CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT OPENS HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT
The Conference on Disarmament this morning opened its high-level segment, hearing statements by the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and dignitaries from Ethiopia, Ireland, France, Peru, Sweden, United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Iraq and Indonesia.
Speaking were Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs; Gedion Timothewos, Minister of Justice of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia; Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Deputy-Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland; Catherine Colonna, Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs of France; Ana Cecilia Gervasi Diaz, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Peru; Johan Forssell, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade of Sweden; Bonnie Jenkins, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, United States Department of State; Leo Docherty, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom; Annalena Baerbock, Federal Foreign Minister of Germany; Omar Al-Barzanchi, Deputy Foreign Minister for Multilateral relations and Legal Affairs of the Republic of Iraq; and Retino L.P. Marsudi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia.
The Conference will next meet in public today at 3 p.m., to continue the high-level segment.
High-Level Segment Statements
IZUMI NAKAMITSU, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that, in unprecedented times, the disarmament architecture, including the Conference, needed to adjust to the prevailing realities. Disarmament was a necessary pillar of the international peace and security architecture, and a key accelerator for achieving sustainable development; a commitment that needed to be backed up by action, she added. The international disarmament community witnessed some important advances in, among other areas, efforts to safeguard the peace and security of cyberspace; reduce space threats; and make progress towards possible measures and options related to a normative and operational framework on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems. She further acknowledged the Conference on Disarmament’s adoption of a procedural report and the consensus adoption of the relevant General Assembly resolution. Member States, through the work of the subsidiary bodies, were able to find areas of common ground on key elements of the non-proliferation agenda. There were glimmers of hope, she continued, which could serve as platforms for further action. “The time has come for us to bring collective political will and together break the quarter-of-century stalemate in this Conference”, she concluded.
GEDION TIMOTHEWOS, Minister of Justice of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, supported the Conference on Disarmament as the sole multilateral disarmament-negotiating forum, with nuclear disarmament as its highest priority. As the Conference had been unable to commence substantive work for lack of consensus, he insisted that this stalemate needed to be broken. He reaffirmed the General Assembly Resolutions on the total elimination of nuclear weapons and reiterated his strong support for, among others, nuclear non-proliferation, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, the negotiation of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and a multilaterally negotiated, legally binding instrument protecting non-nuclear-weapons States against the use or threat of nuclear weapons. He firmly believed that the establishment of nuclear weapon free zones was critical for ensuring global security, as it contributed to the collective efforts of the international community to achieve long-lasting world peace and stability.
MICHEAL MARTIN, Tánaiste Deputy-Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland, said this was a time of crisis. Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine was an assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty, on the rules-based international order and on multilateralism itself. The war needed to stop immediately. Ireland condemned Russia’s nuclear threats. Ireland was concerned by Russia’s recent announcement that it would suspend implementation of New START. The verified reduction of deployed strategic nuclear arsenals under New START contributed to European peace and security. Threats to nuclear safety and security around nuclear facilities were unprecedented. The 10th Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Review Conference failed to achieve an outcome solely due to Russia’s decision to block consensus. This represented a missed opportunity. The Treaty remained the cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime. All of the obligations under the Treaty needed to be honoured. Ireland called on nuclear weapons States to disarm. Ireland welcomed last year’s first meeting of State parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which had re-energised the debate on nuclear weapons. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty established a global norm against nuclear weapons testing, and was a powerful demonstration of what could be achieved by the Conference. Ireland welcomed recent ratifications of the Treaty, and called on all States to ratify and respect the Treaty. The Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences Arising from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas had been adopted by 83 States in Ireland in November last year. The Declaration represented a powerful response to civilians harmed by modern conflicts. The integration of gender perspectives across all spheres of disarmament was deeply important for Ireland. Ireland was concerned that certain States were being prevented from participating in the Conference as observers. The Conference, having deadlocked, was not able to address the increasingly unstable global security situation. Creativity and flexibility was needed to break the deadlock and support the Conference to resume its substantive work.
