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CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT CONCLUDES ITS HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT

Hears from Japan, Cyprus, Cuba, Myanmar, Romania, Bulgaria, Russian Federation, Iran and Venezuela
27 February 2019

The Conference on Disarmament this morning concluded its high-level segment after hearing statements by dignitaries from Japan, Cyprus, Cuba, Myanmar, Romania, Bulgaria, Russian Federation, Iran and Venezuela. The United States and Russia also spoke in right of reply.

Kiyoto Tsuji, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, reminded that as the only country to have ever suffered atomic bombings during war, Japan had a responsibility to lead international efforts towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. In order to overcome challenges on how to advance nuclear disarmament substantially, it was important to establish a dialogue engaging both nuclear weapon States and non-nuclear weapon States.

George Chacallis, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, noted that the Conference on Disarmament, in spite of its longstanding stalemate, remained the sole credible global multilateral disarmament negotiating forum. He expressed confidence that the expansion of the Conference membership would give a new impetus to its work, and called on all Member States to continue their engagement and consultations on that issue.

Marcelino Medina, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, regretted that exorbitant sums of money were invested in the military industry, instead of investing them in fostering peace, and combatting hunger and poverty. At a time of unilateral politics and attempts at destabilization, he noted that the Latin American and Caribbean region should be a zone of peace, and condemned the United States’ plan to carry out a military adventure dubbed as a “humanitarian intervention” in Venezuela.

Kyaw Tin, Union Minister for International Cooperation of Myanmar, encouraged all States to pursue the simple policy of compromise at any negotiation table; they needed to further develop the principle of win-win cooperation. He appreciated the efforts made by the coordinators of the Conference’s subsidiary bodies in 2018, and called on all Member States to demonstrate the necessary political will to ensure that the Conference fulfilled its negotiating mandate.

George Ciamba, Minister for European Affairs of Romania, said that Romania remained committed to a progressive and pragmatic approach in achieving nuclear disarmament and believed that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons remained the best route to work towards a world without nuclear weapons, with no shortcuts in the process.

Yuri Sterk, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, called for a sustained political commitment and willingness to seek common ground by all members of the Conference on Disarmament in order to preserve the relevance of this body and make it deliver again. A successful outcome of the Review Conference in 2020 would be a function of countries’ determination and ability to keep the pragmatic and constructive spirit to advance the shared goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

Gennady Gatilov, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Office at Geneva, called for a comprehensive analysis of the state of affairs in nuclear disarmament, taking into account all the factors that impacted strategic stability and global security. Hence the Russian Federation had proposed to merge the three nuclear items in a single subsidiary body in order to consider all of their dimensions rather than in isolation. Furthermore, countries should stop ignoring the global threat of turning outer space into a new arena for military confrontation.

Esmaeil Baghaei Hamaneh, Permanent Representative of Iran to the United Nations Office at Geneva, warned that the dangerous logic propagated by nuclear powers that they needed nuclear weapons for their security and deterrence would simply exacerbate the existing sense of insecurity. The very distressing situation in the field of nuclear disarmament was largely a consequence of the United States’ aggressive nuclear posturing, coupled with its reckless disdain for bilateral obligations and multilateral commitments.

Félix Plasencia, Deputy Minister for Multilateral Affairs of Venezuela, said that the Conference on Disarmament had to fulfil its goals by urgently adopting a comprehensive, fair and balanced programme of work with a negotiating mandate. The consultations to bring about that goal must be transparent, inclusive and respectful, guaranteeing the participation of all Member States. The discussion on substantive issues could not be subjected to discussions on procedures.

The United States, in a right of reply, objected to the propaganda presented by the representative of the “former Maduro regime”, calling it typical of a regime that had no credibility in the international community. The United States called on the representatives of the “former Maduro regime” not to assume the Presidency of the Conference on Disarmament. In addition, it objected to Iran’s lecturing, reminding that Iran had engaged in a covert nuclear weapons programme, had carried out countless terrorist attacks around the globe against innocent civilians, and had financed terrorist groups in the Middle East and beyond in defiance of the international community.

Reacting to some high-level statements that referred to its alleged violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the Russian Federation, in a right of reply, noted that the most crucial question was the withdrawal of the United States from that treaty. The international security architecture was being destroyed, but Russia was not a threat to the United States. It did not threaten anyone. All its actions were of a purely defensive nature. The Russian Federation did not want a confrontation with a major nuclear power such as the United States.

The Conference on Disarmament will hold its next plenary meeting on Thursday, 28 February, at 10 a.m., when it will hear the remaining speakers taking the floor in right of reply, and continue discussing its programme of work.

