CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT CONTINUES HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT
The Conference on Disarmament this afternoon continued its high-level segment, hearing statements by dignitaries from Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Malaysia, Ecuador and Argentina.
Speaking were Anniken Huitfeldt, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway; Pekka Haavisto, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland; Wopke Hoekstra, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands; Hadja Lahbib, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium; Mélanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada; Datuk Mohamad Alamin, Deputy Foreign Minister of Malaysia; Juan Carlos Holguín Maldonado, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador; and Santioago Andrés Cafiero, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of Argentina.
The Conference will next meet in public tomorrow at 10 a.m., to continue with the high-level segment.
High-Level Segment Statements
ANNIKEN HUITFELDT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, noted that new nuclear threats and proliferation challenges were raising concerns about the potential use of nuclear weapons and the ensuing humanitarian impacts. At the end of the Cold War, Ukraine had the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world. The country voluntarily gave these up in exchange for security assurances from nuclear powers, including from the Russian Federation who broke these assurances last year. She deeply regretted the Russian suspension of the New START Treaty. A substantive strategic dialogue between nuclear powers was essential and should include full transparency on all nuclear arsenals and discussions on concrete and practical risk reduction measures. She was deeply troubled by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea’s nuclear rhetoric and actions. The accelerating Iranian nuclear programme was also of great concern. Nuclear disarmament remained a high priority for Norway, which, together with the United Kingdom, had initiated a multilateral dialogue on how to apply the principle of irreversibility in practice. Another priority for Norway was nuclear risk reduction, as the risk of nuclear weapons being used, either intentionally or inadvertently, was a constant concern.
PEKKA HAAVISTO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, condemned the illegal and unprovoked attack against Ukraine, deplored the Russian decision to suspend the implementation of the New START Treaty, and urged the Russian Federation to return to full compliance with the Treaty. The Conference had been in a stalemate for too long. It was time to seriously discuss ways of revitalising it and encourage a substantive discussion on its working methods. Nuclear weapons posed a risk for every nation, however, nuclear risk reduction was no substitute for nuclear disarmament; it was an interim measure pending the total elimination of nuclear weapons. He also highlighted the issue of fissile material production. Ending the production of such material was an important step towards nuclear disarmament. On negative security assurances, he stated that non-nuclear weapon States, which complied with their international obligations, had a legitimate right to receive unequivocal assurances that there was no threat of nuclear use against them. For disarmament to progress, public support and understanding of the issues at stake was necessary. Efforts to engage broader constituencies in these discussions were needed, including better gender representation as well as youth and civil society representation.
WOPKE HOEKSTRA, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, said there has never been a greater need for the Conference than there was today. The Russian Federation’s unwarranted, unprovoked and illegal war was a gross violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and international law. Both the European and the global security architecture required constant attention. He called on all members of the Conference to engage in a constructive dialogue based on an agreed working programme, as well as to restart its work towards a safer and more peaceful world. All members needed to keep the door open for all non-member States who wished to express their views. He further called on all members to address risk reduction measures and outer space security. States needed to ensure that de-escalating dialogue remained possible, as well as to combine dialogue with a sustained effort towards nuclear disarmament. Responsible behaviour remained the guiding principle for ensuring a safe, secure and sustainable outer space. A step-by-step approach needed to be adopted in order to enhance the normative framework and establish legally binding measures vis-à-vis actions in outer space. In conclusion, he explained that the Netherlands was committed not to conduct destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile tests from this moment on.
HADJA LAHBIB, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, said Belgium fully aligned itself with the statement of the European Union. The multilateral order was now in crisis. There could be no neutrality when international law was being violated. The Russian Federation needed to immediately stop its illegal invasion of Ukraine and withdraw its troops. The Conference needed to seek a way forward and make progress. Excluding the participation of observers was not conducive to ensuring the progress of the Conference. Nuclear threats were no recipe for stability and peace. Further expansion of nuclear arsenals needed to be prevented. China was the only nuclear weapon-holding State still increasing its arsenals. It needed to reverse its course. The Russian Federation needed to allow inspections of nuclear weapons on its territory and its decision to suspend its participation in the New START treaty was extremely concerning. A legally-binding, universal norm was needed to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Belgium urged all States to ratify the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. All States needed to accept a legally-binding ban on nuclear tests. Expanding exploration of space presented new challenges and a comprehensive international norm on preventing an arms race in outer space was needed. It was disappointing that the Conference had not been able to agree on a programme of work this year, and had not updated its rules of procedure to achieve gender neutrality. Belgium called on the Conference to devote time to resolving the gender issue this year.
