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Continuing its High-Level Segment, Conference on Disarmament hears from Poland, Belgium, Egypt, South Africa, Malaysia, Norway, Iraq snd Sri Lanka

Continuing its High-Level Segment, Conference on Disarmament hears from Poland, Belgium, Egypt, South Africa, Malaysia, Norway, Iraq snd Sri Lanka

The Conference on Disarmament this afternoon continued its high-level segment, hearing statements by dignitaries from Poland, Belgium, Egypt, South Africa, Malaysia, Norway, Iraq and Sri Lanka.

Jacek Czaputowicz, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland, said that the international community faced multiple challenges, such as protracted conflicts, lack of respect for international rules, regional instability, violation of human rights, or illegal migration.  In that context, the relevance of the Conference on Disarmament depended on its ability to deliver according to its mandate.

Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, and of Defense of Belgium, noted that in order to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons, it was necessary for the international community to redouble its efforts to introduce a global ban and to verify nuclear tests.  In that context, he deplored the delay in the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which had been negotiated 20 years ago.    

Sameh Hassan Shokry Selim, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt, said that in order to overcome the stalemate in the Conference, States must avoid unilateral actions that undermined prospects of achieving collective security.  The future of the United Nations multilateral disarmament machinery depended on the conviction and support of all States; to achieve a safer and more peaceful world, the concepts of partnership and collective action must be put above the narrow and limited individual interests of States.

Luwellyn Landers, Deputy Minister for International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, stressed that South Africa held a principled belief that international peace and security could not be divorced from development.  Global security was not achievable when enormous financial resources continued to be diverted towards the acquisition of more and greater destructive capabilities, while more than a billion people around the world continued to suffer from hunger and deprivation.

Dato’ Saifuddin bin Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, expressed firm belief that total elimination of nuclear weapons was the only solution against possible use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.  Greater political will and more concrete actions were urgently needed to achieve that goal, namely through the fulfillment of the commitments and obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Audun Halvorsen, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, highlighted achievements of one of the most successful multilateral disarmament treaties of recent times - the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, in the context of the 20th anniversary of its entry into force.  It was regrettable that the Conference on Disarmament had been unable to fulfil its mandate for more than 20 years, but the establishment of the subsidiary bodies in 2018 had been a step in the right direction. 

Mohamed Ali Al-Hakim, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, recalled the importance of establishing a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East and called for a legally binding instrument on negative security assurances, which he said was a legitimate demand of non-nuclear weapons States.  Outer space belonged to humanity and should only be used for peaceful purposes, and he warned that its militarization ran the risk of another destructive arms race.

Aliyar Lebbe Abdul Azeez, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva, called for reflection on some of the trends and developments in the international security landscape, given that it was becoming increasingly constrained.  He also expressed concern that the evolving prospect of lethal autonomous weapons systems, with advances made in artificial intelligence, could have far reaching consequences for human rights and international humanitarian law.

The last meeting of the 2019 high-level segment of the Conference on Disarmament will take place at 10 a.m. on 27 February.

Statements

JACEK CZAPUTOWICZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland, said that the international community was still far away from an era of peace, stability and good economic prospects.  It faced multiple challenges, such as protracted conflicts, lack of respect for international rules, regional instability, violation of human rights, or illegal migration.  The relevance of the Conference on Disarmament depended on its ability to deliver according to its mandate.  The lack of progress in disarmament was quite visible.  The international community urgently needed to begin negotiations in order to open new perspectives for current and future generations.  Poland attached high priority to an early launch of the negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, which would strengthen nuclear non-proliferation, the Minister noted.  The international community needed bolder diplomatic efforts to improve the overall climate for security and disarmament. 