Statements in the High-Level Segment

KIYOTO TSUJI, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, reminded that since the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the vision for a safer world free of nuclear weapons had been a shared goal of the international community. As the only country to have ever suffered atomic bombings during war, Japan had a responsibility to lead international efforts towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. The year 2020 was going to be a critical year as it was the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the 2020 NPT Review Conference would take place. The international community faced challenges on how to advance nuclear disarmament substantially under the increasingly complex international security environment. To establish a common ground while converging different approaches, a dialogue engaging both nuclear weapon States and non-nuclear weapon States was necessary.

Recognizing the importance of bridge building in re-establishing trust among countries, Japan had set up the “Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament,” the Vice-Minister said. Japan welcomed the launch of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament as it covered not only traditional disarmament and non-proliferation issues, but also new challenges, which could have serious implications on international security and disarmament, such as emerging technologies and lethal autonomous weapon systems. Japan also stressed the importance of younger generations’ engagement in disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.

GEORGE CHACALLIS, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, noted that the Conference on Disarmament, in spite of its longstanding stalemate, remained the sole credible global multilateral disarmament negotiating forum. Cyprus called for the constructive engagement of all members of the Conference towards achieving the adoption of a programme of work with a negotiating mandate and it welcomed any ideas that would lead to substantive discussions. The membership of the Conference should be open to all States that adhered to the United Nations principles and standards, and that were willing and determined to contribute to the activities and objectives of the Conference. It was deeply regrettable that no enlargement of membership of the Conference had taken place since 1999, even though according to the rules of procedure the membership should be reviewed at regular intervals.

Mr. Chacallis expressed confidence that the expansion of the Conference membership would give a new impetus to its work, and called on all Member States to continue their engagement and consultations on that issue. He reassured of Cyprus’ willingness to work for substantive progress in all relevant disarmament fora. Cyprus supported the immediate entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty. Cyprus’ commitment to non-proliferation was also reflected in its efforts to be vigilant towards the threat of the spread of weapons of mass destruction in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, and through its continuous support for the collective initiatives to keep outer space safe and free from conflict, the Assistant Minister concluded.

MARECLINO MEDINA, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, recalled the staggering amount of money that was being spent on military expenses. It was alarming that such exorbitant sums of money were invested in the military industry to modernize nuclear arsenals and to develop new nuclear arms systems, instead of investing those resources to foster peace, combat hunger and poverty, and implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Deputy Minister emphasized. Cuba granted great importance to the promotion of multilateralism as the basic principle of negotiations on disarmament and non-proliferation. In that context, Cuba expressed its profound concern about the decision of the United States to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, and from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with the Russian Federation.

At a time of unilateral politics and attempts at destabilization, Cuba reiterated that the Latin American and Caribbean region should be a zone of peace. Cuba denounced the escalation of pressure and plans of the Government of the United States to carry out a military adventure dubbed as a “humanitarian intervention” in Venezuela, and it called on the international community to mobilize itself against that attempt. History would severely judge a new imperialist military intervention in the region and the complicity of those who irresponsibly followed it. What was decided in Venezuela nowadays was not only the sovereignty and dignity of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, but also the survival of the norms of international law and the United Nations Charter, the Deputy Minister concluded.

KYAW TIN, Union Minister for International Cooperation of Myanmar, said that the fortieth anniversary of the Conference on Disarmament offered an opportunity to review its progress. The Conference had produced many important legal instruments on disarmament and it had contributed its share to world peace and security. Regardless of its prolonged stagnation, Myanmar’s view of the Conference remained unchanged. Myanmar continued to commit itself to the Conference as the single multilateral negotiation forum on disarmament. As world peace and security were seriously challenged by various threats, maintaining health relations among major countries was of utmost importance for the settlement of global strategic problems. The Minister encouraged all States to pursue the simple policy of compromise at any negotiation table. Countries should not focus solely on what they wanted, but what they could give to achieve the common goals. They needed to further develop the principle of win-win cooperation.

Nuclear weapon States should be committed to sharing responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. The Minister welcomed the ongoing summit between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States, expressing hope that it would lead to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and thus contribute to peace and stability in the region and beyond. He added that the United Nations Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament provided a clear and strategic roadmap for addressing current challenges that could help States to set the world on a path towards sustainable peace and security for all. Myanmar appreciated the efforts made by the coordinators of the Conference’s subsidiary bodies in 2018, and the Minister encouraged all Member States to demonstrate the necessary political will to ensure that the Conference fulfilled its negotiating mandate.

GEORGE CIAMBA, Minister for European Affairs of Romania, stated that as a country that highly valued the notion of “peace through diplomacy,” Romania strongly believed in the power of effective multilateralism and international cooperation. At times when new and old challenges threatened global security, it was everyone’s responsibility to strengthen the rules-based international system by seeking multilateral solutions that would enable everyone to achieve a more stable global environment. The Conference on Disarmament had a unique role and place in the framework of international bodies that dealt with non-proliferation, disarmament and related issues. Romania strongly supported the efforts to overcome the stalemate in the Conference and to advance multilateral disarmament agenda. If the Conference was to re-take its place as a relevant negotiating body, countries needed to take immediate action, the Minister stressed.