CATHERINE COLONNA, Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, highlighted the importance of the Conference for the global peace and security architecture. She denounced Russia's serious violations of Ukraine's security, but also of international peace and security. She called on Russia to reverse as soon as possible the announcement of the suspension of its participation in the New START Treaty; on China to join the efforts to reduce nuclear arsenals, in accordance with its commitments under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; and on North Korea to comply with all its obligations to achieve the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear and ballistic programs. As France would hold one of the six Presidencies of the Conference this year, she explained that she would hold a consultation on the Conference’s revitalization, as well as promote and advance a nuclear disarmament agenda based on a realistic and progressive approach. She highlighted the need to rapidly launch negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for military use, the negotiating mandate of which had already been defined by the Conference.
ANA CECILIA GERVASI DIAZ, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Peru, recalled that the threat or use of weapons of mass destruction, in particular nuclear weapons, was incompatible with respect for the right to life and the right to peace. She condemned the Russian aggression against Ukraine, as well as the continued launching of ballistic missiles by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Further, she regretted the recent announcement made by the Government of the Russian Federation on the suspension of the country's participation in the New START Treaty. She urged Member States to redouble their efforts to overcome the decades of stagnation of the Conference and resume its negotiating mandate. Further, the use of conventional weapons was of great concern as it was considered incompatible with international humanitarian law. Such weapons were likely to cause indiscriminate damage to the civilian population and unnecessary suffering.
JOHAN FORSSELL, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade of Sweden, acknowledged the Conference on Disarmament’s great achievements. Yet, for well over two decades no major negotiations had taken place. “These shortcomings are not due to a lack of ideas or a lack of trying. It is due to the lack of political will”, he said. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons must not be taken for granted and its strength must be harnessed. Areas such as risk reduction, nuclear verification, transparency and accountability should be further explored. By working in collaboration with others, including through the Stockholm Initiative for Nuclear Disarmament, Sweden pursued the common goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. Nuclear Weapons States bore a special responsibility for nuclear arms control and disarmament, he added, as he recognized the constructive approach taken by the United States, the United Kingdom and France to avoid nuclear escalation. He welcomed the United States’ efforts to resume activities within the New START Treaty and to launch negotiations on a new arms control framework, as well as called on Russia to reconsider its decision to suspend its participation in the Treaty.
BONNIE JENKINS,Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, United States Department of State, said that the world continued to face challenges as a result of the Russian Federation’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea’s string of ballistic missile launches, Syria and Iran’s failure to abide by their International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards obligations, as well as the People’s Republic of China’s non-transparent build-up of its nuclear arsenal. She shared the frustration produced by the paralysis of the Conference over the years and recalled its members’ obligations and commitments. The international community was facing a dramatically unstable security environment that was pulling it away from collective action. Countries were failing to live up to their obligations to reduce and manage the risks posed by weapons of mass destruction, and there was increased competition in new domains for dangerous and self-serving reasons. She called for the immediate commencing of negotiations on a non-discriminatory, multilateral, and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
LEO DOCHERTY, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom, said every member State of the Conference had a responsibility to work towards global peace and security. It had been over a year since Russia had launched their attack on Ukraine. The United Kingdom would continue to support the Ukrainian Government in the face of this assault on their existence. Russia’s announcement of its suspension of participation in the New START Treaty demonstrated the State’s willingness to undermine international stability. The United Kingdom would continue to urge Russia to re-engage with its commitments under the Treaty. The United Kingdom was concerned by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s continued escalation of its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. It condemned these tests. In Syria, threats were posed by the continued use of chemical weapons and by emerging technologies. The United Kingdom remained committed to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It would continue to develop concrete initiatives and support negotiations on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. The use of conventional and chemical weapons remained a present and urgent threat. The United Kingdom was proud to sign up to the Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences Arising from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas agreement last November, and congratulated Ireland on its leadership of the initiative. The United Kingdom would continue to play a leading role in tackling the scourge of improvised explosive devices and landmines. It condemned Syria’s use of chemical weapons. There needed to be serious consequences for States that used such weapons. Threats in outer space had evolved. The United Kingdom welcomed progress in the Working Group on the use of weapons in outer space. The Conference had a vital role to play in preventing an arms race in outer space.
