Conference on Disarmament Holds First Plenary Meeting under the Presidency of Brazil
The Conference on Disarmament this morning held its first plenary meeting under the Presidency of Ambassador Gonçalo Mello Maurão of Brazil, hearing statements on the draft programme of work by Pakistan, Cuba, Netherlands, Russian Federation, Mexico, France, Syria, United States and Germany, as well as a general statement by Egypt.
In opening remarks, Ambassador Mello Maurão said the burden for this Presidency was heavy as it seemed that even though everything had been done, the Conference had not been able to advance its work. This matter, however, was a collective responsibility. The Brazilian Presidency was keen to maintain the coordination within the P6, and planned to structure its work by holding formal meetings while also organizing informal consultations if necessary.
At the beginning of the meeting, as Mr. Mello Maurão read out the names of States requesting observer status for the 2021 session of the Conference, Iran said it could not agree to Bahrain’s request to participate in the work of the Conference as an observer because of, inter alia, its participation in the armed conflict in Yemen.
Several speakers then took the floor to urge Iran to reverse its decision not only on Bahrain, but also on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They recalled that in a spirit of multiculturalism a diversity of perspective was key. Some speakers said the list of requests should be considered as a whole rather than one by one. Some speakers also urged Turkey to reconsider its decision to block the participation of Cyprus as an observer State.
Turkey said it did not recognize the “Greek Cypriot Administration which did not represent the whole population of Cyprus”.
Mr. Mello Maurão said it was the task of the President to resolve problems and to reach consensus. He asked the delegations of Iran and Turkey to consult with their capitals to try and surmount the obstacles.
Taking the floor to oppose the decision to deny observer status to some States that had requested it were: United States, India, United Kingdom, Bangladesh, Mexico, Russian Federation, Canada, Egypt, Morocco, Netherlands, France, Germany, Austria, Australia, Pakistan, Norway, China, South Africa, Nigeria, Switzerland, Chile, Republic of Korea, Belgium and Japan.
Speakers then outlined their national positions on the draft programme of work, stressing that they were making efforts to remain flexible. Following a discussion on an oral amendment put forward by the Russian Federation last week, Mr. Mello Maurão asked delegations who had proposals to submit them in writing to all as soon as possible. He then proposed organizing an informal meeting tomorrow morning and asked delegations wishing to do so to submit their amendment proposals this afternoon.
The date and time of the next public plenary meeting of the Conference on Disarmament will be announced at a later time.
Ambassador GONÇALO MELLO MAURÃO of Brazil, President of the Conference on Disarmament, in his opening remarks, said the burden for this Presidency was heavy as it seemed that even though everything had been done, the Conference had not been able to advance its work. This matter, however, was a collective responsibility. He expressed hope that the constructive efforts deployed in past weeks would allow the Conference to present the world with some progress in the coming days. The Brazilian Presidency was keen to maintain the coordination within the P6, and planned to structure its work by holding formal meetings while also organizing informal consultations if necessary. He asked those present if the Conference was willing to accept the documents circulated on Thursday.
Egypt said the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed how fragile the international community could be, how interdependent its members were, and how irrational it was to continue directing resources to nuclear arsenals and the arms race. The Conference was at the center of the disarmament machinery; it was the sole disarmament body with the distinct mandate of negotiating legally binding disarmament instruments. Stressing that the Conference should be reinvigorated, Egypt said nuclear disarmament remained the foremost priority, and it should be pursued in line with article 6 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Nuclear weapon States bore a special responsibility to fulfill their obligations and allow negotiations to start in the Conference. Further, the Conference should start negotiations on a verifiable and legally binding instrument banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices. Additionally, the total elimination of nuclear weapons was the only guarantee against their use or threat of use. Finally, special attention should be given to maintaining outer space for peaceful activities, and preserving its nature as a common heritage of humankind.
Pakistan said it was ready to support the drafts presented last week even though they did not meet all its expectations. Pakistan had reservations regarding the language of operative paragraph 3, but had exercised restraint by refraining from proposing amendments to operative paragraphs.
Cuba said it had been participating in a constructive manner, but did not think meetings should continue in the online format. Cuba underlined the value of informal meetings where representatives could speak freely about the proposals.
Netherlands said since Friday all bets were off the table. Echoing the intervention of Pakistan, the Netherlands said all those present should show restraint. If returning to the 2018 consensus was not possible, the Conference should consider the proposal put forward by the Belgian Presidency. The Netherlands would prefer that the subsidiary bodies be re-established. There was no reason not to build on the success achieved in 2018.
Russian Federation said the meetings of last week did not reflect the real state of play. It was surprising that Russian proposals were being ignored, and the Russian Federation wanted to continue fine-tuning the document put forward by the Belgian Presidency. Some countries seemed to refuse to engage in such work and related discussions.
Ambassador GONÇALO MELLO MAURÃO of Brazil, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said the document was a starting point. Some of the proposals made by the Russian Federation had been contemplated, others had not. The Presidency was willing to consider all proposals, as the Conference had to achieve results.
Mexico acknowledged the efforts of the P6, and said it had been ready to accept the documents CD/WP6333 and CD/WP634 even though they did not reflect all of its hope. Mexico had approached other delegations to consider minor adjustments to avoid some issues faced in 2018.
France said it was ready to work, and join consensus, on the documents circulated on Friday, even though they could be improved. France reassured the Russian Federation that it never refused to debate amendments. The problem was that the amendments had only been submitted orally.
Ambassador GONÇALO MELLO MAURÃO of Brazil, President of the Conference on Disarmament, asked delegations who had proposals to submit them in writing to all as soon as possible.
Syria said a balanced and comprehensive programme of work was necessary. While the documents that had been circulated did not meet this criteria, Syria would be willing to join consensus if the concerns it had voiced were addressed. It was obvious that further consultations were necessary at this point. The Conference should return to the normal way of holding consultations, so all countries could voice their opinions.
United States said the Russian amendments must be on paper for representatives to be able to hold consultations with capitals. Once that was done, consultations should be held.
Germany said amendments should be submitted in writing. Germany was willing to join consensus on the draft proposals tabled by the Belgian Presidency last week.
Ambassador GONÇALO MELLO MAURÃO of Brazil, President of the Conference on Disarmament, proposed organizing an informal meeting tomorrow morning and asked delegations wishing to do so to submit their amendment proposals this afternoon.