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CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT DISCUSSES WAYS TOWARD RESUMING ITS SUBSTANTIVE WORK

29 January 2019

The Conference on Disarmament this morning held the second public plenary meeting of its 2019 session, in which it heard delegations proposing possible ways of moving ahead toward agreement on a programme of work.

The President of the Conference, Ambassador Yurii Klymenko of Ukraine, welcomed new representatives of Colombia and Ecuador, and presented requests by non-Member States to participate in the work of the Conference on Disarmament.

Venezuela said it would support all efforts to overcome the stalemate in the Conference in order to promote nuclear disarmament and ensure nuclear non-proliferation.  Ecuador said that it would be useful to make further progress in the dialogues established by the subsidiary bodies in 2018.  Chile said the experience in 2018 had left it with a bitter taste of failure, and that was why it was essential to insist on adopting a programme of work, and to build on last year’s achievements made by the subsidiary bodies.  Iran remarked that the Conference had remained hopelessly paralyzed for the past two decades, a consequence of the lack of political will of some actors, and stressed that the overall political and security context today made nuclear disarmament more urgent than ever before, due to impulsive and reckless behaviour combined with contempt for the rule of law and multilateralism, and disregard for international institutions.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea outlined the dramatic changes in the Korean Peninsula and the proactive and bold measures it had taken to put an end to the constant danger of war and in order to safeguard the peace and stability of the region.  Germany stressed that the prime endeavours should be targeted at agreeing on a programme of work, and should it not be once again politically achievable, Germany was very much in favour of resuming the subsidiary bodies in 2019 and continuing the fruitful debate of the previous year. 

Pakistan said that the impasse in the Conference was a result of the prevailing strategic environment and the lack of political will to cooperatively advance the goals of international and regional peace and security, and disarmament, on a non-discriminatory basis, and was not related to the working methods or rules of procedures.  Finland said that at this stage, the bare minimum for the Conference would be to agree to establish subsidiary bodies to take up from where the work had ended the previous year, while the substance of the work in 2019 should include at least advancing a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and improving negative security assurances.  Italy stressed that the immediate resumption of negotiations within the Conference on Disarmament remained a priority, and that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons remained the cornerstone of the international regime.  Austria stressed the importance of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and called for a constructive dialogue between the two treaty parties to advance compliance and safeguard the security benefits of the treaty as its erosion would have serious consequences on the security of its States parties and Europe, as well as the world.

Syria stressed that complete nuclear disarmament was its priority and expressed hope that the Conference on Disarmament would be able to achieve a breakthrough in recovering its negotiating role.  The Republic of Korea stressed the need to maintain the momentum created in the previous two years, namely through the Way Ahead Group and the subsidiary bodies, as substantive discussions within those frameworks had clarified the views and positions of Member States, enhanced mutual understanding, and served to build transparency.  Bangladesh lent support to the President’s approach toward having a comprehensive and balanced programme of work, with clear reference to the work of the five subsidiary bodies.  Poland underlined the importance of seeking solutions on the negotiating stalemate outside the Conference on Disarmament.  Brazil said that the current international climate, fraught with security and political challenges and new and recurring political tensions, increased the importance of a functional and effective disarmament machinery, in which the Conference was a key cog.  Canada agreed that there was a need for flexibility in order to move forward on the agenda’s items and said that even in the absence of an agreement, the work of the five subsidiary bodies represented progress which was important to build upon in 2019, with a recognition that some items were more ready for negotiations than others.      

Australia took positive note of thoughtful suggestions made by some Member States concerning a programme of work, including those made by the Netherlands, which had called for a reframing of how a programme of work was seen.  Sweden noted that the notion of a “programme of work with a negotiating mandate” had been developed over many years; it had turned into an “all or nothing approach” and had so contributed to blocking the substantive work of the Conference on Disarmament.  Bulgaria said that the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty played a vital role in the security of Europe, and that unfortunately, only the United States respected its provisions.  Norway stressed the importance of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty to security and stability in Europe and agreed that Russia was in breach of the treaty.  The United Kingdom said the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty had played an important role in maintaining Euro-Atlantic security and stressed that Russia had been in material breach of the treaty.  Cuba condemned and rejected any desire to impose a puppet government in Venezuela by the United States, and stressed that the goal of it aggression was to monopolize the resources of this country, which embodied an emancipatory spirit of Latin America.  

Speaking in right of reply were Russia, United States, Venezuela, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Syria, Iran and China.  

