally mature even when an agreement on a comprehensive and balanced programme of work for the Conference on Disarmament was reached.

Other Statements

Turkey noted that the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty were notable past achievements of the Conference on Disarmament. The deteriorating security environment and weakening nature of the existing disarmament and non-proliferation arrangements was a cause of great concern for everyone. There was an increasing urgency to address the new challenges and under those circumstances, the Conference on Disarmament came to the front as the single multilateral platform with its unique structure and special mandate. It was a common responsibility to provide the Conference with a necessary impetus and to overcome its prolonged stalemate. There was an urgent need to create an atmosphere of compromise and flexibility to maintain the relevance of the Conference by enabling the resumption of its substantive work. Turkey supported the calls for systematic, progressive, verifiable and irreversible nuclear disarmament and it encouraged all States that possessed nuclear weapons to take further practical steps in that direction.

China was pleased that some countries had cited the action plan of the Conference on Disarmament, according to which the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty negotiations should be based on a comprehensive and balanced programme of work of the Conference on Disarmament. As for the argument of some countries that the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty was a mature issue, China noted that the same could be argued for some issues, such as the arms race in outer space.

Discussion on the Programme of Work

YURII KLYMENKO, President of the Conference and Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations Office at Geneva, reminded that the draft programme of work initially submitted by the Ukrainian presidency had been perceived by some as too ambitious. Accordingly, the Ukrainian presidency had submitted a revised draft programme of work on 8 February. The position of Ukraine was that it was necessary to build on the vast and productive efforts of Member States in the work of the Conference in 2018 when there was evident readiness to have substantive and technical discussions on all issues on the agenda of the Conference. In the spirit of compromise, the Ukrainian presidency had decided to withdraw its previous proposal contained in the initial draft programme of work related to the establishment of a working group to elaborate a globalized mechanism of governance for existing and potential security threats. Despite the withdrawal of that initiative, Ukraine still believed that a security policy required the globalized governance of security threats. In order to achieve sustainable security in the twenty-first century, it was necessary to build effective mechanisms for the integration of security and public health domains. Ukraine’s revised programme of work also included a provision to establish a coordinator for the purpose of exploring issues related to the expansion of membership in the Conference on Disarmament. Furthermore, the revised programme of work provided for the establishment of a coordinator with a view to explore issues related to working methods of the Conference.

Ecuador thanked the Ukrainian presidency for having taken into account various comments on the initial draft programme of work. It was important to focus on issues of wider interest for the Conference, such as disarmament and nuclear proliferation. It was also of interest to revise the methods of work of the Conference and its membership. It would be interesting to duly take into consideration the outcomes of the subsidiary bodies’ meetings in the past year as the basis for the work during 2019. The revision of the draft programme of work had weakened it because it did not emphasize the goal of negotiations.

Chile said it was aware that the global context was not favourable for disarmament and non-proliferation. Nevertheless, it was precisely for that reason that it was important to make progress in the work of the Conference on Disarmament. Attention should be focused on those issues where substantive progress could be achieved during 2019. One of those issues was the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. Chile was in favour of considering the issues of increased membership and revising the methods of work of the Conference on Disarmament.

Egypt stated that the revised programme of work was a more practical document. The order and focus of the agenda items were more acceptable to Egypt and it accepted the reference to negotiate on all agenda items. However, that reference should be strengthened when it came to negotiate legally binding instruments. Egypt also asked that the mandate of proposed coordinators for membership and methods of work be clarified, and that the schedule of activities be more precise.

Austria stressed the priority to start negotiations on fissile materials without any preconditions and expressed concern about the long-standing stalemate in the Conference. All Member States should seize the opportunity presented by the draft programme of work to restart substantive work in the Conference, Austria said, adding that the Conference should seize the momentum created by the Way Ahead Working Group in 2017 and the subsidiary bodies in 2018. The revised draft was a test for the political will of this chamber to come closer to fulfilling the Conference’s negotiating mandate and bring it back to substantive work.

Brazil commended the revised draft programme of work which had captured the reactions to the previous version and said that Brazil was ready to support it. Brazil expressed preference for more forthcoming language with regard to the disarmament agenda of the United Nations Secretary-General and additional clarity on negative security assurances. The revised text was an excellent basis to work on.

Mexico paid tribute to the efforts of the President in producing the revised version of the draft programme of work and agreed with several other delegations which had remarked that the language concerning negotiations had been weakened in the new version of the programme of work. Mexico supported the discussions on broadening the membership of the Conference on Disarmament and on its methods of work, and requested that their terms be broad, constructive, and without previous restrictions.