The ongoing review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty was a crucial path to confirm the relevance of that treaty in 2020 and to send a strong political message to societies in order to reduce anxiety related to nuclear weapons.  Poland highly valued all bilateral and trilateral efforts undertaken by the United States, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the Republic of Korea aiming at future denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and hoped that the summit in Viet Nam would pave the way for further, concrete steps.  The United Nations system was the most precious element of international relations, which equipped the international community with tools to influence political, economic and social situation in the world.  The Minister concluded by voicing hope that the Conference on Disarmament would soon be reinvigorated by a joint effort to bear lasting fruit in the future. 

DIDIER REYNDERS, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, and of Defense of Belgium, noted that while arms control found itself in a delicate moment, new opportunities were available for those who wanted to see them.  The report of the preparatory working group on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty had clearly shown that one of the most contested points - the question of stockpiles - was not a binary choice, therefore it was time to begin negotiations of this very relevant treaty.  In order to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons, it was necessary for the international community to redouble its efforts to introduce a global ban and to verify nuclear tests, thus Belgium deplored the delay in the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, negotiated 20 years ago.  It was only its entry into force that would ensure the implementation of envisaged verification measures, and Belgium would continue to promote it.

Pointing to the lack of confidence between great powers and the use of chemical weapons, Mr. Reynders stressed that weapons control saved lives and it promoted confidence among States.  It was for that reason that the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty had to be preserved and renewed after 2021.  Other measures, such as the reduction of nuclear arsenal, should also be undertaken.  Nowadays, there was less contact between the two nuclear super powers than during the Cold War, and accordingly, new mechanisms and fora needed to be put in place to foster dialogue.  The obligation to enhance transparency and to strengthen mutual confidence were part of the obligations that States had undertaken under the process of review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Deputy Prime Minister reminded.  The imperative of reducing risks called for a return to the good practices of arms control as a motor for the renewal of confidence among States.  

SAMEH HASSAN SHOKRY SELIM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt, said that States should review the reasons that had led to more than two decades of stalemate and impasse in the Conference on Disarmament, and redouble efforts to rectify the status quo and preserve the credibility of the Conference.  To overcome the stalemate, States must avoid unilateral actions that undermined prospects of achieving collective security, and demonstrate flexibility and political will.  The Minister recalled that over the years, Egypt and other members of the international community, had made repeated calls for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, which had unfortunately fallen on deaf ears.  Nuclear weapons were still present, some States were developing new generations of nuclear weapons, and others insisted on countering any international effort aimed at banning those weapons. 

Egypt reaffirmed the need for all States to adhere to the letter and spirit of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, especially in light of ever more serious challenges and a loss of credibility.  Recent escalation in security and political situation in the Middle East required an urgent and collaborative response, therefore the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East remained a top priority.  In conclusion, the Minister said that the future of the United Nations multilateral disarmament machinery depended on the conviction and support of all States; to achieve a safer and more peaceful world, the concepts of partnership and collective action must be put above the narrow and limited individual interests of States.

LUWELLYN LANDERS, Deputy Minister for International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, said that, while the threat to humanity posed by chemical and biological weapons had led to their banning, the achievement of a world free from nuclear weapons remained an unfulfilled and elusive goal.  The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which South Africa had ratified on 25 February 2019, was a critical step in the evolution of the regime necessary for the achievement and maintaining a world without nuclear weapons.  This Treaty, South Africa continued, was fully consistent with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and did not prioritize the security interests of one of a few States above the security interests of the international community as a whole; rather, it recognized that nuclear weapons posed a threat to all States and people. 

Global security was not achievable when enormous resources continued to be diverted towards the acquisition of more and greater destructive capabilities, while more than a billion people around the world continued to suffer from hunger and deprivation.  In a world where the basic humanitarian needs were not being met, the billions of dollars allocated to the modernization of nuclear weapons could instead be directed towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  In addition, the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons must spur disarmament efforts and make any use of nuclear weapons unthinkable, concluded Mr. Landers.  

