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Conference on Disarmament holds plenary meeting under the Presidency of Belgium

Meeting Summaries


The Conference on Disarmament this morning held a plenary meeting under the Presidency of Ambassador Marc Pecsteen of Belgium, hearing statements by Indonesia on behalf of the Group of 21, Malaysia, India, Germany, Ecuador, Venezuela, Spain, Italy, France, Kenya, Austria, Morocco, Algeria and Kazakhstan.

The speakers outlined their national positions on various disarmament issues, stressed the need for the Conference to start its substantive work, and addressed a number of disarmament events which would take place in 2021. Several regretted the objection of Turkey to the participation of Cyprus as an observer to the Conference and the objection of Iran to the participation of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Speaking in right of reply were North Macedonia and Iran.

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


Indonesia , speaking on behalf of the Group of 21, underlined the absolute validity of multilateral diplomacy in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation, and reaffirmed its working paper on nuclear disarmament contained in document CD/2192, and all the other working papers submitted to the Conference in 2020. It was urgent that the Conference execute its mandate as set out by the First Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament, as well as adopt and implement a balanced and comprehensive programme of work on the basis of its agenda, while taking into account the security interests of all States and dealing with, inter alia, the core issues, particularly nuclear disarmament, in accordance with the rules of procedure, including the rule of consensus.

Malaysia pledged its support to the Presidency’s efforts to begin substantive work. It was now more opportune than ever for the Conference to uphold and live up to its mandate. It had often been said that the Conference could not live in a vacuum, and this year, which would be marked by several milestones in the area of disarmament, was no different. Conference members should redouble their efforts, as they could have a ripple effect. Malaysia was looking forward to the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, hoping that it would change the nuclear disarmament discourse and foster a more democratic and equitable approach.

India called for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons through a step-by-step process, as also outlined in its Working Paper on Nuclear Disarmament submitted to the Conference in 2007 (CD/1816). India hoped for an early start of substantive work in the Conference in keeping with its mandate as a negotiating forum. India supported the immediate commencement of negotiations in the Conference of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty on the basis of CD/1299 and the mandate contained therein. However, despite considerable efforts in the past, the Conference had not been able to snap out of its longstanding stalemate and had failed to adopt a programme of work by consensus for more than a decade now. It was important that those present work together and preserve the effectiveness and credibility of the Conference.

Germany said the challenges and perspectives for the year 2021 were manifold and included the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which was critical for the future success of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime; the future of New START, the last remaining nuclear arms control instrument; and the need to protect the integrity of international law against ongoing efforts to undermine it. All of these issues related in one way or another to the agenda of the Conference. The package proposed by the Presidency to overcome the deadlock was far from being ideal but it was clearly a way to engage constructively on the issues that were so pertinent to global peace and security.

Ecuador said the global nuclear weapons control system, and the non-proliferation and disarmament dialogues were in a critical situation. The Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference had had to be postponed, and the prospects for its results had prompted messages that cast doubt on the application of previously made commitments. Ecuador, faithful to its pacifist vocation and convinced of the capacity of multilateralism to achieve the objectives of peace and security, recognized the importance of the opinion of the member countries of constituted nuclear-weapon-free zones, and those that were in the process of being established, to identify the most suitable paths to an effective general and complete disarmament.

Venezuela regretted that the United States had withdrawn from several international instruments that were important for international security. Highlighting the connection between full disarmament and development, Venezuela stated that the investment of developed countries in belligerent technologies, to the detriment of global investment in health, had exacerbated the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Venezuela denounced the lack of ability of the Conference to garner multilateral agreements, and regretted efforts aiming at undermining its work. Unilateral coercive measures were not welcomed in the area of disarmament, and military alliances could not be the basis of the Conference’s work. 2021 offered significant opportunities for the Conference, including the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Spain hoped that the Presidency of Belgium would lead the Conference to overcome the blockade that had suffocated it for two decades. There were no excuses. The Conference could not fail again as it did last year. The Fissile Material Production Ban Treaty was a priority for everyone and would be a great step towards a safer world. Spain supported starting negotiations on this as soon as possible. Additional efforts were required, because this year was going to be difficult, as the Conference had had to reschedule many meetings. Three major conventions had been delayed. Conference members must justify their time and presence here with tangible results and at the level expected of them. It was an urgency and a necessity.