Russia reiterated its position concerning the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament and said that the link between the agenda and the Conference had not been established. Although the language had been softened in the draft programme of work, the reference to the agenda remained. The agenda represented the personal view of the Secretary-General and the Conference had not participated in its drafting. Russia stressed that the Conference on Disarmament was not a part of the United Nations Secretariat and not a subdivision for the implementation of the Secretary-General’s documents. The revised draft programme of work provided a unique opportunity to compromise and break the vicious circle that had led to this stalemate. Russia was ready for a constructive dialogue.

United States said that the revised draft was an excellent basis for moving forward and agreed with Russia that there was no link between the Secretary-General’s agenda and the agenda of the Conference on Disarmament, and also that it was not clear what the status of the “so-called agenda” was. Membership expansion and a revision of working methods were essential to “rebooting” the Conference and fundamental to moving this body forward.

Iran reiterated the critical need for a programme of work that was centred on fulfilling the core mandate of the Conference. Any new agenda that would deviate the Conference from its core objectives should be avoided. Iran needed more explanations concerning the proposed establishment of coordinators on membership expansion and working methods and wondered whether those two issues had indeed been the root causes of the lack of progress on the Conference’s core mandate. The Conference should think twice before engaging in another deviating debate that would further distance it from its core objectives.

India fully supported the commencement of the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty and although India would prefer stronger language for concluding legally binding instruments, it was ready to go with a consensus. India was ready to support the adoption of the revised programme of work proposed by the President.

Indonesia said that the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament might contribute to furthering the cause of disarmament, and that the Office of the Secretary-General had defined that the agenda was a publication. Therefore, the inclusion of a reference to the agenda in the draft programme of work might constitute a precedent for the work of the Conference in the future. Indonesia welcomed the reference to the work of the subsidiary bodies and said that a reference to a series of substantive discussions under the Conference on Disarmament in previous years should be added too. The Conference was not ready to negotiate issues under agenda items 5, 6 and 7, Indonesia said, adding that some issues under those agenda items were more appropriate to be addressed in other fora.

Turkey said that the revised programme of work constituted a good basis for discussions and added that the Conference should capitalize on the progress made in 2018 through the work of subsidiary bodies, and not be distracted by other issues.

Venezuela welcomed the revised draft as a good starting point and that it built on the work of working groups carried out in the past; the Conference needed a balanced and comprehensive programme of work with a focus on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Venezuela stressed the importance of negotiating a legally binding instrument on negative security assurances, and the importance of reaching an agreement on a programme of work in order to overcome the paralysis in the Conference.

United States reminded that under the rules of procedure, Member States were obliged to periodically review the membership of the Conference on Disarmament. All institutions and mechanisms valued a review of how they conducted business, thus the Conference should not be afraid of examining the options of improving on how it did its work.

Argentina said that, in light of the paralysis in the work of the Conference on Disarmament, the publication of the Secretary-General’s Disarmament Agenda had been useful and the draft programme of work should take note of issues raised in that agenda, in a manner satisfactory to the Member States. There was no harm in mentioning the importance of negotiating in order to reach an agreement, regardless of the varying levels of maturity of different issues. The aim of the Conference was to reach an agreement, which could more easily be reached in some areas, and on others it would require lengthier negotiations.

Poland said that the revised draft was a step in the right direction and stressed that a programme of work must focus on the most mature elements of the agenda, avoid divisive elements, and give the Conference on Disarmament a chance to assess itself. This body should not be afraid to examine the issues of membership expansion and methods of work, which would give it a better chance to deal with substantive issues in the future.

Cuba commended the President for his efforts to unify the language and present a balanced and revised draft programme of work, which should stimulate the work in the Conference. Cuba did not have a substantive problem with the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament, even if it did not have a real impact on the work of the Conference. The language concerning negotiating mandates must include the aim of reaching legally binding instruments, rather than just reaching an agreement. The attention to membership expansion and methods of work should not divert the Conference from its core mandate, which was to negotiate legally binding instruments.

Russia remarked that the discussion was again “going in circles” as mutually exclusive positions were emerging concerning non-substantive issues of membership, working methods, and the Secretary-General’s Disarmament Agenda. The Conference on Disarmament should focus on key substantive issues and deal with other issues later.

Syria expressed its support for the revised draft programme of work and remarked that the Conference should not compromise its negotiating mandate, stressing that the language should include the aim of negotiating legally binding instruments. Syria asked how the work of the subsidiary body whose report had not been adopted in 2018 would be organized this time around. Syria remarked that the current moment was not conducive to reaching a consensus on the issue of methods of work and on membership expansion, and that was why Syria could not support this proposal.

United States said that it would be impossible to reach an agreement on a draft programme of work that did not contain a provision establishing coordinators on membership expansion and methods of work.

YURII KLYMENKO, President of the Conference and Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in his closing remarks, said the Presidency would continue to revise the draft programme of work.

The next plenary meeting of the Conference on Disarmament will take place at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 14 February, to allow the continuation of discussions, including on the draft programme of work.


For use of the information media; not an official record

DC19.007E