Member States of the Conference on Disarmament do not Reach Consensus on a Revised Draft Package on a Programme of Work for 2021
The Conference on Disarmament this morning continued to hear statements on the revised draft package on a programme of work for 2021 but did not reach consensus on it.
Ambassador Marc Pecsteen of Belgium, President of the Conference on Disarmament, introducing the revised proposal which had been circulated electronically on Friday, 5 February, said that several delegations had stretched their flexibility to great lengths, an effort for which the P6 was grateful. He asked all those present to show a spirit of compromise.
After a discussion during which several delegations expressed support for the proposal while others requested time for further consultations, Mr. Pecsteen said
that there was no consensus and deeply regretted that action could not be taken. He would continue holding consultations until the end of the week, when the Belgian Presidency would end.
Speaking on the revised proposal were Colombia, New Zealand, Belarus on behalf of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, Canada, Russian Federation, Germany, Argentina, Pakistan, Indonesia, Syria, South Africa, Cuba, Sweden, India, France, Japan, Iran, United States, Venezuela, China and Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Belarus also made a general statement on behalf of the Member States of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
Speaking in right of reply was the United States.
The next plenary of the Conference on Disarmament will be announced at a later date.
Ambassador MARC PECSTEEN of Belgium, President of the Conference on Disarmament, introducing the revised proposal which had been circulated electronically on Friday, 5 February, said that several delegations had stretched their flexibility to great lengths, an effort for which the P6 was grateful. Greater balance, notably in the timetable of the subsidiary bodies, had been achieved. Mr. Pecsteen again asked all those present to show a spirit of compromise.
Colombia said the problem facing the Conference was one of political will. The proposal under consideration, while not perfect, could garner consensus. Reiterating its commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons, Colombia said confidence-building measures should be undertaken with regards to the use of outer space. Adopting decisions by consensus did not mean each State had a veto.
New Zealand expressed willingness to join consensus on the proposal put forward by the Belgian Presidency, and expressed hope a consensus would be reached today.
Belarus , speaking on behalf of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, expressed support for a comprehensive and balanced programme of work based on the Conference's agenda that notably preserved the consensus rule. Drafting an international convention to combat acts of chemical and biological terrorism could be a realistic means of overcoming stagnation.
Canada said 2021 was not 2020: suggestions had been made, and the proposal had evolved accordingly. The revised proposal reflected a comprise; while imperfect, it was serviceable and fit for purpose. A fissile material cut-off treaty would only be a step towards nuclear disarmament.
Russian Federation congratulated Cuba for ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. While welcoming the Presidency’s efforts, the Russian Federation said further work was needed as even this proposal remained far removed from its understanding of what a programme of work was.
Germany said it was to a certain extent unhappy, but remained supportive of the proposal and could join consensus.
Argentina congratulated Cuba for ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. Argentina offered its support for the revised version of the programme of work, which reflected a number of concerns expressed by the members of the Conference. Argentina welcomed the amendment stating that subsidiary bodies would consider legally binding instruments that could be negotiated.
Pakistan said it had demonstrated maximum flexibility and hoped others would do so as well. The single-issue obsession of some was a problem; a comprehensive and balanced approach that considered the global context was necessary. The current proposal was a step in the right direction. Any tinkering related to subsidiary body 2 would take the Conference backward.
Indonesia expressed appreciation for the work of the Presidency and the P6, and said that while the draft proposal was not yet ideal, it was an adequate basis to start substantive work. Indonesia would not stand in the way of consensus.
Syria said the consultations had not been comprehensive. The Conference had witnessed a continuous issuance of documents without any accord. Syria refused the approach based on the package. The adoption of any documents should be based on its added value and consensus rather than artificial considerations. Syria could not accept the Presidency’s proposal as it stood.
South Africa welcomed Cuba’s ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and urged Annex II States to do so as well. Warning against diluting the negotiation mandate of the Conference, South Africa said it would not stand in the way of consensus on the proposal, even though this document was not ideal.
Cuba , noting that it had ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, regretted the absence of stronger language on the Conference’s mandate related to achieving a world free of nuclear weapons and the lack of a negotiation mandate for subsidiary bodies, notably subsidiary body 2. Cuba was, however, flexible and would be willing to support the text.
