Conference on Disarmament concludes high-level segment
Hears from Syria, Pakistan, Cameroon, Morocco, Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil, Azerbaijan and Armenia
The Conference on Disarmament concluded its high-level segment today, hearing statements by dignitaries from Syria, Pakistan, Cameroon on behalf of the six Presidents of the 2020 session (P6), Morocco, Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Speaking were Fayssal Mekdad, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Syria; Sohail Mahmood, Foreign Secretary of Pakistan; Mbella Mbella Lejeune, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cameroon; Omar Zniber, Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations Office at Geneva; Grata Endah Werdaningtyas, Chargé d'Affaires, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Indonesia to the United Nations Office at Geneva; Sadik Arslan, Permanent Representative of Turkey to the United Nations Office at Geneva; Fabio Marzano, Secretary for Sovereignty and Citizenship of Brazil; and Vaqif Sadiqov, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The United States, India, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Syria, Japan, Azerbaijan, the Republic of Korea, and Armenia spoke in the right of reply.
The next public meeting of the Conference on Disarmament will be announced at a later time.
FAYSSAL MEKDAD, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Syria, said Syria supported the draft treaty proposed by the Russian Federation and China on preventing the spread of weapons in outer space. It also supported starting negotiations at the Conference on a draft convention for the suppression of acts of chemical and biological terrorism on the basis of the text proposed by the Russian Federation. The United States and Western States sought to turn the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons into a tool to serve American geopolitical interests. On the upcoming Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Review Conference, he said Israel's unilateral possession of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East and its refusal to join all major treaties and conventions related to the prohibition and non-proliferation of such weapons made it the main threat to peace and security in the region. He called on the United States to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action unconditionally, as called for by the Iranian government.
SOHAIL MAHMOOD, Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, said that, while the Conference was an indispensable part of the United Nations disarmament machinery, militarily significant States were only willing to advance proposals which were cost-free for them. The Conference needed to take up negotiations on a legally binding treaty for the prevention of an arms race in outer space. Given the direct and causal relationship between conventional weapons asymmetries and reliance on nuclear deterrence, the issue of a balanced reduction of armed forces and conventional armaments deserved the attention of the Conference as a part of its comprehensive and balanced programme of work. Peace and stability in South Asia could not be achieved without resolving the underlying disputes, without agreeing on reciprocal measures for nuclear and missile restraint and risk reduction, and without instituting a balance between conventional forces through a sustained process of dialogue and confidence-building.
MBELLA MBELLA LEJEUNE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cameroon, speaking on behalf of the six Presidents of the 2020 session (P6), said they had sought to offer a work programme which would allow substantive discussion on all items and produce a summary of the main areas of agreement and division to help pave a path for eventual negotiations. Consensus was an important principle in the work of the Conference; negotiations on a legal instrument were unimaginable without the safeguard of consensus to protect each State's interests. Yet, absolutist positions and minimal flexibility were exactly the opposite of what the Conference, or the cause of multilateral disarmament, needed at this juncture. Greater tolerance was needed when discussions were of a general nature and limited in scope. In 2021, the Presidents would seek middle ground with a “package” proposal. Achieving progress came down to each Conference member.
OMAR ZNIBER, Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations Office at Geneva, welcomed the extension of the New START Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation. It was vital for the Conference to steer away from the stalemate that turned it into nothing but a forum for exchange and debate. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was the most advanced instrument that the international community had negotiated, and Morocco attached great importance to it. State parties to that Treaty had an obligation to respect its constraints, notably Article VI. In the Conference, the programme of work ought to reconcile the strategic interests of member States and the danger posed by international instability. Morocco encouraged giving priority to essential matters by granting primacy to thematic issues that had reached a certain maturity over the last years.
GRATA ENDAH WERDANINGTYAS, Chargé d'Affaires of the Permanent Mission of Indonesia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said 2020 had been a difficult year because of the pandemic. The whole international community was hoping 2021 would be the year to put the world back on track and, in the context of the work of the Conference, to reverse the erosion of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime. Given the encouraging news in three areas—the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the extension of the New START Treaty, and Cuba and Comoros' ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty— she expressed hope that the Conference would break the impasse and resume its negotiation mandate. More than ever, it needed to engage in substantive work and foster progress so the convening of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Review Conference in August may be successful.
SADIK ARSLAN, Permanent Representative of Turkey to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that neither the rules of procedure nor the membership of the Committee were the problem; the platform needed to be made functional, and thereafter it would be possible to move on to other issues. Regarding requests for observership of one entity, Turkey had already shown flexibility and revised its position in 2021, announcing that it was ready to return to the old practice that allowed the acceptance of observers through a blanket list. Turkey would support efforts for the establishment of a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East. Beyond nuclear issues, Turkey condemned the use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, and added that those responsible for chemical weapons attacks in Syria must be held accountable for their crimes. Turkey also supported the Biological Weapons Convention, which should be reviewed with current realities and challenges in mind. The pandemic had underscored how important this instrument was.
FABIO MARZANO, Secretary for Sovereignty and Citizenship of Brazil, noted that his country held the current Presidency of the Conference, which made it part of the six Presidents of the 2020 session (P6) for 2021. The session was taking place as significant progress had been made in the field of disarmament, notably the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which represented an evolutionary leap for the international non-proliferation regime. With the tenth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons scheduled later this year, Brazil reiterated that the main criteria for success of the Conference would be its capacity to uphold and build on previously agreed commitments. It was unacceptable that the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty remained in legal limbo more than 25 years after its adoption. There was a pressing need to prevent the weaponization of outer space, which should remain the territory of peaceful and scientific exploration for the common good of humanity.
VAQIF SADıQOV, Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, welcomed the extension of the New START Treaty. Azerbaijan believed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was the backbone of the global regime for nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and would also join efforts in promoting universal adherence to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. The trilateral statement signed by Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Russian Federation in November 2020 had put an end to an armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan had embarked on steps to eliminate the harsh consequences of military occupation of its territories, which included heavy contamination by landmines and unexploded ordnance. He called on all members and observers of the Conference to render technical and consultative assistance to Azerbaijan's mine action efforts.
ANDRANIK HOVHANNISYAN, Permanent Representative of Armenia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, welcoming the extension of the New START Treaty, said that new international instruments for addressing 21st-century threats were crucial for regulating the uncontrolled hostile use of technological development, saving lives and preventing conflict. The erosion of arms-control regimes did not happen in a vacuum but was the consequence of years-long non-compliance with treaties, as well as negligence regarding crucial principles of the United Nations Charter. Azerbaijan's non-compliance with core arms control regimes such as the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe dated back years, and it was in that context that it had attacked Nagorno-Karabakh last September. From the first day of aggression and almost constantly throughout the 44-day war, Azerbaijan had used cluster munitions against the residential areas of Nagorno-Karabakh, which was strictly prohibited under the laws of war.