(Reissued as received.)
GENEVA, 3 February (UN Information Service) -- The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, Alexander Downer, today urged the Conference on Disarmament to focus its work on a fissile material cut-off treaty and a ban on anti-personnel landmines.
Mr. Downer said that a fissile material cut-off treaty would put a further nail to the coffin of the nuclear arms race and the vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons. He supported the establishment of an ad hoc committee on anti-personnel landmines.
The Conference on Disarmament was also addressed this morning by the representative of Austria, who called for immediate re-establishment of an ad hoc committee to commence negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty.
The representative of Finland called for the establishment of an ad hoc committee to start negotiating a ban on transfers of anti-personnel landmines.
The Conference concluded its plenary after hearing the representative of the Russian Federation, who said that while his country supported the earliest possible re-establishment of the ad hoc committee on the prohibition of the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, it did not support the establishment of an ad hoc committee or working group to negotiate a programme of nuclear disarmament within a time-bound framework.
ALEXANDER DOWNER, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, said that in this period of uncertainty and rapid change, it was vital to seize the opportunities available to put in place the arms control and disarmament norms on which a stable security environment for the twenty-first century could be built. The key to unlocking the situation was the question of nuclear disarmament.
A fissile material cut-off treaty was in the interest of Australia and all other countries, he said. Such a treaty would "put a further nail in the coffin of the nuclear arms race and the vertical proliferation of nuclear
weapons." A fissile material cut-off treaty would also help nuclear-weapon States take further steps towards dismantling their nuclear arsenals by creating greater transparency and confidence about the capabilities and intentions of other countries with fissile-material production facilities.
He said that a fissile material cut-off treaty should include an agreement not to produce or assist others in producing fissile material for use in nuclear weapons. It should also comprise an agreement by all parties, including nuclear-weapon States, to accept international safeguards on all existing and any future facilities capable of producing fissile material that could be used in nuclear weapons. There were a number of difficult technical issues which needed to be addressed in the cut-off negotiations, but the Conference on Disarmament had shown that political will could find solutions to the most difficult problems.
Turning to the issue of anti-personnel landmines, he said that the Ottawa treaty was not the end of the battle because it was clear that several of the major traditional producers and users of landmines were not in a position to sign the treaty. Therefore, the Conference on Disarmament should reaffirm its relevance to the contemporary arms control agenda by engaging those outside the Ottawa treaty on the landmines issue. Thus, the Conference would be contributing to a lasting solution to the global landmines problem in the long term. Australia's aim was to see the Conference establish an ad hoc committee this year with a clear mandate to negotiate a landmines ban.
HARALD KREID (Austria) noted that there existed profound divisions within the Conference on Disarmament on its role in nuclear disarmament. A fissile material cut-off treaty offered good prospects of success. Multilateral negotiation of those issues would advance the cause of a non-nuclear culture and bring closer the ultimate goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world. Austria called for the immediate re-establishment of an ad hoc committee to commence negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty. Austria would also like to see the Conference on Disarmament open itself to a more comprehensive approach, and it appealed to nuclear-weapon States to pursue their efforts and push on with unilateral-, bilateral- and multilateral-reduction measures. There was also room for a multilateral forum to keep the nuclear issues under review.
He said the Conference on Disarmament should not be hostage to one single issue. There were other issues, including that of prevention of an arms race in outer space. The door should be closed to using or even testing weapons systems in outer space before such programmes reached a stage where it was politically difficult to stop them. Against the backdrop of increasingly destructive conflicts tearing societies apart, the Conference also needed to come to grips with the problems of accumulations of conventional weapons, illicit arms trafficking and demobilization of warring factions. Improving the control of arms flows through a code of conduct appeared to be of primary
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significance. The Conference on Disarmament should also focus on the question of transparency.
On the issue of anti-personnel landmines, he said that Austria was willing to use every forum, including the Conference, to obtain universal adherence to the Ottawa treaty. He also urged that the Conference press ahead with the question of its reform.
MARKKU REIMAA (Finland)
Turning to the issue of a fissile material cut-off treaty, he said that such a treaty would be a valuable step forward in the process of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Finland hoped that the Conference would be able to establish an ad hoc committee for those negotiations. Finland, like all the other Non-Proliferation Treaty countries, saw the total elimination of nuclear weapons as the ultimate objective. It believed that the bilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations were the most efficient way to concrete reductions.
GRIGORI V. BERDENNIKOV (Russian Federation) said that, at the outset of its work for 1998, the Conference had taken the line of the least resistance, adopting an agenda that did not reflect present realities. For example, the language of the item, "Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race and Nuclear Disarmament", was obsolete since there was no nuclear arms race any more. The question of the prohibition of the production of fissile material could be addressed under that heading, while a phased ban on anti-personnel landmines could be treated under the item, "Comprehensive Programme of Disarmament".
He said the Russian Federation supported the earliest possible re-establishment of the ad hoc committee on the prohibition of the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear-explosive devices. A fissile material cut-off treaty was the next step to be taken in the pursuit of systematic and progressive efforts towards the elimination of nuclear
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weapons. That issue was ripe to be undertaken on the multilateral level and should be subject of negotiations at the Conference.
When it came to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons and their prohibition, which remained the ultimate goal, multilateral negotiations would have their place, but there was still a long road ahead, he said. The Russian Federation did not share the approach that negotiations should be commenced on a phased programme of nuclear disarmament within a time-bound framework. Obviously, the complete elimination of nuclear weapons in practical terms could only emerge after all the intermediate stages had passed. It was better to focus on the ripe issues in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation -- namely, a fissile material cut-off treaty.
He said the Russian Federation supported the re-establishment of the ad hoc committee on negative security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against them. It was also necessary that the ad hoc committee on the prevention of an arms race in outer space be re-established. The Russian Federation did not oppose the re-establishment of the ad hoc committee on transparency or the re-appointment of the 1997 posts of the special coordinators on the expansion of the Conference's membership, on its improved and effective functioning, and on its agenda. Russia, like many other countries, was opposed to any attempts to abolish the rule whereby decisions were taken only on the basis of consensus.
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