The Conference approved requests by Azerbaijan, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Jordan, Oman and the Philippines to participate as observers in the 2019 session of the Conference.


The Conference will hold its next public plenary on Thursday, 31 January at 2.30 p.m.


Statements

YURII KLYMENKO, President of the Conference on Disarmament and Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in his opening remarks, welcomed new representatives of Colombia and Ecuador, and presented requests by non-Member States to participate as observers in the work of the 2019 session of the Conference on Disarmament.

Venezuela hoped for a fruitful and substantive 2019 session and reiterated the great importance it attached to the Conference on Disarmament which was the sole multilateral forum to negotiate disarmament matters.  Venezuela would be supporting all efforts to overcome the stalemate in the Conference in order to promote nuclear disarmament and ensure nuclear non-proliferation.  There must be concrete progress in negotiations in the sphere of disarmament and non-proliferation, since the situation represented a threat to humanity.  The militarization of outer space must be prevented and outer space must only be used for peaceful ends, in line with international law and for the benefit of all peoples.

Ecuador attached great importance and significant priority to the work of the Conference on Disarmament and hoped that it would be able to agree on a comprehensive programme of work to meet its essential mandate: negotiate international disarmament treaties.  It would be useful to make further progress in the dialogues established by the subsidiary bodies in 2018, Ecuador said, recalling the country’s great tradition of disarmament and multilateralism.  Ecuador further stressed the need for political will to achieve concrete progress in the application of article 6 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and that nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation must be seen as parallel and interrelated processes.

Chile maintained an unshaken commitment to multilateralism, peaceful conflict resolution, and comprehensive disarmament.  Chile reiterated the critical need for political determination to achieve the objective and purpose for which the Conference on Disarmament, a multilateral forum for disarmament, had been created.  The experience in 2018 had left Chile with a bitter taste of failure, and that was why it was essential to insist on adopting a programme of work, and to build on last year’s achievements made by subsidiary bodies.  Further, there was a need to develop a common understanding and interpretation of rules of procedure and in particular the rule of consensus, and bring the Conference closer to societies and countries in response to a pressing need to legitimize its work.  Finally, there was a need to include a gender perspective in nuclear disarmament and the work of the Conference.

Iran remarked that the Conference had remained hopelessly paralyzed for the past two decades, a consequence of the lack of political will of some actors, and stressed that the overall political and security context today made nuclear disarmament more urgent than ever before, due to impulsive and reckless behaviour combined with contempt for the rule of law and multilateralism, and disregard for international institutions.  Iran stressed the vital importance of a balanced, inclusive and comprehensive programme of work that would properly address the core issues of genuine relevance and outright concern to the Conference, namely nuclear disarmament, negative security assurances, and the prevention of an arms race in the outer space.  Finally, Iran stressed its impeccable performance under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action which had been verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency more than 13 times, which meant that the Agreement had survived only because of Iran’s exceptional sense of responsibility.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea called upon all Member States of the Conference to shore up their political will, build on the significant work done the previous year, and continue to produce substantive results in 2019 in accordance with the high expectations of the international community.  The year 2018 had seen dramatic changes in the situation in the Korean Peninsula that had been unimaginable in the past, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had taken proactive and bold measures in order to put an end to the constant danger of war and in order to safeguard the peace and stability of the region.  The three rounds of inter-Korean summit meetings and talks had turned the north-south relations into that of trust and reconciliation, while the first-ever historic summit meeting with the United States had brought about a dramatic turn in the bilateral relationship that had been the most hostile on earth.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had declared that it would neither make nor test nuclear weapons any longer nor use and proliferate them.  If the United States responded to those efforts with trustworthy measures and corresponding practical actions, bilateral relations would develop at a fast pace, noted the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Germany underlined that the present state of the Conference must be examined in light of the immense challenges the world was facing and the significant erosion of the international security architecture.  The 2018 session had mirrored the increasingly tense and difficult international political and security environment, but the work of the five subsidiary bodies had resulted in considerable productivity, which gave a glimpse of the great potential this institution still availed.  The prime endeavour should be targeted at agreeing on a programme of work, and should it not be once again politically achievable, Germany was very much in favour of resuming the subsidiary bodies in 2019 and continuing the fruitful debate of the previous year.  Genuine dialogue was possible, and Germany called upon all Member States to get back to substantive work as soon as possible and on the basis of what was achievable.  Also, the Conference must start thinking about the imperatives of arms control in the twenty-first century, how new technologies would impact existing arms control regimes, and to better take account of technologies that had the potential to change the nature of warfare.