One of the key steps towards an irreversible nuclear disarmament process was the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, as well as the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty. Romania also encouraged the Russian Federation to take steps to return to full and verifiable compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The Minister further welcomed the diplomatic demarches for a peaceful solution on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, as well as the work done by the International Atomic Energy Agency in monitoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran. Romania remained committed to a progressive and pragmatic approach in achieving nuclear disarmament and it believed that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons remained the best route to work towards a world without nuclear weapons, with no shortcuts in the process.

YURI STERK, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, noted that sustained political commitment and willingness to seek common ground by all members of the Conference on Disarmament were needed in order to preserve the relevance of that body and make it deliver again. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons remained the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime. A successful outcome of the Review Conference in 2020 would be a function of countries’ determination and ability to keep the pragmatic and constructive spirit in order to advance the shared goal of a world without nuclear weapons. In that vein, Bulgaria called on all States that had yet not done so to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty, and it still expected the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to take concrete steps to embark on a credible path towards a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.

Mr. Sterk underlined that the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty remained among Bulgaria’s top priorities in the nuclear disarmament field, and that Bulgaria shared the view that commencing negotiations to that end as soon as possible was necessary. Reminding that the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty had been crucial for upholding the Euro-Atlantic security for decades, Bulgaria urged the Russian Federation to act in a responsible way in order to preserve that treaty. The Deputy Minister also said that Bulgaria stood ready to prevent the use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere and under any circumstances. He regretted that the Fourth Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention had not succeeded in adopting a consensual official report because of the resistance of a few countries.

GENNADY GATILOV, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Office at Geneva, expressed satisfaction with the fact that the United Nations Secretary-General had addressed the Conference on Disarmament for the second year in a row, which demonstrated the importance that he paid to disarmament and non-proliferation issues, and to the role of the Conference. Despite all the difficulties, the situation was not without hope. Over many years, delegations had several times submitted proposals and ideas which could serve as a basis for reaching a compromise. Mr. Gatilov expressed hope that a mutually acceptable programme of work would be adopted. Turning to the draft decision of the Conference on the subsidiary bodies, the Ambassador informed that the Russian position was that first there must be a direct link between the consensual approval of the agenda and the activities of the subsidiary bodies. The Russian Federation was in favour of establishing a separate subsidiary body covering items 5 to 7. Secondly, the Russian Federation shared concern about the ongoing erosion of the international architecture for arms control. In that sense, it supported the call of the United Nations Secretary-General for a multilateral dialogue on nuclear disarmament.

The time was ripe for a comprehensive analysis of the state of affairs in nuclear disarmament, taking into account all the factors that impacted strategic stability and global security, Mr. Gatilov continued. Hence the Russian Federation had proposed to merge the three nuclear items in a single subsidiary body in order to consider all of their dimensions together, rather than in isolation. Third, in the absence of any international legal restrictions, countries should stop ignoring the global threat of turning outer space into a new arena for military confrontation. Fourth, given the statements delivered during the high-level segment, Mr. Gatilov stressed that the task of countering weapons of mass destruction terrorism remained highly topical. Fifth, in many statements there were calls for immediate return to substantive work in the Conference, which the Russian Federation supported. Finally, the Ambassador underlined that solving the common tasks before the Conference would be greatly facilitated by creating a work atmosphere based on mutual respect, equality, and sovereign rights of delegations.

ESMAEIL BAGHAEI HAMANEH, Permanent Representative of Iran to the United Nations Office at Geneva, observed that the Conference on Disarmament was badly paralyzed and unable to serve its crucial mandate, and he urged the Conference to agree on a balanced and comprehensive programme of work on core issues without further delay. The prevailing international security climate should compel everyone to prioritize nuclear disarmament as the most urgent security concern. The dangerous logic propagated by nuclear powers that they needed nuclear weapons for their security and deterrence would simply exacerbate the existing sense of insecurity and could lead to further proliferation. The very distressing situation in the field of nuclear disarmament was largely a consequence of the United States’ aggressive nuclear posturing, coupled with its reckless disdain for bilateral obligations and multilateral commitments. That policy was being pursued at the expense of collective global security and material breach of the United States’ obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

The unwarranted withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran represented a living example of a vicious attack against multilateralism, the Ambassador noted. The United States not only continued to systematically violate its commitments under the Security Council resolution 2231, but it also brazenly called on others to violate that resolution. The United States’ unilateralism had also blocked international efforts to establish a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East. The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East continued to exist as long as the United States and its western allies kept appeasing the real source of proliferation – the illicit nuclear weapons of the Israeli regime, a regime that knew no limit to its unlawful and aggressive policies in the region, and its cruel and inhumane actions against the Palestinian people in the occupied territories.

