RENEWED MULTILATERAL COOPERATION NEEDED TO ADDRESS ‘UNACCEPTABLE’ SITUATION, DISARMAMENT COMMISSION TOLD, AS 2007 SESSION OPENS

9 April 2007
DC/3062

RENEWED MULTILATERAL COOPERATION NEEDED TO ADDRESS ‘UNACCEPTABLE’ SITUATION, DISARMAMENT COMMISSION TOLD, AS 2007 SESSION OPENS

9 April 2007
General Assembly
DC/3062
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Disarmament Commission

2007 Substantive Session

277th & 278th Meetings (AM & PM)

RENEWED MULTILATERAL COOPERATION NEEDED TO ADDRESS ‘UNACCEPTABLE’

SITUATION, DISARMAMENT COMMISSION TOLD, AS 2007 SESSION OPENS

Scheduled to Conclude on 27 April, Session to Focus on Nuclear

Disarmament, Non-Proliferation; Confidence-Building Related to Conventional Weapons

Delivering a call to action to the Disarmament Commission today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction, and by the excessive accumulation of conventional weapons, were well-known, which made the limited progress in addressing those concerns all the more disappointing. 

Addressing the specialized body as it opened its 2007 session, he said setbacks in the disarmament field seemed to have become the norm rather than an exception.  Addressing that situation -- which he called unacceptable -- demanded renewed multilateral attention, understanding and cooperation.  In today’s world, only a collective, multilateral approach could effectively eliminate the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or check the spread of conventional ones.

Revitalizing the international arms agenda as well as the effectiveness of the United Nations in that area had been a personal priority since his first day in office, he said.  That was why he had proposed a new Office of Disarmament Affairs, led by a new High Representative to be appointed soon, which would better mobilize the political will necessary to overcome the current stalemate and re-energize action on both disarmament and non-proliferation.  Given those ongoing changes, the present session was particularly timely and important.

The Commission’s annual session, expected to conclude on 27 April, is the second in a three-year cycle focusing on two agreed agenda items, namely, nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, and confidence-building in the conventional weapons sphere. 

Recalling that the Commission had been able in the 1990s to contribute significantly to guidelines in various disarmament matters, its Chairman, Elbio Rosselli ( Uruguay), was confident that it could do likewise on items on which major strides had not been seen for a long time.  The Commission was a deliberative body “as good or as limited as its members would wish”, he added, calling on members to ensure that this year’s work would provide a more solid basis on which to build the results hoped for next year.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Germany’s representative stated that there was broad agreement that the security of the international community continued to be challenged, both globally and regionally by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery and the risk that non-State actors could gain access to those weapons.  The discovery of clandestine nuclear activities was of particular concern.  He hoped the current session would bring about fruitful discussions leading to concrete and comprehensive recommendations to strengthen confidence and security and achieve disarmament, noting that after years of discussion, the item should be sufficiently ripe for finalization. 

The drafting of consensus recommendations on the matters before the Commission would be a difficult enterprise in the best of times, let alone at a time of heightened international tension brought about by Iran’s defiance of the international community as it pursued nuclear weapons capability, stated the representative of the United States.  The Commission’s Chairman was assuming his responsibilities at a time when the international community had expressed its grave concern regarding the threat to international security posed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  “You face a heavy burden and distinct challenge to lead the Commission towards a productive way forward, to ensure that our work is not hijacked by the actions and policies of a country that defies the Security Council, and to lay the foundation for restoring the damaged image of this body.”  The results of the current session, he added, would inform his country’s future deliberations about the role of the Commission, and the value of participating in its proceedings.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, Iran’s representative said his country’s nuclear programme was completely peaceful.  The United States was trying to create a smoke screen to distract from its abysmal record in the field.  Providing examples of what he termed non-compliance with the NPT by the United States -– “a self-proclaimed champion of compliance”, he said that country had developed a new nuclear weapons system; abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; signed an agreement of nuclear cooperation with Israel, whose nuclear arsenal represented the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East; and rejected the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, not only damaging the prospects for its entry into force but also undermining the upholding of that agreement in international forums.  It was a habit of the United States to accept commitments at first and to then reject them, he added.