Pakistan stressed that the strength of the Conference lay in the fact that all militarily significant States participated in it on an equal footing and were able to protect their vital security interests under the consensus rule.  The impasse in the Conference was the result of the prevailing strategic environment and the lack of political will to cooperatively advance the goals of international and regional peace and security, and disarmament, on a non-discriminatory basis.  It was not related to the working methods or rules of procedure.  Pakistan stood ready to join substantive work, including on emerging issues with a direct impact on international peace and security such as cyber warfare, autonomous weapons, and chemical and biological terrorism.  Any prospective treaty on arms control, non-proliferation or disarmament that did not provide equitable security benefits to all States would be a non-starter, as evidenced by the failure to start negotiations in the Conference on a treaty partially dealing with fissile material production.  Pakistan maintained its position that a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty as envisaged under the Shannon Mandate would jeopardize its security.

Finland believed that upholding and developing the rules-based multilateral system was the way to tackle the ever-increasing and ever-more complex problems of global security, in which agreeing on a programme of work might be a distant goal.  Despite the long-lasting stalemate in negotiations, smaller advancements in recent years had been possible to pave the way for new disarmament treaties, Finland said, highlighting in particular the Informal Working Group of 2015, the Way Ahead Group of 2017, and the five subsidiary bodies in 2018 which had focused on substantive work on the agenda items.  At this stage, the bare minimum for the Conference would be to agree to establish subsidiary bodies to take up from where the work had ended the previous year, and the substance of the work in 2019 should include at least advancing a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and improving negative security assurances.  Finally, Finland stressed the importance of integrating into discussions gender concerns and experiences in order to advance disarmament to the fullest.

Italy fully understood and shared the sense of frustration stemming from the long impasse in the Conference’s work and that its potential remained clearly unfulfilled.  The adoption of four substantive reports in 2018 for the first time in years was an important step forward that could provide a solid basis to build on in 2019.  Italy stressed that the immediate resumption of negotiations within the Conference on Disarmament remained a priority, and that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons remained the cornerstone of the international regime.  The prompt entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was also one of the key priorities, as was the immediate commencement of negotiations within the Conference of a treaty dealing with fissile materials for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.  Italy welcomed the announcement by Russia and the United States that they had met the central limits of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in February 2018, and called upon Russia to show its compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in a substantial and transparent way.

Austria noted that disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control had returned to the centre stage of global politics, as had the long-ignored global dangers of nuclear weapons.  Austria stressed the importance of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and called for a constructive dialogue between the two treaty parties to advance compliance and safeguard the security benefits of the treaty as its erosion would have serious consequences on the security of its States parties and Europe, as well as the world.  Despite the more than two-decade stalemate, Austria continued to believe that the Conference on Disarmament had the potential to fulfil its mandate and that it could again make contributions to enhance global peace and security.  Therefore, progress on nuclear disarmament remained a top priority, especially as geopolitical tensions raised the risk of nuclear conflict.  Disarmament and non-proliferation were two sides of the same coin, Austria stressed, warning about the short-sightedness of the narrow focus on national security to the detriment of global security.  The humanitarian impact of a nuclear detonation was and must be part of the equation on the security dimension of nuclear weapons.

Syria stressed that complete nuclear disarmament was its priority and expressed hope that the Conference on Disarmament would be able to achieve a breakthrough in recovering its negotiating role.  The work of a balanced and comprehensive programme of work that preserved the interest of Member States had been a priority of the Syrian presidency of the Conference in 2018, but the adoption of such a programme of work had been blocked by stubborn political considerations that had turned the Conferee into a hostage of political agendas.  Some States were back to adopting extremist political ideologies that were bringing nuclear armament to the front, warned Syria, and also warned about the use of terrorism as a pretext to interfere in the internal affairs of other States.  Syria agreed with the United Nations Secretary-General and his warning that it was an illusion that security could be achieved through armament rather than cooperation and dialogue.  Syria denounced the lack of commitment of the United States and its allies related to the establishment of a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East, which encouraged Israel to continue to possess numerous weapons of mass destruction and refuse to accede to relevant agreements on their control.