Speaking on behalf of a group of States, the United Kingdom said the Conference’s High Level Segment was taking place while the war in Ukraine continued. The war was a blatant violation of the United Nations Charter, and should be condemned. The States also condemned Russia’s announcement that it was suspending its participation in New START. Russia’s war of aggression was a threat to international peace and security. The war had dramatic effects on the most vulnerable throughout the globe. Russia’s ongoing military attacks inflicted more suffering on civilians. Repeated shelling in the vicinity of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant increased the risk of nuclear disaster. Russia needed to cease all military operations and return full control of the power plant to Ukraine, and withdraw all troops unconditionally. The States supported international efforts to hold those responsible accountable for war crimes. By obstructing the work of the Conference, Russia was obstructing bilateral and multilateral negotiations on disarmament. The compliance of all United Nations member States needed to be supported by concrete actions that facilitated trust. The States could not accept attempts to block States’ participation in multilateral procedures.
ANNALENA BAERBOCK, Federal Foreign Minister of Germany, said that the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has violated the United Nations Charter, international law and undermined the arms control architecture. Last week, President Putin announced that Russia would suspend its participation in the New START treaty. Despite being bilateral, this treaty was a guarantor of global stability and security for all states. Now was the time to double down on arms control and disarmament. She urged President Putin to return to New START and resume dialogue with the United States. She said regional proliferation crises needed to be addressed, called for preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons and demanded the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea’s nuclear programme. Addressing arms control challenges arising from new technologies was a necessity; it was crucial to negotiate rules for responsible behaviour that would safeguard security in cyberspace. New weapons should ultimately be controlled by humans, not by algorithms, she continued. Further, anti-personnel mines were harming up to 10,000 people every year, even decades after the fighting had ended. Germany was holding the Presidency of the Ottawa Convention this year. She called on States to ratify the Convention, to make it truly universal.
OMAR EL-BARZANCHI, Deputy Foreign Minister for Multilateral relations and Legal Affairs of the Republic of Iraq, highlighted the increasing importance of the Conference on Disarmament in light of rising regional crises and political tensions, while lamenting the unfortunate absence of political will of its Member States to reach consensus. He stressed the need for a binding international legal instrument under which nuclear states would give guarantees to non-nuclear states not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons. Additionally, continued production of fissile material posed a threat to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. He supported the idea of developing a non-discriminatory, multilateral, internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. The race for the weaponization of outer space also needed to be prevented. Finally, creating a world free of nuclear weapons required the establishment of nuclear weapon free zones all over the world, as an important step towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. He therefore called on the international community to implement the Middle East resolution of the 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
RETNO L.P. MARSUDI, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, said the Conference had been paralysed for more than a quarter of a century. The absence of political will and the complex global security environment had led to the standstill. The recent deference on the New START Treaty was the latest blow to the nuclear disarmament effort. Focus needed to be geared toward legally binding security agreements. Political will was needed to build trust between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons States. Indonesia was finalising ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and was calling for more States to sign and ratify it. Nuclear technology needed to be safeguarded for peaceful purposes, and regional nuclear weapons free zones needed to be pursued. Indonesia had assumed chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region this year, and would advance the region as a nuclear weapons free zone by working towards the signing of the revised protocol on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone. Indonesia was committed to working with other States towards complete global nuclear disarmament.
Produced by the United Nations Information Service in Geneva for use of the information media;
not an official record. English and French versions of our releases are different as they are the product of two separate coverage teams that work independently.