Several speakers echoed the Secretary-General’s view that, while nuclear weapons threatened the world with mass destruction, on a cumulative basis conventional weapons wrought tremendous death and destruction every day in conflicts across the globe.  Since the Second World War, noted Indonesia’s representative, millions had lost their lives in numerous conflicts fought with conventional weapons, and current trends did not give any reason to believe that there would be a decrease in the incidents and severity of those conflicts. 

Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, she added that confidence-building measures were neither a substitute nor a precondition for disarmament measures.  Yet their potential for creating an atmosphere conducive to arms control and disarmament had been demonstrated in various parts of the world.  When applied in a comprehensive manner, such measures could contribute to the wider objective of the renunciation of the threat or use of force. 

Roberto García Moritán, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Worship of Argentina, pointed out that, as a pioneer in implementing confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons, the Latin American and Caribbean region had witnessed their benefits in terms of safeguarding peace and consolidating democracy in the Americas by enabling even greater transparency and dialogue among the hemisphere’s countries.  The objective of such measures was to reduce uncertainty and erroneous perceptions about the behaviour of States, thus reducing the risks of military confrontations.  Since the concept was dynamic, its implementation and consolidation not only allowed the prevention of armed conflict, but also offered an effective tool to encourage greater political, economic and cultural integration, he added.

As it began its session this morning, the Commission took note of its agenda, contained in document A/CN.10/L.59, which it had previously adopted during its organizational session on 6 December 2006.  The Commission also completed its bureau with the election of Jean-Francis Régis Zinsou of Benin, Raff Bukun-olu Wole Onemola of Nigeria, and Mohsen Naziri of Iran as Vice-Chairmen.  Also, Bassam Darwish of Syria was elected to serve as Rapporteur.

Statements were also made today by the representatives of the Dominican Republic (on behalf of the Rio Group), Brazil, China, Cuba, Algeria, Benin, Republic of Korea, Costa Rica and Viet Nam. 

The Commission will resume its general exchange of views at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 10 April.

Background

The United Nations Disarmament Commission today opened its 2007 substantive session, which is scheduled to conclude on 27 April.

Statement by Commission Chairman

Commission Chairman ELBIO ROSSELLI ( Uruguay) said the Commission could make a significant contribution on items on which major strides had not been seen for a long time.  The current session was the first under the mandate of the new United Nations Secretary-General, as well as the first since the adoption by the General Assembly of resolution 61/27 on the strengthening of the Organization’s capacity to promote the disarmament programme.  The Secretary-General had placed particular emphasis on disarmament, and the General Assembly had supported his intention to create a new office for disarmament affairs.

“We have not had disarmament.  Rather, we’ve had proliferation,” he noted, turning to events over recent years.  The Commission was not a forum for negotiations.  However, since it was a deliberative body, it had been able in the 1990s to contribute significantly to guidelines in various disarmament matters.  The Commission, like any other multilateral body, could not go beyond the collective will of its members.  It was a deliberative body “as good or as limited as its members would wish”.  It would be as useful as its members would want to make it.  The Commission should ensure that this year’s work would provide a more solid basis on which to build the results hoped for next year.  He pledged to make his best efforts in that regard. 

Statement by Secretary-General

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction, and by the excessive accumulation of conventional weapons, were well known, which made the limited progress in addressing those concerns all the more disappointing.  The failure of the 2005 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference, the impasse in the Conference on Disarmament and the disappointing outcome of the 2006 Small Arms Review Conference all pointed to a disheartening trend.

Setbacks in the disarmament field seemed to have become the norm rather than an exception, he said, describing that situation as unacceptable.  Addressing it demanded renewed multilateral attention, understanding and cooperation.  The threat of weapons of mass destruction and the daily suffering inflicted by small arms and light weapons, anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions should prompt a re-examination of the foundations of the international security regime.  Such a review must be inclusive and seek to strengthen existing disarmament and non-proliferation treaties.  In today’s world, only a collective, multilateral approach could effectively eliminate the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or check the spread of conventional ones.