DATO’ SAIFUDDIN BIN ABDULLAH, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, regretted the lack of progress with respect to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, noting with concern that some 15,000 nuclear weapons continued to exist in different parts of the world, while nuclear arsenals were being constantly modernized and adapted.  Malaysia firmly believed that a total elimination of nuclear weapons was the only solution against possible use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, and greater political will and more concrete actions were urgently needed to achieve that goal.  It was thus essential that all the commitments and obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, a cornerstone in the multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation regime, were effectively implemented. 

The Minister welcomed the United Nations Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament, hoping that it could reinvigorate multilateral disarmament efforts and guide the work of the Conference on Disarmament.  It was imperative that the Conference be re-activated to overcome its 23-year old impasse, he said, noting the need to rationalize the priorities on the issues under its agenda.  States could not remain entrenched in their national positions, he said and noted that it was the time for the Conference’s membership to be extended to ensure greater engagement, reflecting on collective efforts in the global disarmament and non-proliferation agenda. 

AUDUN HALVORSEN, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, reminded of the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, one of the most successful multilateral disarmament treaties of recent times.  It had established a strong norm against any use of landmines, and thanks to it, landmines were now a weapon that no longer had a place in international order.  The 20th anniversary was an important opportunity to be reminded of all that could be achieved through multilateral disarmament negotiations.  Over the past 20 years, more than 51 million stockpiled landmines had been destroyed. 

It was regrettable, Mr. Halvorsen continued, that the Conference on Disarmament had been unable to fulfil its mandate for more than 20 years, but the establishment of the subsidiary bodies in 2018 had been a step in the right direction.  The current international environment did not appear conducive for making progress in nuclear disarmament, the Deputy Minister said and called for measures to build confidence and for continued global commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  He also urged developing credible multilateral solutions to verify future nuclear disarmament, and for strengthening of non-proliferation efforts by promoting universal adherence to the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement of the International Atomic Energy Agency and its Additional Protocol.

MOHAMED ALI AL-HAKIM, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, said that arms race did not lead to peace and stability and that was why Iraq was committed to the elimination of weapons of mass destruction and a guarantee that they would never be used.  In light of deepening regional crises and political tensions, including the growing terrorist threats, the role of the Conference on Disarmament was greater today than ever before.  It was therefore necessary to continue efforts at the Conference and show political will to achieve a comprehensive programme of disarmament.  The path towards nuclear disarmament should be the main priority of the Conference, the Minister said, as technological progress would only exacerbate the arms race.

Mr. Al-Hakim recalled the importance of establishing a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East and called for a legally binding instrument on negative security assurances, which he said was a legitimate demand of non-nuclear weapons States.  States should also continue their efforts to put an end to the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons by negotiating an implementable treaty.  Outer space belonged to humanity and should only be used for peaceful purposes, he said, warning that its militarization ran the risk of another destructive arms race.

ALIYAR LEBBE ABDUL AZEEZ, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva, noted that in view of increasingly constrained security landscape in most regions, it was timely to reflect on some of the trends and take steps to strengthen international peace and security.  In this context, he highlighted that the evolving prospect of lethal autonomous weapons systems, with advances made in artificial intelligence, remained a matter of grave concern, because implications of such weapons systems for human rights and international humanitarian law were far reaching.  As the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was in jeopardy, it was necessary to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty for another term.

However, not everything was bleak, he said, highlighting in particular the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament, a significant step forward that called for a breakthrough in the current impasse.  It aimed to create a forward movement in the disarmament agenda, thus it was encouraging that several countries had taken ideas from this Agenda.  At the same time, it was regrettable that some countries interpreted the Agenda only from the perspective of their own strategic priorities rather than seeing how best the ideas contained therein could advance the agenda of disarmament and non-proliferation.  Those ideas should inform countries’ collective approach for a better and safer world.  Finally, Mr. Azeez said that it was important for the Conference on Disarmament to be inclusive and representative enough of the range of views and perspectives on critical issues in disarmament and non-proliferation.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG).United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)
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