28 February 2018
The Conference on Disarmament this morning continued its high-level segment, hearing addresses by ministerial officials from Turkey, Russia, Iran, Romania and South Africa.
Ahmet Yildiz, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, said that during the current review cycle of the of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, it was essential all three of its pillars be addressed in a balanced manner, allowing States in compliance to tap into the benefits of nuclear energy.
Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said that all nuclear-weapon States must join in further efforts to implement the Non-Proliferation Treaty, stressing that all factors influencing the current security environment must be considered, including the non-ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the possibility of the deployment of offensive weapons in outer space.
Golam Hossein Dehghani, Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, said policies and statements emphasizing the role of nuclear weapons as the ultimate guarantor of its possessor’s security, coupled with the lack of progress on disarmament, had encouraged proliferation and raised the possibility of nuclear confrontation.
George Ciamba, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania, said that nuclear disarmament must be addressed collectively, in a step-by-step manner, avoiding unrealistic expectations that put the non-proliferation regime at risk, with honest stock-taking done in preparation for the 2020 Review Conference.
Luwellyn Landers, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, expressed alarm about statements justifying the retention of nuclear weapons due to the supposed benefits of nuclear deterrence, which served to increase proliferation, and stressed that there were no right hands for wrong weapons.
Syria also took the floor, while the following countries spoke in their right of reply: United States, France, Syria, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Israel, Iran, Egypt, and Russia.
The Conference on Disarmament will meet again in public plenary tomorrow, 1 March, at 3 p.m.
Statements AHMET YILDIZ, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, affirmed a common responsibility to create an atmosphere of compromise to enable the Conference to find consensus on a programme of work and commence negotiations on a non-discriminatory and verifiable treaty on fissile material, which, he commented, must take into account the legitimate concerns of all. The ultimate goal, he said, was the elimination of nuclear weapons, starting with the universal implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In that regard, the commitment of the 2010 Action Plan for convening an international conference on a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East could not be overlooked. It was also important that the current review cycle of the Treaty not be undermined by efforts undertaken elsewhere, and that the Treaty’s three pillars be addressed in a balanced manner, allowing States in compliance to tap into the benefits of nuclear energy. Mr. Yildiz called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to act responsibly and abide by Security Council resolutions, and appealed to all States to uphold the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, calling it a successful example of multilateral diplomacy. Urging, in addition, critical States to sign on to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, he pledged Turkey’s readiness to do its part to overcome the challenges facing the Conference on Disarmament.
SERGEY LAVROV, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, affirmed the importance of resuming the Conference’s substantive work at a time of complex challenges. Russia was a consistent advocate of nuclear disarmament, with its arsenal reduced by more than 85 per cent from its Cold War height in compliance with agreements. At the same time, there were some pending questions to pose to the United States concerning the removal of some strategic arms from accountability under those agreements. The Minister was also concerned over signs that the country was assigning a greater role to nuclear weapons in its defense strategy, including the development of lower-yield warheads that could lower the threshold of nuclear-weapons use. All nuclear-weapon States must join in further efforts to implement the Non-Proliferation Treaty, he stressed, and toward that end, all factors influencing security must be considered. Among those were unrestricted deployment of global missile defense systems, development of non-nuclear strategic offensive arms, non-ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the possibility of the deployment of offensive weapons in outer space.
Disarmament was hampered by United States non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe as well as nuclear arrangements in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, continued Mr. Lavrov, adding that Russia had no policy of deploying tactical nuclear weapons. It was time for European citizens to say no to deployment of highly dangerous United States weaponry on their soil. Similarly, while his country had fully eliminated its chemical weapons, others hold onto them and put forward absurd claims against Syria for political purposes. In that vein, Mr. Lavrov said that new closed-door initiatives, such as the International Partnership against Impunity for the use of Chemical Weapons recently arranged by France, were totally unacceptable. Describing Russian initiatives to bolster the existing regime against chemical and biological weapons and its work to prevent the weaponization of outer space, Mr. Lavrov pledged Russian support for any effort to resume substantive work in the Conference on Disarmament that was balanced and consensus-based.