MÉLANIE JOLY, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada, said that President Putin’s war was an attack on Ukrainians’ right to determine their own future, an attack on international security, democracy and global stability, and a deliberate violation of the United Nations Charter and Geneva Conventions. It was further evidence of the Russian Federation’s contempt for diplomacy and multilateral institutions. Canada was determined to work towards global nuclear disarmament as nuclear arsenals worldwide remained unacceptably large. Canada supported multilateral efforts to restrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions and called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to return to a path of diplomacy and denuclearization. She further condemned the Assad regime in Syria for its repeated use of chemical weapons and continued undermining of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The paralysis of the Conference on Disarmament needed to be overcome and overdue negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty needed to be launched.
DATUK MOHAMAD ALAMIN, Deputy Foreign Minister of Malaysia, stated that in recent decades, the Conference had been criticised and dismissed for not being able to make progress on its mandate to negotiate disarmament and arms control instruments. In order to revitalise it, all Member States needed to demonstrate greater political will, build trust amongst one another, as well as exercise utmost flexibility and compromise. He further underscored the importance of an inclusive approach to deliberations within this body, through the participation of all Observer States in its work. Malaysia continued to consider nuclear disarmament as its top priority and recognised that progress could be made on other critical issues, such as fissile materials, prevention of an arms race in outer space, and negative security assurances. Further, he continued to place importance on universal adherence to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. He strongly called for the immediate and unconditional cessation of all nuclear weapon tests and the complete prohibition of nuclear weapons research and development. Malaysia remained committed to addressing the humanitarian impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, having endorsed the Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences Arising from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas.
JUAN CARLOS HOLGUÍN MALDONADO, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador, lamented that once again, the international community had missed the opportunity to make new commitments on disarmament. Just as the Non-Proliferation Treaty and Biological Weapons Treaty Review Conferences were unable to reach substantial consensus, the Conference on Disarmament had also been unable to make substantial progress in reaching consensus on the main items on its agenda. Despite enormous efforts made by Ecuador, including during its Presidency of the Conference last year, the Conference’s final report did not reflect even the most basic elements of the work or discussions carried out in 2022. The resolution that was subsequently presented to the General Assembly could not be approved by consensus either. The message was therefore clear: not only was the Conference still in a state of paralysis, but additional difficulties had been added. The results achieved decades ago in forums such as the Conference on Disarmament demonstrated the great value of multilateralism, however, without the political will of States, no results could be achieved, he concluded.
SANTIOAGO ANDRÉS CAFIERO, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of Argentina, called upon the members of the Conference to move forward with concrete actions. It was necessary to begin negotiations on creating a committee dedicated to reviewing Members’ positions on disarmament and negative security assurances. The nuclear weapons holding States needed to provide unequivocal assurances that, until their complete elimination, nuclear weapons would not be used against non-nuclear States. Last year, it had proved impossible to produce a final document at the Tenth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. This was a symbol of the generalised deterioration of the multilateral system, which hindered the work of the Conference. He hoped that this year the Conference would be able to agree on an agenda for discussion and negotiation on the basis of what has been agreed in the Subsidiary Bodies. In 2022, Argentina chaired the Tenth Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Review Conference. It was essential to ratify the inalienable right of States to scientific and technological development for peaceful purposes. Further, arms races were costly and absorbed immense financial, technological and human resources, which would be better used for post-pandemic reconstruction in the developing world and to combat inequality, hunger and climate change. In today’s world, disarmament needed to be at the heart of sustainable development efforts.
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