Republic of Korea stressed the need to maintain the momentum created in the previous two years, namely through the Way Ahead Group and the subsidiary bodies, as substantive discussions within those frameworks had clarified the views and positions of Member States, enhanced mutual understanding, and served to build transparency.  Further, while keeping in mind the legitimate need to adopt a comprehensive and balanced programme of work, it was possible to review focused issues in preparing future negotiations.  The Conference should capitalize on its authority and centrality and engage other disarmament mechanisms, to enable it to grasp wider views on convoluted disarmament issues.  The Republic of Korea then stressed the continued positive developments on the Korean Peninsula and a surge in diplomacy for peace in the previous year, during which the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of a lasting peace had been discussed.  The Republic of Korea remained determined to seize this hard-won unprecedented window of opportunity of diplomacy and see the efforts come to fruition, with encouragement and support from the international community.

Bangladesh lent support to the President’s approach toward having a comprehensive and balanced programme of work, with clear reference to the work of the five subsidiary bodies.  There was broad-based recognition of the worth of the work done by the subsidiary bodies in facilitating informed discussions, and it would be useful to sustain the momentum, including for achieving agreed outcomes on issues of critical importance to Bangladesh such as negative security assurances.  There were emerging security concerns, including cyber security issues, that the Conference must be mindful of, Bangladesh said, stressing the shared responsibility in the Conference to work toward advancing its work in an effective and meaningful way.

Poland underlined the importance of seeking solutions on the negotiating stalemate outside the Conference on Disarmament.  As a non-permanent member of the Security Council, Poland stressed the urgent need to improve the overall climate for security and disarmament, and address protracted bilateral and regional conflicts and break the vicious cycle of distrust.  Multilateral order must be upheld, including disarmament regimes, Poland continued, stressing respect for international law, for sovereignty and for the integrity of States.  In this context, Poland raised concern about the Russian non-compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty obligation, as its erosion was dangerous for stability, not only in Central Europe.

Brazil said that the current international climate, fraught with security and political challenge and new and recurring political tensions, increased the importance of a functional and effective disarmament machinery, in which the Conference was a key cog.  Brazil fully supported the President’s plans for a programme of work focused on the four core issues, and would support creative alternatives to build the work of the previous years in a progressive manner toward fulfilling the Conference on Disarmament’s negotiating mandate.  Brazil was flexible with regard to the content of a programme of work or a decision that took the Conference forward, insofar as it built upon and deepened the work carried out under the five subsidiary bodies.  In that vein, it was important to recognize the singularities and different levels of maturity of each topic, but also to recognize that most contentious issues under each would not be quickly or easily solved.

Canada noted that a look across the current landscape in the opening weeks of 2019 showed that the world was at a point of inflection in a common enterprise of advancing toward disarmament.  In this troubling environment, it was incumbent upon the Conference to reinforce that endeavour.  By looking more carefully at the challenges that the Conference on Disarmament faced, Canada agreed that there was a need for flexibility in order to move forward on the agenda’s items.  Even in the absence of an agreement, the work of the five subsidiary bodies represented progress which it was important to build upon in 2019, with a recognition that some items were more ready for negotiations than others.  Forward movement on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty in the Conference was timely and urgent, Canada said, stressing that if it would not be possible to agree to negotiations in this forum, then other alternatives must be pragmatically considered.
 
Australia said that the Conference on Disarmament was one of many tools for managing international security challenges and it was up to its Member States to use it wisely and effectively.  Australia noted that in 2018, despite some disappointments, the Conference had arguably done more substantive work than it had done in years, and took positive note of thoughtful suggestions made by some Member States concerning a programme of work, including those made by the Netherlands, which had called for a reframing of how a programme of work was seen.  It was common sense that a balance would be needed in any agreed programme of work: for example, Australia’s priority was to start negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, but others had different priorities and compromise was needed to make progress.  Whichever way the Conference decided to structure its work in 2019, it was clear that the focus must be on substance.  This was what the subsidiary bodies had done in 2018 and it had worked well, so the Conference should continue in this vein.

Sweden echoed the call by the European Union to preserve the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and urged Russia to urgently address the serious concerns expressed about its compliance.  Sweden noted that a notion of a “programme of work with a negotiating mandate” had been developed over many years; it had turned into an “all or nothing approach” and had so contributed to blocking the substantive work of the Conference on Disarmament.  Sweden recognized the change in approach over the last few years as the Conference seemed to have embarked on a way toward a pragmatic approach to advancing its work – first in the Way Ahead Working Group in 2017, then in last year’ subsidiary bodies.  Instead of only debating what it should be doing, the Conference had done some substantive work.  It was not the breakthrough that would make the Conference return to doing what it had been created to do, but it would be a small step in the right direction.  For all practical purposes, the decision in 2018 to establish subsidiary bodies had been a programme of work, Sweden said, expressing support for the continuation of that work.  