GOLAM HOSSEIN DEHGHANI, Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, shared concerns over rising anxiety about nuclear weapons in light of the continued failure of the nuclear-weapon States to negotiate nuclear disarmament under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. They were actually doing the opposite through modernization of nuclear weapons and increasing their strategic roles. Policies and statements emphasizing the role of nuclear weapons as the ultimate guarantor of its possessor’s security, coupled with the lack of progress on disarmament had encouraged proliferation and raised the possibility of nuclear confrontation, as evident on the Korean Peninsula. The possessors must come to terms with the globalized security environment, in which it was not possible to ensure one’s own security at the expense of others. Dividing States as nuclear and non-nuclear-weapon States exacerbated the dangers, with possession stigmatized only for some. Nuclear weapons, as the most monstrous tool of mass destruction, must be totally eliminated. In that context, the Conference on Disarmament must be energized to commence negotiations on a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons.
Iran, he said, was party to all international agreements governing weapons of mass destruction and had been promoting a proposal to establish a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, which had been blocked by the Israeli regime. Iran’s persistent commitment to nuclear disarmament did not cease even when ‘a fabricated crisis’ created huge problems, which should be ended through the negotiated Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, an historical success of multilateral diplomacy. Iran had fully implemented its commitments, but the United States had not, through polices, actions and statements that aimed to deprive Iran of the benefits of the deal. His country’s response to threats of renegotiation or abandonment, by one party, was clear and firm: no, the agreement would not be renegotiated. The United States position was sending the message that it was not a reliable party in any bilateral or multilateral agreement. Disarmament must be advanced in all multilateral forums in order to advance, including in the Conference on Disarmament.
GEORGE CIAMBA, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania, said it was high time to overcome the deadlock in the Conference, considering current security concerns. Romania was committed to working closely with all others to adopt a comprehensive and balanced programme of work, building on the momentum of recent decisions in the Conference. Affirming the centrality of the Non-Proliferation Treaty for eventually eliminating nuclear weapons, he cautioned against trying to find short cuts to the process. Nuclear disarmament must be addressed collectively, in a step-by-step manner, avoiding unrealistic expectations that put the non-proliferation regime at risk. In that context, honest stock-taking should be done in preparation for the 2020 Review Conference. Nuclear and non-nuclear-weapon States must work together on consensus approaches to threats, such as the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the negotiation of a treaty on fissile material. It was critical that the Conference made substantial progress in such areas to reinforce the rule-based order that was fundamental to global security.
LUWELLYN LANDERS, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, affirmed that his country was a firm proponent of disarmament, non-proliferation and a world free of weapons of mass destruction and the scourge of small arms, all of which hampered development. Collective security must be built through multilateral mechanisms that addressed the concerns of all. Expressing alarm about statements justifying the retention of nuclear weapons due to the supposed benefits of nuclear deterrence, he said that stance only served to increase proliferation, and that there were no right hands for wrong weapons. The primary responsibility for eliminating such weapons was with the nuclear-weapon States which must engage in accelerated negotiations leading to that goal under strict international control. In that light, Mr. Landers regretted the refusal of those States to participate in the conference leading to the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which South Africa did not see as a distraction from but rather an encouragement of an urgent progress toward the implementation of commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which was stalled because of lack of follow through on disarmament obligations.
HISSAM EDIN AALA, Permanent Representative of Syria to the Conference on Disarmament, welcoming recent decisions made by the Conference to improve its working methods, said that it was critical for the body to play its role in the context of current high tensions. He regretted that some countries were increasing the role of nuclear weapons in strategic consideration, and stressed that non-proliferation must be accompanied by disarmament. Negotiations on a binding and balanced text to control fissile materials should occur at the soonest possible time in the Conference, as should the development of negative security assurances and mechanisms to prevent an arms race in outer space. Mr. Aala called for the members of the Conference to contribute to the effort to create a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, overcoming the resistance of Israel. Nuclear-weapon States should ensure that progress was made at the upcoming 2020 Review Conference. Condemning the use of chemical weapons, Permanent Representative of Syria said that their acquisition by terrorist groups in the region posed a grave threat. Unfortunately, dubious partnerships had been formed that undermined the role of agencies that could act against that very significant danger, concluded Mr. Aala.
