In Message to Conference, Secretary-General Deplores Lack of Progress on Disarmament and Security Issues
(Reissued as received.)
GENEVA, 18 January (UN Information Service) -- The Conference on Disarmament this morning opened its year 2000 session by adopting its agenda.
The agenda includes the following items: cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament; prevention of nuclear war, including all related matters; prevention of an arms race in outer space; effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons; new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons- radiological weapons; comprehensive programme of disarmament; transparency in armaments; consideration and adoption of the annual report and any other report, as appropriate, to the General Assembly of the United Nations.
The President of the Conference, Ambassador Harald Kreid of Austria, said his preliminary consultations had indicated that for the time being, there was no agreement on the work programme. The two issues, which the Conference had been unable to achieve a common view on in spite of protracted efforts, were the establishment of subsidiary bodies on nuclear disarmament and on the prevention of an arms race in outer space. Informal open-ended consultations might provide some useful guidance for the President on these two issues.
Ambassador Kreid said it would be in the common interest of the Conference if special coordinators were to carry out assigned tasks in a number of areas in parallel to ongoing endeavours to find a solution to the overriding concerns of the body.
The outgoing President of the Conference, Ambassador Leslie Luck of Australia, said the Conference could not credibly remain idle for another year. There was a readiness on the part of key delegations to show flexibility with regard to the two outstanding or pending issues: prevention of an arms race in outer space and nuclear disarmament. There were small steps, which could be taken to narrow the gaps in positions on the two outstanding issues and to form a basis of agreement on a work programme.
Vladimir Petrovsky, Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, read out a message from United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Conference. The message noted there was a deplorable lack of progress on the disarmament and international security issues, which the international community considered the highest priority: the multilateral search for genuine measures of nuclear disarmament and non- proliferation, and prevention of an arms race in outer space. The fact that the Conference remained deadlocked on these issues was part of a wider and disturbing stagnation in the overall disarmament and non-proliferation agenda.
The representatives of Pakistan, Germany and India also took the floor this morning.
The Conference also decided to admit the following non-member countries to participate in its work as observers during the year 2000: Libya, Portugal, Oman, Czech Republic, Singapore, Slovenia, Sudan, Cyprus, Lithuania, Zambia, Ghana, Thailand, Angola, Denmark, Iceland, Malta, the Philippines, Uruguay, Croatia, Gabon, the Holy See, Georgia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Estonia, Madagascar, Republic of San Marino, Mauritius, Lebanon, Jordan, Luxembourg, Brunei Darussalam, Azerbaijan and Nepal.
The next plenary of the Conference on Disarmament will be held at 10 a.m., Thursday, 20 January.
HARALD KREID, Permanent Representative of Austria and President of the Conference, said that he and the outgoing President of the Conference, Ambassador Leslie Luck of Australia, had made efforts to feel the pulse of a number of delegations during the inter-sessional period. He said it was safe to say that the starting conditions of the work of the Conference on Disarmament had not improved in recent months. There was a need to weigh the consequences of the changing international environment and to decide whether the Conference should resign itself to the role of being a victim of circumstances beyond its control or else to demonstrate to the outside world that it was able to render its services to the international community even under difficult conditions and that it was willing to provide the international arms control scene with a strong positive impetus which would have beneficial repercussions beyond its work.
Ambassador Kreid said the supreme task of the Conference consisted of the negotiation of arms control and disarmament treaties. The choice was a simple one. It was the choice between the Conference doing potentially useful work or remaining inactive. He believed that the Conference had proven beyond reasonable doubt during the course of the past three years that it had mastered the art of dithering, delaying, side-stepping and circumvention.
According to the Rules of Procedure , the Conference was supposed to adopt its agenda and establish its work programme at the beginning of the annual session, Ambassador Kreid said. Preliminary consultations had indicated that for the time being, there was no agreement on the work programme. The two issues, which the Conference had been unable to achieve a common view on in spite of protracted efforts, were the establishment of subsidiary bodies on nuclear disarmament and on the prevention of an arms race in outer space. Informal open-ended consultations might provide some useful guidance for the President on these two issues.
The President of the Conference said that the Conference needed to take advantage of all available means of promoting the process of decision making and it needed to engage on various fronts in order to develop the necessary momentum for a fruitful dialogue. It would be in the common interest of the Conference if special coordinators were to carry out assigned tasks in a number of areas in parallel to ongoing endeavours to find a solution to the overriding concerns of the body.
In conclusion, Ambassador Kreid said he appealed to delegations to demonstrate the largest possible amount of flexibility in procedures, particularly with regard to linkages and packages which only paralysed activities on all fronts without really advancing the causes they were meant to serve. The aspect of the Conference remaining inactive over any length of time not only sent a pernicious signal to the outside world, it also diminished the chances of the Conference achieving positive results in the priority areas.
VLADIMIR PETROVSKY, Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, read out a message from United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Conference. The Conference on Disarmament was a unique forum for multilateral disarmament negotiations and the first session of the twenty-first century was a new opportunity for the Conference to try to live up to its potential: to draw strength from recent achievements in some areas, and to take an honest look at lack of progress in others.
The message of the Secretary-General said that there was a deplorable lack of progress on the disarmament and international security issues, which the international community considered the highest priority: the multilateral search for genuine measures of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and prevention of an arms race in outer space. The fact that the Conference remained deadlocked on these issues was part of a wider and disturbing stagnation in the overall disarmament and non-proliferation agenda.