FÉLIX PLASENCIA, Deputy Minister for Multilateral Affairs of Venezuela, noted that multilateralism was nowadays besieged by those few who believed in unilateralism. There was a growing concern in the international community that the goals that the Conference on Disarmament sought could be achieved. He called attention to increasingly tense global security contexts with regional conflicts and terrorism, expansion of xenophobia and racism, and the restoration of the Monroe doctrine with imperialistic tendencies, which threatened peace and international security. The Conference on Disarmament had to fulfil its goals by urgently adopting a comprehensive, fair and balanced programme of work with a negotiating mandate. The consultations to bring about that goal must be transparent, inclusive and respectful, guaranteeing the participation of all Member States. The discussion on substantive issues could not be subjected to discussions on procedures. Focusing simply on domestic affairs by some States was actually contributing to the politicization and gridlock.

The international community had to progress towards comprehensive and complete nuclear disarmament, the Deputy Minister stressed. That required the commitment of all States, and particularly nuclear weapon States. It was necessary to guarantee security for non-nuclear countries, given the threat of use of nuclear arms. Hence negative security assurances had to be established. Nuclear weapon States had to comply with their commitments under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which was the only legally binding instrument that aimed to achieve the goal of disarmament by those countries that had nuclear weapons. The international community also had to heed the recent changes in science and technology that had implications for war, including in outer space. The Deputy Minister noted that Venezuela was very committed to the proclamation of the Latin America and Caribbean region as a zone of peace, and hoped that other regions would follow that example, notably the Middle East.

Right of Reply

United States, speaking in a right of reply, objected to the propaganda presented by the representative of the “former Maduro regime,” calling it typical of a regime that had no credibility in the international community. That regime had no moral standing or legitimacy, and it realized that the Venezuelan people were sick and tired of being denied food, medicine and dignity. The violence perpetrated by the “former Maduro regime” against the Venezuelans during the previous weekend was sickening and it demonstrated how far the former regime would go to deny humanitarian supplies to those who needed them most. It was a travesty that the former regime continued to pin the blame for the disastrous situation in the country on everyone except itself. All responsible citizens of the world and Venezuela knew that the former corrupt regime of Maduro was to blame and that it had to be held accountable. The collapse of the democratic order in Venezuela had forced millions of Venezuelans to flee their country since 2015. That mass migration was the one of the largest ever in the Western hemisphere, creating significant security challenges for nations across the region. The former Maduro regime should not be allowed to continue to represent the Venezuelan people and to conduct its malign behaviour with impunity. The United States Government again called on representatives of the “former Maduro regime” not to assume the presidency of the Conference on Disarmament.

The United States noted that Iran was in no position to lecture anyone on anything. That was a country that had repeatedly threatened the destruction of Israel and that 40 years ago had taken United States’ diplomats hostage for 444 days, something that the Americans would never ever forget. It was a country that had engaged in a covert nuclear weapons programme, that had carried out countless terrorist attacks around the globe against innocent civilians, that financed terrorist groups in the Middle East and beyond, and that was developing and exporting ballistic missiles to terrorist groups, like the Houthi group in Yemen and Hezbollah in defiance of the international community. Needless to say, the United States’ economic sanctions would make it exceedingly difficult for Tehran to finance and carry out those activities in the future. As for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, the United States was focused on a comprehensive approach that kept the Iranian nuclear breakout permanently out of reach. The Plan had not been able to control Iran’s behaviour, which had become more aggressive and had threatened the United States and its interests under the cover of that deal. For those reasons, President Trump had withdrawn from the deal.

Russian Federation, speaking in a right of reply, in reaction to some high-level statements on Russia’s alleged violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, noted that the most crucial question was the withdrawal of the United States from that treaty, and reminded that the Russian Federation had voluntarily restricted itself from developing new nuclear weapons. The United States’ partners should have been honest, rather than use fabricated accusations against the Russian Federation to justify their unilateral withdrawal from the treaty. The United States itself violated treaties and then pointed fingers to others as the guilty parties, and it mobilized its satellites. The United States had deployed in Europe the universal launch platforms, thus blatantly violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The Russian Federation reiterated that it did not intend to deploy such missiles first in Europe. However, the Russian Federation would be obliged to respond to any actions that threatened its national security. The Russian Federation considered the withdrawal of the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was the result of a non-friendly policy that trampled on the legitimate interests of Russia. The international security architecture was being destroyed, but Russia was not the threat to the United States. It did not threaten anyone. All its actions were of purely defensive nature. The Russian Federation did not want a confrontation with a major nuclear power such as the United States. Many people in the Trump Administration believed in the supremacy of the United States over the rest of the world. The Russian Federation concluded that it would reliably defend its security.


For use of the information media; not an official record


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