Italy said the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty provided the only realistic legal framework to attain a world without nuclear weapons. Italy welcomed the strategic stability dialogue between the United States and the Russian Federation and encouraged them to seek further reductions to their arsenals, to use the remaining weeks to extend the New START Treaty and to engage in other arms control arrangements. Italy was gravely concerned by Iran further disengaging from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and urged Iran to return to full compliance without delay and to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency with full and timely cooperation with respect to all its safeguard-related commitments. The repeated ballistic missile launches by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, deeply concerned Italy.

France , stressing that it was in the interest of all that every State could participate in the work of the Conference, called on Turkey and Iran to reconsider their positions without delay. France was actively promoting the negotiation without delay in the Conference of a treaty banning the production of fissile material, on the basis of document CD 12/99 and the mandate it contained. This was undoubtedly the ripest subject for negotiations and would help advance nuclear disarmament by limiting the quantitative production of nuclear weapons. The creation of subsidiary bodies would allow those present to engage in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Review Conference in the best possible conditions. The Review Conference should be an opportunity to reaffirm unwavering support for the preservation and strengthening of this key instrument of the non-proliferation regime, through its three pillars.

Kenya said it had been a State party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty since 1970, and supported the peaceful research and development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in accordance with the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in line with the framework and protocols of the International Atomic Energy Agency. As provided in Article 6 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, all countries should promote and cooperate in the peaceful exploitation of nuclear energy, while at the same time working towards complete nuclear disarmament. Kenya looked forward to the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, hoping that it would pave the way to a world without the threat of nuclear weapons. The early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty remained a priority for Kenya, which urged the remaining Annex II States that were yet to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty to do so.

Austria was very encouraged by this week’s entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It hoped this new reality would contribute to create further momentum towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Austria appreciated the Presidency’s building upon the 2020 work of the Conference and fully supported the P6 in their endeavours to agree on a programme of work and explicitly welcome the draft that was currently on the table. Austria vehemently opposed the Turkish decision to object to Cyprus’ request. Likewise, it opposed the decision of Iran to oppose the participation of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Morocco asked that requests to participate in the work of the Conference be considered without controversy.  Despite a difficult security and health context, significant changes at the start of this year bode well for the adoption of the work programme of the Conference in 2021. For Morocco, the central issues were nuclear disarmament, the prevention of an arms race in outer space, cybersecurity and other pressing issues such as the development of autonomous weapons.  Morocco further recalled that disarmament was one of the fundamental pillars of United Nations action, and considered it important to examine the proposals and suggestions emanating from the United Nations’ Secretary-General's 2018 Disarmament Agenda.

Algeria said it was necessary to muster political will and join efforts to activate the Conference on Disarmament and other disarmament mechanisms to confirm the effectiveness of multilateral diplomacy in the field of disarmament.  Algeria was glad that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons would enter into force, and hoped that the Tenth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons would lead to concrete results that lived up to all aspirations.  It stressed the importance of strengthening efforts to achieve universal accession to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with a view to expediting its entry into force. The conclusion of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosives required addressing the issue of stockpiles of fissile material.

Kazakhstan expressed its support for the draft programme proposed by the Presidency for 2021, which should allow Member States to start substantive work in the forum.  The right of all United Nations Member States to participate and follow the proceedings in the Conference should be respected. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was a cornerstone of international security, and Kazakhstan called for compliance by both nuclear and non-nuclear States. The upcoming Review Conference should yield specific tasks for the next cycle.  The creation of nuclear weapon free zones and the strengthening of cooperation between existing ones could be a tangible outcome of the Review Conference.  Now, with issues of biological safety having come into sharp focus, the President of Kazakhstan had suggested the creation of a multilateral body dedicated to this matter, which would be based on the Biological Weapons Convention and would be accountable to the United Nations Security Council.