Rights of reply United States, in response to the statement by Russia, said emphatically that the United States was in full compliance with its obligations under its the arms reduction agreements with Russia, and that none of the deployed capabilities threatened Russian strategic deterrence. In addition, the United States contributed much funding for the Russian arms reduction efforts after the end of the Cold War. Russia was on the wrong side of history by abetting the Assad regime in Syria, said the United States and further rejected the claim that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization arrangements violated the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The United States supported the use of international mechanisms to eliminate further dangers of weapons of mass destruction. On the matter of strategic nuclear weapons, Russia had already incorporated them as part of its military doctrines, which was why the United States was developing low-yield capability as a deterrence against that threat.
Responding to Iran, the United States said it would not ignore Iran’s activities outside of the Joint Agreement, while upholding the agreement’s basic purpose. As the United States President had said, it was a flawed deal that must be fixed, in consideration of Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and other facts. A supplemental agreement that would impose measures for development of ballistic missiles was being discussed with other parties.
France said that the return to a total ban on chemical weapons use must be reinforced; that was why France was leading the partnership against impunity. It was critical to overcome international political stalemates in that area. The geographical scope of the initiative was universal, as it covered all parts of the world and all actors. The initiative was associated with the existing mechanisms, stressed France and called on all countries that shared concerns over the resurgence of the chemical weapons threat, to join.
Syria said that the United States was again distorting the chemical weapons issue in Syria as part of a systematic disinformation campaign. The approach by the Joint Inspection Mechanism had become biased due to political pressures. Syria had fulfilled all its legal obligations by destroying all its chemical stocks in record time even though it was under attack by foreign-supported forces. Syria could not possibly be using chemical weapons because it did not possess any. Transparent investigations into chemical-weapons use had been thwarted because they would show that that chemical weapons were being used by terrorist organizations. That was a very serious matter that required urgent measures.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that accusations against its defense policies showed complete ignorance of the security situation on the Korean Peninsula. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear capability was meant as a deterrent against threats and would never be used offensively. The accusation that its nuclear weapons threatened global peace was absurd.
Israel said blame for the lack of agreement at the last Review Conference could not be placed on the political situation in the Middle East. Any measures to increase security and stability of the region could only come about through direct dialogue between the States, which required a recognition of Israel’s right to exist. Any initiative negotiated without the participation of all stakeholders was untenable.
Iran reiterated that the Joint Comprehensive Agreement was not renegotiable, while regretting the United States’ involvement in his region. Iran had been playing an important role in Syria by fighting terrorist groups. The Iranian missiles referred to by the United States were only being developed for defense, out of a necessity created by the huge volume of arms being supplied to the other countries of his region. The missiles, in addition, were only designed to carry conventional weapons. Israel’s possession of dangerous weapons was destabilizing to the region and its policies inflamed conflict. Iran objected to the double standards, with those within the non-proliferation regime being punished and those outside rewarded.
United States said that Syria had no credibility on the chemical issue and asserted that it would be held to account for its crimes. Iran was arming the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon and others to counter claims that its weapons were not meant for aggressive purposes.
Egypt had shown its willingness to talk directly with Israel and had demonstrated the recognition of its right to exist. Blame for failures in the outcomes of the Review Conference should be directed to those who had obstructed progress. The quest for the establishment of a nuclear-free-zone in the Middle East had a long history and had been supported in many United Nations forums.
Syria called for the end of manipulation by certain States for narrow political objectives and reiterated its compliance with its obligations.
Russia said that its Minister was the only one from the P-5 that had addressed the Conference, which showed Russia’s attitude. Specific issues could be discussed in detail in the five subsidiary bodies, but one country was impeding progress and that would continue.
For use of the information media; not an official record