Sweden was willing to show flexibility even though it would have liked to see a clearer reference to a fissile material cut-off treaty.
India said the Presidency should stick to procedures and refer to the proposal as the “proposal by the President”. India did not understand the description of subsidiary body 2 as it stood. Noting that there had been no open-ended discussion under the current Presidency, India said it would be happy to engage constructively in discussions.
France was willing to show utmost flexibility to ensure work could begin. However, if consultations were to continue, improvements to the mandate of subsidiary body 2 could be considered.
Japan said the new proposal was balanced and would allow the Conference to engage in substantive work. Even if Japan was not comfortable with the wording concerning subsidiary body 2, it was willing to show flexibility and support the proposal put forward by the Belgian Presidency.
Iran believed the proposed decisions on subsidiary bodies should be considered separately rather than as part of a “package”. Welcoming changes in operative paragraph 7, Iran said it was willing to join consensus on the two decisions, but stressed that it would only do so for 2021, and this would not create a precedent for future sessions.
United States said Iran’s claims that the United States was in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty were simply ridiculous. Turning to the programme of work, the United States interpreted the draft decision as referring to a discussion mandate, not a negotiation mandate. The United States was willing to drop its linkage of the appointment of a working methods facilitator in the interest of putting the Conference back on a path to dealing with important issues facing the disarmament community.
Ambassador MARC PECSTEEN of Belgium, President of the Conference on Disarmament, thanked the great majority who had said they would not block the consensus on the package. He thanked the United States for its position just expressed on the linkage. This meant there was no longer a package. The Conference was considering the decisions separately from the working methods. This meant the Conference was very close to consensus on a programme of work and the establishment of subsidiary bodies. As regards further consultations, Mr. Pecsteen warned that the best was sometimes the enemy of the good; attempts at improving the proposals could be counterproductive.
The President of the Conference on Disarmament then suggested action be taken on the two draft decisions.
Russian Federation said additional consultations were needed.
Syria requested additional consultations.
India said a vote at this point was premature as several delegations had said they did not support the proposal. Additional consultations were needed.
Cuba said it would not be productive to force a decision and then obtain a negative result. The usual procedure in the Conference was to give delegations time to consult their capitals. The remarks by the United States changed the situation.
United States said it supported the Presidency’s decision to take action at this point. Some of the delegations that had just taken the floor seemed to only want to tie the Conference up in procedural knots.
Iran asked the President to consider the request of those who needed to further consult with their capitals.
Venezuela said concerns about the substance of the text should be considered. Venezuela sought clarification on the status of the Presidential statement.
China said further changes could be made. China would be willing to take part in further consultations.
Ambassador MARC PECSTEEN of Belgium, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said that he believed that the Conference had gone as far as it could, then asked those present if they would be willing to adopt the documents.
Syria said further consultations were needed, as it had submitted amendments to the Secretariat that had not been reflected in the proposals. More time was also needed for consultations with capitals.
Ambassador MARC PECSTEEN of Belgium, President of the Conference on Disarmament, recalled that these proposals had been circulated Friday. There had been ample time to consult capitals. There had been no changes to the text; there was no reason for further consultations.
India said a number of delegations had requested further consultations. India would not be able to join consensus.
Russian Federation echoed the request of Syria and India. The Russian Federation could not support the proposal to adopt these documents, which it did not regard as forming a programme of work for the Conference until such time when it became clear what their value was compared to those adopted in 2019.
Cuba said the document had been circulated at 6.30 p.m. on Friday, and requested that the meeting be transformed into informal consultations. Cuba asked if the Presidency’s current line of action reflected an approach supported by the P6. The Conference should not rush a decision.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said it was clearly indicated in the rules of procedure that the Conference adopted decisions by consensus, and requested additional consultations. Nothing was agreed until everything was agreed, and there was no need to rush.
Ambassador MARC PECSTEEN of Belgium, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said it was clear there was no consensus at this stage.
Venezuela said that, in remaining days, those present could make an effort and achieve a consensus.
Ambassador MARC PECSTEEN of Belgium, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said he took note of statements by India and the Russian Federation indicating that consensus was not reached. He deeply regretted that action could not be taken. He would continue holding consultations until the end of the week, when the Belgian Presidency would end.