Conference on Disarmament concludes hearing general statements and begins discussing a draft package on the 2021 programme of work
The Conference on Disarmament this afternoon heard general statements by Switzerland, Russian Federation and Nigeria, and then began discussing the Presidency’s draft package on the 2021 programme of work of the Conference.
In the general statements, speakers urged the Russian Federation and the United States to extend the New START Treaty without further delay. While some said the non-inclusive and non-consensual Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons did not establish any new standards or norms, others, expressing support for it, urged all States that had not signed and ratified the treaty to do so.
The Conference then discussed the updated draft package regarding a programme of work, which was circulated by Ambassador Marc Pecsteen of Belgium, the President of the Conference, and the P6.
Mr. Pecsteen said that during bilateral and regional consultations conducted in past months, there had been numerous calls not to reinvent the wheel but rather build on the good foundation laid last year by the P6. Most specifically, the package proposal circulated by the Algerian Presidency was considered by many as the approach most conducive to consensus. This year’s P6 had therefore circulated an updated version of last year’s package proposal, which contained a draft proposal for a programme of work; a draft decision for its implementation; and a draft presidential statement on the improved functioning of the Conference.
During the meeting, Pakistan, Argentina, India, Mexico, Egypt, Iran, France and United States took the floor to comment on or explain their national positions on the package.
Speaking in right of reply were Japan, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and United States.
Israel spoke in a point of order.
The next plenary of the Conference on Disarmament is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, 4 February at 10 a.m.
Switzerland said that the gradual disintegration of the global arms control architecture was concerning. Switzerland urged the Russian Federation and the United States to extend the New START Treaty without further delay, and welcomed the fact that both parties had expressed their desire to extend it for a period of five years without other conditions. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference must be used to strengthen non-proliferation and make progress towards nuclear disarmament. The entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons last Friday had been punctuated by a ceremony which Switzerland had followed with great attention. Switzerland strongly supported the package proposed by the President, and did not see any real alternative to this draft proposal, which would make it possible to overcome the current blockage. While some of the provisions of the package, of course, could be revised, it seemed essential not to stray from its central elements.
Russian Federation said changing anything in the so-called working methods of the Conference was inappropriate and counter-productive. Recent statements by the new Administration of the United States in favour of extending the START Treaty for five years were encouraging. The Russian Federation had put forward a vision to control offensive and defensive nuclear and non-nuclear weapons capable of meeting strategic objectives, and stood ready to minimize the negative consequences of the breakdown of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. In order to smoothly implement the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, States should reaffirm commitments undertaken during previous review cycles. The Conference’s agenda offered an excellent opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the success of the tenth Review Conference. The non-inclusive and non-consensual Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons did not establish any new standards or norms, nor did it contribute to the development of customary international law. Its entry into force did not change anything in that regard.
Nigeria said the tone had already been set with the coming into force on 22 January of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Stressing the importance of this treaty, Nigeria urged all States that had not signed and ratified the treaty to do so. It further urged all governments and nations, particularly nuclear weapon States, to begin to steer away from the path of nuclear destruction to one that sought to enthrone human security in all its forms. That was the only sure trajectory. All delegations must show the needed political will and explore creative and consensual solutions that would lead to substantive negotiations on the core disarmament issues in 2021. In this respect, Nigeria associated itself with calls for Iran and Turkey to reconsider their position on the requests by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus to be granted observer status.
Statements on the Presidency’s Package
Ambassador MARC PECSTEEN of Belgium, President of the Conference on Disarmament, introducing the package proposal which had been circulated electronically in December, said that during bilateral and regional consultations conducted in past months, there had been numerous calls not to reinvent the wheel but rather build on the good foundation laid last year by the P6. Most specifically, the package proposal circulated by the Algerian Presidency was considered by many as the approach most conducive to consensus. This year’s P6 had therefore circulated an updated version of last year’s package proposal, which contained a draft proposal for a programme of work; a draft decision for its implementation; and a draft presidential statement on the improved functioning of the Conference.
The draft proposal for a programme of work envisaged setting up five subsidiary bodies on all items on the Conference's agenda. The number of meetings per subsidiary body would be four instead of the six envisaged last year - an adjustment that took into account this year’s heavy programme, notably the impact of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Review Conference. These four meetings would take place over the course of 10 weeks, from early March to the end of June. The President said that this was a good compromise in his opinion.
Pakistan reiterated the importance of realism, comprehensiveness and balance. However, in some important ways, the proposal went beyond last year’s emerging agreement. The Conference must remain mindful of the dynamics that shaped the world, and avoid arbitrary preferences. The creation of subsidiary bodies was a pragmatic step.
Argentina said, regarding the subsidiary bodies, that all the issues on the Conference’s agenda should be treated equally and that each subsidiary body should have the same number of meetings as the others. Exchanges in the subsidiary bodies during 2021 would nurture the preparations for the Review Conference and facilitate its successful completion.
India said subsidiary bodies, while not the optimal desired outcome, were the very best that Conference members could hope for given the current circumstances. India requested more information on the reports of the subsidiary bodies, and said the original number of sessions per subject should be restored.
Mexico , while regretting that the draft did not fully meet the expectations, said it established a clear mandate, in line with that of the Conference on Disarmament. Some modifications introduced could undermine the spirit of consensus of the Algerian Presidency’s proposal.
Egypt said this proposal could provide the Conference with the impetus to start its work. Minor amendments should be made to make sure that the concerns of all delegations were addressed. The impasse was not due to the rules of procedures, but rather the lack of political will on the part of some States.
Iran said the Conference should focus on substantive work. The draft programme of work and the decision to implement it were a good basis which required some amendments. Iran stood ready to discuss it further to improve the text.
France said adopting a programme of work was noble work which should be pursued despite difficulties. Immediate negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty in line with CD 1299 remained a priority. The Shannon mandate remained relevant. It was not only a logical but also an inevitable next step.
United States said it had no problem with the package presented by the Presidency. The mandate of subsidiary bodies could be made clearer. Regarding the facilitator’s presentation of the report to the Conference, would that be done in an open session?
Ambassador MARC PECSTEEN of Belgium, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said he had taken note of remarks, for which he thanked those present. He would consider them carefully along with the other members of the P6.