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Conference on Disarmament continues to hear general statements

Meeting Summaries


The Conference on Disarmament this afternoon held a plenary meeting under the Presidency of Ambassador Marc Pecsteen of Belgium, hearing general statements by Japan, Israel, Ethiopia, Argentina, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Pakistan, Australia, Republic of Korea, Turkey, Colombia and Mexico.

Speakers urged the Conference to draw lessons from past mistakes, urging pragmatism and realism.  Several speakers expressed support for the United Nations General Assembly resolution 75/36 ‘Reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours’, and called on the international community to seize the opportunity presented by the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  Some delegations regretted that some States had been prevented from participating in the current session as observers.

Speaking in right of reply were Syria, India, United States and Pakistan.

The next public plenary of the Conference on Disarmament will be held on Tuesday, 26 January at 10 a.m.


Japan said it appreciated the close coordination shown by the P6+2 last year, which had contributed greatly to enhancing the consistency and continuity of the Conference’s work. Reiterating the importance of the immediate commencement of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, Japan called upon all nuclear-weapon States and States possessing nuclear weapons to declare or maintain a moratorium on the production of fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices until a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty took effect. Japan would continue to promote the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Japan called upon non-signatory States, including the remaining Annex II States, to sign and ratify the Treaty without further delay. Realizing a world without nuclear weapons required the nuclear weapon States to take concrete measures in accordance with Article 6 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Japan called on “North Korea” to take concrete steps towards denuclearization.

Israel urged careful consideration of the implications and disadvantages of independent processes carried out outside the established architecture of disarmament, as they may not engage relevant participants and could contribute to division. Time should be taken to deepen the understanding of new technologies and how they would affect the Conference’s work. There was a worrisome culture of non-compliance and disregard of international norms in the Middle East. Four of the five serious violations of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons had taken place in the Middle East. Iran had violated its obligations, as reported by the International Atomic Energy Agency, rendering them meaningless. The use of chemical weapons by States against their own civilian populations was also of concern. Israel had called for investigations into the events in Syria.

Ethiopia said it was disappointing that despite efforts made thus far, more than two decades had elapsed without the Conference on Disarmament reaching consensus on a programme of work. Ethiopia firmly believed that the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons remained the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime. The establishment of nuclear weapon free zones was also critical towards ensuring regional security that could contribute to the collective efforts of the international community to achieve long-lasting world peace and stability. Ethiopia supported strengthening international efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons, and in this context, a comprehensive Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, a treaty on negative security assurances that would protect non-nuclear weapon States against any threat, and prevention of an arms race in outer space.

Argentina said paralysis inevitably undermined the Conference on Disarmament’s credibility and jeopardized its continuity. Argentina welcomed the proposed programme of work, which contemplated the creation of five subsidiary bodies on the seven topics on the agenda, and was ready to support the Presidency and to actively participate in the debates after the its adoption. Strict respect and compliance with the standards enshrined in the framework of the Treaty on Nuclear Non-Proliferation were a guarantee to achieve progress on a sustainable basis in the three pillars that made up the Treaty. In matters of nuclear disarmament, Argentina called for the resumption of efforts to advance unilateral, bilateral and, of course, multilateral disarmament measures.

Russian Federation , underscoring that the P6+2 mechanism had proven its worth in 2020, said the Conference remained one of the few disarmament fora where a broad spectrum of issues could be addressed.  The relevance of the agenda had not diminished, quite to the contrary; starting negotiations on the themes outlined therein should be a priority.  Raising in the forum issues that were not directly related to the agenda created artificial obstacles.  There was no need to rush into adopting a simplified programme of work.  The Russian Federation trusted that its comments on the draft programme of work would be factored in.  Exhaustive information was needed on the financial resources at the disposal of the Conference, which had been forced to curtail its activities because of a lack of funds.  The Russian Federation would comment on substantial issues at a later time.

United Kingdom said its focus was clearly on the delayed Tenth Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it hoped could go ahead in August.  Perhaps the greatest contribution this Conference could make to the success of the Review Conference was to show that it was ready to fulfil that responsibility, notably by commencing negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.  This Conference also had a crucial role to play in preventing an arms race in outer space.  The United Kingdom was the original sponsor of United Nations General Assembly resolution 75/36, ‘Reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours’, which mandated the United Nations Secretary-General to produce a substantive report on the question as a basis for further discussions.  All members and observers of this Conference were encouraged to submit their views in that context.

Pakistan said India continued policies of hegemony, subversion and domination over its neighbours.  This recklessness endangered security in the region.  To camouflage its reign of terror, India had launched the world’s most notorious disinformation campaign.  The international community, including this body, must call out this behaviour.  A revival of global consensus was urgent; it was the only viable option for the international arms control architecture to function and deliver.  Pakistan supported commencing negotiations towards a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention and concluding treaties on negative assurances and the prevention of an arms race in outer space.  As regards fissile materials, calls for a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty remained diversionary tactics at best. Pakistan called for a fissile material treaty that considered existing stocks.

Australia said 2021 was an opportunity to think creatively about the work of the Conference.  During extensive consultations conducted during its Presidency, many delegations had told Australia that the Conference should consider the lessons of the pandemic.  Welcoming the early circulation of the package by the President, Australia said it provided a good basis for discussion.  It was important to hear a diversity of opinion from members and observers alike.  Highlighting the value of cross-regional initiatives like the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, Australia urged practical and feasible solutions, as there were no shortcuts to disarmament.  It welcomed the United Nations General Assembly resolution 75/36, “Reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours”, and encouraged others to submit their views to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Republic of Korea said the Conference must be realistic and hoped it would be able to reach consensus on a programme of work at an early stage in the session.  The priority should be commencing negotiation on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty as soon as possible.  The Conference should address the growing threat to, and from, outer space, despite differences of points of view.  The Conference should pay further attention to emerging technologies in the field of security and disarmament, thinking beyond the agenda items that had been traditionally the focus of its work.  Urging the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, the Republic of Korea stressed the importance of dialogue and diplomacy.  A Korean peninsula free of war and nuclear weapons must be achieved.

Turkey said the Conference had to learn from its repeated failures and achieve consensus on a programme of work. Turkey supported the establishment of subsidiary bodies, such as those that were very successful in 2018.  The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.  Turkey strongly supported all three pillars of the Treaty and was ready to work towards achieving a successful outcome at its Review Conference.  It hoped that the Russian Federation and the United States would agree on the extension of the New START Treaty before it was too late.  Turkey called for building on this Treaty to develop broader arrangements and foster further reductions in the future with extended participation.

Colombia regretted the fact that all those who wanted to observe the Conference had not been admitted.  There would be important events this year that would revitalize the architecture of disarmament, such as the Review Conferences of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Conventions on Biological Weapons and on Certain Conventional Weapons.  In the context of these events, as well as in the Conference, States must show with actions that their position towards multilateralism went beyond speech and that they were truly committed to the future.

Mexico said 2020 had been an unprecedented year and the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed frailties.  In terms of disarmament, tensions had increased.  This forum was on the verge of irrelevance. The Conference should be pragmatic, and begin with the basics, adopting a programme of work and fostering an environment where all could be heard.  Mexico regretted the abuse of procedures to the detriment of multilateralism and made a respectful but firm call to Turkey and Iran to reconsider their positions.  2021 would offer opportunities, such as the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.