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CD breaks for recess without any progress on substantive work

Gabriella Irsten | Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
27 March 2012

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) met on Tuesday, 27 March for the last plenary of the first part of the 2012 session. Statements were delivered by the delegations of Mongolia, Ethiopia, Italy, FinlandUkraine, the Informal Group of Observer States (IGOS), Switzerland, United States, Republic of KoreaSweden, and Algeria.

Highlights

High level representative of Mongolia
The CD heard from the Mongolian foreign minister, Mr. Gombojav Zandanshatarm. He drew attention to the twentieth anniversary of Mongolia’s nuclear weapon free zone (NWFZ) and highlighted Mongolia’s efforts to further institutionalize its nuclear weapons free status. He further emphasized the need for the P5 to agree on negative security assurances (NSAs) for the Mongolian zone. He argued that Mongolia’s efforts on nuclear disarmament shows “that all nations, including small states, can make their concrete contribution towards the goal of achieving a nuclear-weapons-free world.” US Ambassador Laura Kennedy congratulated Mongolia on its NWFZ anniversary and stated that she looked forward to further work with Mongolia on that issue.

Mr. Zandanshatarm also expressed his county’s view that NWFZs can greatly contribute to strengthening both global and regional peace and the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). He also expressed support of the six party talks with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) over its nuclear programme. Although Mongolia is not a party to these talks, he explained that his country has contributed by hosting a bilateral meeting between Japan and the DPRK and will be hosting a working group on the mechanism of peace and security in Northeast Asia once the talks resume. Mr. Zandanshatarm highlighted that these efforts are supported by Mongolia’s hope to create a Northeast Asian NWFZ.

The foreign minister of Mongolia also argued that putting an end to the stalemate in the CD is one of several steps to achieve progress towards the ultimate goal of total elimination of nuclear weapons, including an “early start of negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention as well as on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.” Other steps of urgent priority, he noted, are the entry in to force of the Comprehensive nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), adopting legally-binding NSAs, and implementing the 2010 NPT action plan.

Discussions on the Ethiopian work plan
The Ethiopian presidency proposed a working plan last week,  which included consultations on a programme of work, substantive discussions on the core issues, and discussions how to revitalize the CD by incorporating the issues raised by the CD Secretary-General, Mr. Tokayev, in his address to member states in February.

Several delegations took the opportunity to highlight their views on what the priority for the CD should be. The foreign minister of Mongolia singled out NSAs. The Ambassador of Ukraine also emphasized the importance of agreeing on NSAs and pointed out that this issue is supported by the majority of members. He argued that NSAs “will represent an achievable step towards fulfillment of the commitments undertaken pursuant to Article VI of the NPT and will strongly promote further non-proliferation agenda.”

Finnish Ambassador Hannu Himanen reiterated that his delegation’s priority is an FMCT, but noted that it would also be prepared to proceed on all other core issues. While believing that the CD should look beyond the four core issues as proposed by the Secretary-General, Ambassador Himanen cautioned that the CD might not be able to negotiate any other issue either since it cannot make progress on the present four core issues.

The Swedish delegation supported the proposed substantive discussions on the four core issues but highlighted that this should not be an alternative to negotiations. Mr. Lindell argued that it was important to “not to portray the holding of informal discussions, per se, as real progress in the conference.” The Algerian representative, Mr. Hamza Khelif, agreed and argued that the CD should adopt a simplified agenda based on a timetable and hold simplified negotiations on the core issues. The Swiss delegation took the opportunity to support the request made at the last plenary by the German Ambassador, for the six CD presidents to set out a timetable for the upcoming sessions.

Several delegations supported the proposal from the CD Secretary-General, Mr. Tokayev. The Ukraine ambassador, Mr. Mykola Maimeskul, agreed with the proposal and argued that revitalizing the CD is his delegation’s next priority. Mr. Zandanshatarm, Foreign Minister of Mongolia, also paid tribute to Mr. Tokayev’s proposal and stated that other options might also have to be taken to get the CD back to work, such as “merging the CD and the UN Disarmament Commission into one single body.” While agreeing with the points outlined in Mr. Tokayev’s proposal, the Finish ambassador did not agree that the CD and the UNDC should be merged. Instead he argued that the UNDC should be abandoned since it added little work to the First Committee of the General Assembly.

In his farewell statement to the CD, Ambassador Giovanni Manfredi of Italy expressed his admiration to Mr. Tokayev and his “strong messages to convince us to break the fifteen-years deadlock that has tarnished the Conference’s reputation.”

Mongolia, Italy, Finland, and the Informal Group of Observer States (IGOS) also addressed the expansion of the CD member states and greater contribution of civil society. The Croatian representative, speaking on behalf of IGOS, emphasized the will of observer states to become members despite the decade long deadlock of the CD. She explained that the observer states believed in multilateralism and disarmament argued that expansion of the membership would be an advantage for the CD.

The Egyptian proposal for a POW
Representative of Sweden, Ukraine, Finland, Informal Group of Observer states, Switzerland, and Algeria all joined the growing group of delegations expressing disappointment that no consensus was reached on CD/1933/Rev.1.

Mr. Ulf Lindell from the Swedish delegation expressed his delegation’s “whole-heartedly support” of the efforts by the Egyptian delegation. He argued that the lack of consensus on this draft is “yet another clear indication of how difficult it is to overcome the longstanding deadlock.” Ambassador Maimeskul of Ukraine added that although the two proposals from the first session of the CD’s 2012 session, Ecuador’s and Egypt’s, were not perfect, they “deserved our support for the sake of long-awaited and urgently needed compromise.”

Italian Ambassador Manfredi highlighted that delegations in the CD are not just responsible to national authorities but also to the international community. He continued by arguing that “[a]n initiative or a proposal that may not seem acceptable for strictly speaking national interests, when viewed in the wider context of the general good may instead merit further attention.”

Ambassador Fasel of Switzerland did not see how negotiations based on the proposed CD/1933/Rev.1 would threaten the national security of any state. He also argued that now is the time for members to discuss the procedural matters of the CD and the revitalization of the CD in accordance with GA resolution 66/66. While the Swedish delegation expressed that it could see some merit in discussing certain procedural matters suggested by the Secretary-General of the CD, Mr. Lindell also argued that turning the attention to procedural matters should not hinder substantive progress.

Briefing from the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit (NSS)
Ambassador Kwon Haeryong from the Republic of Korea gave a brief summary on what had been discussed and decided upon at the ongoing NSS. He said that the discussions are focused on discussing how to strengthen the international nuclear security regime to prevent nuclear terrorism and to reach the ultimate goal of “a world without nuclear weapons”. The final Communiqué of the Summit, adopted today, translated the outcome from the Washington meeting in 2010 into concrete actions and provides measures to prevent nuclear and radiological terrorism. Ambassador Haeryong also reported that the next NSS will be held in the Netherlands in 2014.

Next plenary meeting
The second part of the 2012 session will begin on 15 May, after the 2012 NPT Preparatory Committee.