Bulgaria said that the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty played a vital role in the security of Europe, and that unfortunately, only the United States respected its provisions.  Bulgaria shared the concern that Russia had developed a cruise missile in violation of this treaty, and urged this State to comply with the treaty in a verifiable manner.

Russia, speaking in a right of reply, said that the success of the session depended on the level of cooperation between the six presidencies and stressed that agreeing on a programme of work was a main goal of the Conference that required the participation of all Member States.  Russia remained convinced that through collective efforts, progress could be achieved, and stressed the importance of creating a cooperative atmosphere based on mutual respect.  Russia regretted the parring that had ensued in the Conference following the request by the State of Palestine to participate in its work as an observer, which could have been avoided.  Russia remained ready to listen to the suggestions of the United States on how the Conference on Disarmament could support the work of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons without mandate infringement.  As for the comments the United States had made concerning Russia’s compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Russia said that 9M729 was a modern version of a previous missile.  It had retained the launcher and the booster, but had a heavier warhead and so had a shorter maximum range of flight, which was now 480 kilometres and thus within the range specified by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.  Russia, in conclusion, stressed its readiness to continue constructive dialogue on all issues related to nuclear disarmament, including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and to bring the Conference closer to substantive work.

United States, speaking in a right of reply, stressed that the Venezuelan people struggled under the corrupt Maduro regime and that three million Venezuelans had fled repression, hunger and crime since 2014.  The Maduro regime had caused the collapse of this once prosperous nation, for which it must assume full responsibility, and had tried to silence the National Assembly, the last remaining democratic institution.  The National Assembly had declared the illegitimacy of the Maduro regime following Maduro’s inauguration on 10 January.  The United States recognized the Speaker of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, as interim President of Venezuela, and remained committed to holding accountable those responsible for Venezuela’s tragic decline.  The United States cautioned Iran for its faulty analysis of its Government’s reasons for withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, stressing that it had been the exceptional sense of responsibility that had led it to its sombre assessment of Iran’s aggressive and threatening behaviour.  As for Russia’s “incredibly weak rebuttal”, the United States said that Russia was not fooling anyone and that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would come with credible defence should Russia continue to breach the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.   

Norway stressed the importance of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty to security and stability in Europe and agreed that Russia was in breach of the treaty.  No one stood to gain from an arms race in Europe as it diminished security for all.  Norway hoped that the United States and Russia would continue to work to the renewal of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) when it expired.

United Kingdom said the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty had played an important role in maintaining the Euro-Atlantic security and stressed that Russia was in material breach of the treaty and should do its utmost to demonstrate its substantive and verifiable compliance.

Venezuela, speaking in a right of reply, said that it respected the nature of this forum and intended to focus on its agenda, and out of its respect for the Conference on Disarmament, it had not put the issue of Venezuela – which had been discussed internationally - on the table.  That was why it was astounded to hear this issue being put on the table by the United States.  The Government of the United States had never accepted the policies of President Chavez and President Maduro, who aimed to promote regional solidarity and fraternity.  Six million people had voted for President Maduro by a universal and secret ballot, and now, the “warmongering Government, the racist Government, the pro-terrorist Government of Mr. Trump” was seeking to appoint a dictator in Venezuela.
 
Cuba denounced the “political circus” that had begun when some delegations had objected to a State's request to participate in the work of the Conference, and objected to the politicization of the work of the Conference.  Cuba condemned and rejected any desire to impose a puppet government in Venezuela by the United States, and stressed that the goal of its aggression was to monopolize the resources of this country, which embodied an emancipatory spirit of Latin America.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply, strongly objected to raising any issue of a domestic nature in this forum.

Syria, speaking in a right of reply, said that it had previously responded to ridiculous accusations by the United States related to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and then condemned the blatant interference of the United States in the internal affairs of Venezuela.  Under which agenda items were the accusations against Syria or Venezuela made, Syria asked.

Iran, speaking in a right of reply, said that the United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 was very clear.  The politicization of the work of the Conference on Disarmament was not a way out. 

China, speaking in a right of reply, was concerned about the increasing politicization of the work of the Conference on Disarmament and maintained that all States must abide by the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law, especially concerning the respect for national sovereignty and the obligation to refrain from the use of force.

YURII KLYMENKO, President of the Conference and Permanent Representative of Ukraine, said that he would introduce a draft programme of work at the next plenary meeting of the Conference on Disarmament to be held on Thursday, 31 January at 2.30 p.m.


For use of the information media; not an official record

DC19/03E