27 January 1999


Press Release
DCF/355



SECRETARY-GENERAL ADDRESSES CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT

19990127
Kofi Annan Calls on Conference To Embark on Negotiations For Treaty To Ban Production of Fissile Material for Nuclear Weapons

GENEVA, 26 January (UN Information Service) -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan today addressed the Conference on Disarmament at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The Secretary-General called on the Conference to embark on meaningful negotiations for a non-discriminatory, multilateral and effectively verifiable treaty to ban production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

By doing so, the Secretary-General said, the Conference would greatly help the cause of nuclear non-proliferation, and the process of general nuclear disarmament.

The Secretary-General stated that the issues that had to be addressed in the field of arms limitation and disarmament were vast and complex. Among them, he mentioned the importance to establish effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. Anti-personnel landmines were another source of acute concern to the international community. He earnestly hoped the efforts of the Conference in that field would soon result in a decision to start negotiations on a ban on transfers of those barbaric weapons.

In conclusion, Mr. Annan said the international community had rightly identified nuclear disarmament as a high priority. The Conference had before it a number of proposals for mechanisms to deal with that issue. He trusted that during this session, it would reach consensus on the ways in which the Conference can best contribute.

Following the address by the Secretary-General, Ambassador Mounir Zahran of Egypt took the floor. He said it was now time to establish an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament for negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a convention to eliminate all nuclear weapons from all parts of the world. He presented a new Egyptian proposal which called on the Conference to "establish an ad hoc committee under agenda item 1 on nuclear disarmament to commence negotiations on a phased programme of nuclear


disarmament with the objective of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons".

At the beginning of the meeting, the President of the Conference, Ambassador Robert Grey of the United States, welcomed the Secretary-General and said his presence would give decisive impetus to the work of the Conference. Mr. Grey also informed the Conference that intensive consultations were under way with a view to developing a consensus on the Programme of Work of the Conference, making full use of the delicate and balanced compromises reached at the end of last year, and taking into account proposals made by delegations.

He expressed sympathy to the people of Colombia for the recent loss of life there following an earthquake. The Representative of Colombia thanked the President and other delegates who had expressed their sorrow at the natural disaster that had occurred in his country.

Statements

KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that when he addressed the Conference in 1997, and again, later that year, when he submitted his reform programme to the General Assembly, he had stressed the central importance of disarmament in the global agenda, and the primary responsibility for it which fell on the United Nations. The Conference was now 20 years old and was the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community, and it now comprised all militarily significant States. This was a good moment to look back, to assess the experience so far and to learn from it so that the Conference could better face the new challenges ahead.

The Secretary-General said the Conference could take pride in having produced two major international legal instruments, which had greatly contributed to the search for a world free from the threat of weapons of mass destruction: the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1992 and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1996. Just two multilateral agreements might seem a meagre harvest after 20 years of work. But the value of the Conference could not be measured simply by counting the treaties it produced. Before multilateral negotiations could even start, the right political conditions had to be created. That meant holding long in-depth discussions, and doing a great deal of technical spadework. There was always a pre-negotiating stage, in which some shared understanding was reached that a security problem existed, that it had certain dimensions and that it must be addressed multilaterally. That process might be arduous and time-consuming, but without it there was no guarantee that the end-product, that was to say treaty-making, would take the security concerns of all parties into consideration. And an agreement which failed to do that would ultimately be neither universal nor effective.


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He said a case in point was the hard work it took to develop a consensus that this forum should deal with the important issue of a ban on production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. That work was rewarded last year, when the Conference decided to set up an Ad Hoc Committee to negotiate such a ban. And the consensus was further strengthened this year, when the General Assembly adopted, without voting, a resolution endorsing that decision. The Conference should now make full use of the momentum thus created, and embark on meaningful negotiations for a non-discriminatory, multilateral and effectively verifiable treaty. By so doing, the Conference would greatly help the cause of nuclear non-proliferation, and the process of general nuclear disarmament.

The Secretary-General said it was also important to establish effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. The decision of the Conference to consider that in the framework of an Ad Hoc Committee was an important step in that direction. Further steps were needed to harmonize the unilateral security guarantees offered by the five nuclear-weapon States in a single legally-binding instrument.

He stated that the issues that had to be addressed in the field of arms limitation and disarmament were vast and complex. Anti-personnel landmines were another source of acute concern to the international community. He earnestly hoped the efforts of the Conference in that field would soon result in a decision to start negotiations on a ban on transfers of those barbaric weapons.

The international community had rightly identified nuclear disarmament as a high priority, he said. The Conference had before it a number of proposals for mechanisms to deal with that issue. He trusted that during this session, it would reach consensus on the ways in which the Conference could best contribute. The history of successive multilateral disarmament forums showed that they were able to evolve over the years, in response to changed political realities. That evolution affected all aspects of disarmament negotiating bodies: their composition, their agenda and their working methods. The Conference on Disarmament was no exception in that respect. It had a record of endeavour and of lasting achievement, of flexibility and expertise and it must live up to that record by continuing to play a leading role in the work of building a world which no longer relied on weapons for its security.

MOUNIR ZAHRAN (Egypt) expressed to the Secretary-General full appreciation of the important elements which he referred to, and reiterated Egypt's total commitment to work earnestly and diligently towards the achievement of the objectives of general and complete disarmament.

He said the past year had witnessed serious setbacks for the global non-proliferation regime, but it had also demonstrated the indisputable desire


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of the international community to overcome those challenges by totally and irrevocably ridding the world of nuclear weapons. The first step along that road was no doubt the fulfilment by the nuclear-weapon States of their commitments under article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

He warned that the blocking of negotiations on nuclear disarmament in the Conference could compromise the outcome of the second session of the NPT preparatory committee. It was essential to review whether progress had been achieved in the application of all the decisions and resolutions on the Middle East upon which the indefinite extension of the NPT was based. The ultimate goal of the 1968 NPT was the total elimination of nuclear weapons, and the nuclear-weapon States should listen to the voices of billions of people around the world which called for that goal.

It was now time to establish an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament for negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a convention to eliminate all nuclear weapons from all parts of the world, he said. He read out a new Egyptian proposal for that end: "The Conference decides to establish an ad hoc committee under agenda item 1 on nuclear disarmament to commence negotiations on a phased programme of nuclear disarmament with the objective of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. In discharging its functions, the ad hoc committee will take into account the proposal for a programme of action for the elimination of nuclear weapons submitted by 28 members of the Conference belonging to the Group of 21 (CD/1419) as well as any other existing proposals and future initiatives in this regard".

He said that for a convention to prohibit the production of fissile material for weapons or other explosive devices to achieve its objectives, it should include substantive and practical measures for nuclear disarmament. Its scope should include all fissile material potentially usable in the manufacturing of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices across the world, including the military stocks possessed by all States on an equal footing. It must be non-discriminatory, internationally and effectively verifiable, and should not imply any degree of international de jure or de facto recognition or acceptance for the possession of nuclear weapons by any non-member of the NPT, or for the indefinite possession of nuclear weapons by the five nuclear weapon States specified in the NPT.

He urged the Conference to re-establish in 1999 ad hoc committees on negative security assurances; on the prevention of an arms race in outer space; and on transparency in armaments. Egypt also supported the re-establishment of a special coordinator on anti-personnel landmines, and did not object to the re-appointment of three coordinators, or one coordinator, to deal with expansion of membership, review of the agenda and improved and effective functioning of the Conference.

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