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Conference on Disarmament continues to hear general statements

Meeting Summaries


The Conference on Disarmament this morning held a plenary meeting under the Presidency of Ambassador Marc Pecsteen of Belgium, hearing general statements by South Africa, Cuba, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ukraine and Sri Lanka.

At the beginning of the meeting, as Ambassador Pecsteen read out the names of States requesting observer status for the 2021 session of the Conference, Iran said it could not agree to Yemen's request to participate in the work of the Conference as an observer as the party that had made this request did not represent the people of Yemen; it could only claim to represent the coalition led by Saudi Arabia.  Several speakers regretted Iran’s decision and that United Nations Member States were being prevented from participating in the Conference as observers.  They stressed that inclusion was a tenet of multilateralism. 
Some speakers noted that the rejection of the State of Palestine's request in 2019 had set a regrettable precedent.  The following countries took the floor on this subject: Mexico, United Kingdom, India, United States, Netherlands, Egypt, France, Pakistan, Morocco, Canada and South Africa. 

The Conference approved the request of Singapore to participate in its 2021 session as an observer.

In the general statements, speakers urged the Conference to take advantage of the momentum that the entry into force of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons had created. They expressed concerns about actions by some States that had a detrimental effect on international security, notably in Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. It was concerning that some States had decided to include new “low-yield nuclear weapons” in their national security strategies, some speakers said.

Speaking in right of reply were Germany, Syria, Japan and the United States and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Israel spoke in a point of order.

The next public plenary of the Conference on Disarmament will be held this afternoon at 3 p.m.


South Africa  thanked all the countries that had ensured the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and urged all States that had not yet done so to ratify it as soon as possible.  A prohibition of nuclear weapons was the strongest commitment to nuclear disarmament. The Treaty contributed to achieving the objective set out in the very first resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1946, and complemented other international instruments, contributing to the objectives of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the nuclear weapon free zone treaties. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons remained the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation and should be strengthened by ensuring progress in a balanced manner across its three pillars.  The primary responsibility for undertaking the necessary steps for the elimination of nuclear weapons lay with those States that continued to regard nuclear weapons as central to their security. South Africa supported all requests made for observer status. 

Cuba  said it supported the adoption of a comprehensive and balanced programme of work, where complete nuclear disarmament was given the relevance it deserved, taking into account that nuclear weapons constituted a direct threat to the subsistence of humanity.  Cuba condemned in the strongest and most absolute terms the illegitimate and fraudulent inclusion of Cuba in the list of countries that the United States considered as sponsors of terrorism.  The Conference should take advantage of the momentum that the entry into force of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons had created.  Nuclear disarmament was and must continue to be the highest priority in the field of disarmament.  Nuclear weapons were illegal and their use or the threat of their use should constitute, in the light of the principles of international law, the most serious international crimes that could be committed against humanity.  

Iran  congratulated the States parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  Militant unilateralism had deteriorated the global security climate in 2020.  Iran had suffered in 2020 killings at the hand of the bullying Trump administration and in the context of terrorism sponsored by Israel, a military occupier that was not committed to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and that was the only possessor of nuclear weapons in the region.  Israel had gone to all extremes to dismantle the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action while blaming Iran for non-compliance.  Iran was willing to contribute to the preparation of a balanced programme of work in the Conference on Disarmament that encompassed all four core mandates.  Germany was not an honest advocate for disarmament: it violated article 1, 2 and 6 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Iran’s decision to scale back its voluntary commitments was strictly in line with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, while the European Union had ceased to meet its commitments, ceding to pressure by the United States. 

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea   said it had made every effort to prevent the aggravation of regional tension out of its strong desire to ensure the peace and security of the Korean peninsula and the rest of the world.  However, high-tech weapons of hostile forces aimed at it were increasing in volume and  their reckless arms build-up undermined the international balance of power.  The Government was determined to continuously strengthen its military capabilities as long as the danger of war of aggression by the hostile forces against the State remained, and until threats and blackmail by the hostile forces disappeared.  Steadily developing the strongest war deterrent was aimed at defending the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and opening up an era of genuine peace forever.  As a responsible nuclear-weapon State, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would not misuse its nuclear weapons unless the aggressive hostile forces tried to use nuclear weapons against it.  Japan had been accelerating its efforts to become a military power in the region, despite the horrors it had inflicted on the people of Asia in the first half of the 20th century. Such aims should be abandoned. 

Ukraine  thanked the United States for its unwavering support in the face of the Russian aggression.  Over 15,000 people had been killed and over 30,000 had been wounded as a result of this aggression.  The current global arms control architecture had been deeply corroded by the actions of countries such as the Russian Federation.  It was alarming that Russia had moved means of delivery of nuclear weapons to Crimea.  The strict implementation of the United Nations General Assembly resolution 75/29 was of paramount importance.  The Russian Federation had violated its obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in the context of its aggression against Ukraine. Denouncing the repeated use of military-grade Novichok by the Russian Federation in violation of obligations under the non-proliferation regime, Ukraine called on the Russian Federation to hit the ground running to renew the New START Treaty.  Ukraine stood ready to contribute constructively to the Conference’s work, notably on the interdiction of the production of fissile material and a legally binding instrument on negative assurances. 

Sri Lanka

 expressed its appreciation of the package proposal presented by the Presidency on behalf of the six Presidents, and noted with concern the lack of progress on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the inability of States to work together to advance non-proliferation goals of the Treaty in the run up to the Review Conference.  The modernization of nuclear arsenals as well as a move by some States to include new “low-yield nuclear weapons” in their national security strategies and postures were of grave concern.  It appeared that nuclear possessing States, instead of implementing coordinated measures to abandon their nuclear weapons arsenal, were moving more towards expansion and modernization.  The advancement of autonomous weapon systems and related emerging technologies devoid of meaningful human control also remained a matter of grave concern.