Towards the end of last year's session, the Conference had come very close to reaching consensus on mechanisms for dealing with both nuclear disarmament and prevention of an arms race in outer space, the message of the Secretary-General continued to state. Such consensus would have unlocked the programme of work and allowed work to begin in earnest on a range of issues. This year, he hoped the Conference would continue its search for compromises in a spirit of flexibility and with a real sense of urgency. If the Conference made tangible progress on items on its agenda in the first part of this session, the NPT Review Conference stood a better chance of succeeding. The international community placed great importance on the work of the Conference and he hoped that it would not disappoint expectations.
LESLIE LUCK (Australia), and outgoing President of the Conference, said that in his view, there remained a strongly dominant sentiment among the delegations of the Conference on Disarmament that it should commence work forthwith on a negotiated programme of work and that the informal proposals outlined by Ambassador Mohamed-Salah Dembri of Algeria remain the “point of departure”.
Ambassador Luck said the Conference could not credibly remain idle for another year. There was a readiness on the part of key delegations to show flexibility with regard to the two outstanding or pending issues: prevention of an arms race in outer space and nuclear disarmament. In the course of inter-sessional consultations, he had not encountered one delegation which sought to discourage him from either the goal of early agreement on a work programme, or the underlying premises on which those consultations were based. He believed that the Conference had not yet exhausted its examination of positions on the work programme, which would permit agreement. He also noted that too often in the field of security, disarmament and arms control, the enormity of the larger ambition was allowed to obscure smaller steps of potential importance. In conclusion, Ambassador Luck said there were small steps which could be taken to narrow the gaps in positions on the two outstanding issues and to form a basis of agreement on a work programme. The interests of the overwhelming majority of delegations, and potentially all delegations, would be served by taking these small steps: by providing an opportunity for the Conference to address issues concerning prevention of an arms race in outer space again and by facilitating dialogue on nuclear disarmament. By doing this, the collective energies of the Conference would be released upon the “agreed elements” of the work programme and specifically, on a fissile material cut-off treaty which had been a top priority for multilateral negotiations for several years. He relinquished the presidency convinced that the start of substantive work was within the grasp of the Conference and should not be allowed to slip away. He continued to urge delegations to focus on the Dembri package and related texts as a basis for negotiation.
Ambassador KREID said that in accordance with the agreement reached at the informal plenary, the Conference had decided to adopt its agenda. He stated that it was his understanding that if there was consensus within the Conference to any deal with any issue, it could be dealt with under any item of this agenda.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said he wished to make a statement with regard to the agenda which had just been adopted. The President had noted that the adoption of the agenda did not preclude the Conference from taking up other issues.
Ambassador Akram said the international community had accepted that arms control at the international level must be complemented by measures at the regional and sub-regional levels. The General Assembly had also issued a resolution on this issue. Pakistan believed that both international, as well as regional and sub- regional disarmament must be pursued at the same time. Therefore, it intended to pursue the recommendation of the General Assembly and bring up the issue of regional and sub-regional disarmament within the work of the Conference on Disarmament.
GUNTHER SEIBERT (Germany) said his country had participated in the consensus on the agenda with considerable misgivings since it was far from confident that this decision would move the Conference forward to substantive work. The Conference had just agreed to deal with any issue it agreed to deal with. However, this did not bring the Conference one step forward to solving the problem that had beset it during the past three years. The list of topics just adopted in the so-called agenda of the Conference was not only outdated but it had also lost all practical significance for the work of the Conference. It contained subjects that had not been addressed substantively by one single delegation during the three years that he had participated in the work of the Conference. On the other hand, the agenda did not contain topics such as the fissile material cut-off treaty and anti- personnel landmines.
Ambassador Seibert said it had been argued in the past that the agenda was, in some sense, a product of the General Assembly's first special session on disarmament in 1979 and could, therefore, not be changed until a new consensus emerged as the result of a new special session of the General Assembly. That was not a convincing argument. What was the purpose of the agenda if the Conference did not immediately start substantive work on the items of the agenda. What sense did such an agenda make if immediately after its adoption a new hurdle was created through the demand for a so-called comprehensive and balanced programme of work.
If the Conference were really to abide strictly by its rules of procedures, it would have adopted today an agenda that took into account the recommendations by the General Assembly and would, therefore, have included items on a fissile material cut-off treaty and anti-personnel landmines, Ambassador Seibert said. He did not want to sound pessimistic, but he wanted to convey a note of caution and appeal to the shared responsibility and political will of all delegations. The Conference must not be allowed to remain paralysed for a fourth consecutive year. Arms control and disarmament issues must be tackled urgently without getting bogged down in procedural tussles. He recognized that there remained differences of view on how best to organize the work of the conference and on the substance of certain items. But this should neither hold up a debate on all items nor should it block the establishment of mechanisms on those items where agreement already existed, such as the appointment of special coordinators.
SAVITRI KUNADI (India) said she wanted to put on record India’s position on the agenda and the statement just made by Pakistan. India had voted against the resolution referred to by Pakistan in the General Assembly and it did not feel that the Conference on Disarmament was the appropriate forum for consideration of such issues. That would be the Indian position if such a proposal was made.
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