Revitalizing the international arms agenda, as well as the effectiveness of the United Nations in that area had been a personal priority since his first day in office, he said.  That was why he had proposed a new Office of Disarmament Affairs, led by a new High Representative to be appointed soon, which would better mobilize the political will necessary to overcome the current stalemate and re-energize action on both disarmament and non-proliferation.  Given those ongoing changes, the present session was particularly timely and important.

He said he was encouraged that the agenda included nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, pointing out that the first session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 NPT Review Conference was approaching.  The Commission could play an important role in setting the stage for that Conference, by seeking a consensus around the steps necessary to advance nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  The Commission’s deliberations could also consider measures that would help to ensure the continuing relevance and strength of NPT.

The Commission’s work on conventional weapons was no less important, he stressed.  While nuclear weapons threatened the world with mass destruction, on a cumulative basis conventional weapons wrought tremendous death and destruction every day in conflicts across the globe.  It was therefore vital to encourage responsible conduct in conventional weapons transfers.  It was also necessary to explore ways to lessen the pressure on States to engage in conventional weapons build-ups, while safeguarding their legitimate right to self-defence.

Statements

BERNHARD BRASACK ( Germany), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, stressed that non-proliferation, disarmament and arms control remained indispensable elements of cooperative security between States.  There was broad agreement that the security of the international community continued to be challenged, both globally and regionally by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery and the risk that non-State actors could gain access to those weapons.  The discovery of clandestine nuclear activities was of particular concern.  Thus, it was crucial that all existing disarmament and non-proliferation agreements were effectively resourced, implemented and fully complied with. 

The Union was strongly committed to reaching a consensus on a programme of work in the Conference on Disarmament as soon as possible and welcomed the fact that new ideas and new proposals had been put forward in that regard in the last few years, he said.  It attached priority to the negotiations, at the Conference, of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, as a means to strengthen disarmament and non-proliferation.  In addition, he welcomed the reductions in deployed nuclear weapons which the Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START) and the Moscow Treaty had brought about, and stressed the need for more progress in structurally reducing those nuclear arsenals through appropriate follow-on processes. 

He called on all States in the region to make the Middle East into an effectively verifiable zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.  A solution to the Iranian nuclear issue would contribute to global non-proliferation efforts and to realizing the objective of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction.  The Union deplored Iran’s failure to take the steps required by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Security Council.  He highlighted IAEA’s unique and positive role in verifying States’ compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation commitments, and reiterated the call for universal accession to the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols.  European Union member States were also working towards making the Additional Protocol a condition of supply for sensitive nuclear exports. 

Turning to the work of the Commission, he said the body would continue to work on practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms.  He believed the Chairman’s perception paper of the 2003 session constituted a good basis to build on and to learn from previous problems.  The goal of confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms was to strengthen international peace and security, improve relations among States and contribute to the prevention of war.  He hoped this session would bring about fruitful discussions leading to concrete and comprehensive recommendations designed to make progress in strengthening confidence and security and in achieving disarmament.  After years of discussion, the item should be sufficiently ripe for finalization. 

Cooperative approaches to arms control, he said, would often start with confidence-building measures; they built relations between peoples, thus contributing to post-conflict stabilization and rehabilitation.  They created the climate of transparency, dialogue and cooperation necessary for arms control or disarmament agreements between the parties to a conflict.  It was important that all States felt that their participation in transparency and confidence-building measures served their security interests and built security with neighbours.  Conflicts in various regions where such measures had not been initiated at an early stage had shown the need for worldwide awareness of their potential to contribute to peace and stability.  Confidence-building measures between States also ensured the building of a network of Government experts who were better able to tackle transnational threats posed by non-State actors. 

He said the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) area was an encouraging example of how confidence-building measures could contribute to the building of peace and stability on bilateral and regional levels.  Since the first confidence-building measures were agreed at the Stockholm Conference in the mid-1980s, the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, the Open Skies Treaty and the successive Vienna Documents had been instrumental in creating an open military culture to enhance transparency, confidence and trust. 

The Union firmly supported the elaboration of a comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms within the framework of the United Nations, he said.  Such an instrument, consistent with existing responsibilities of States under relevant international law, would be a major contribution to tackling the undesirable and irresponsible proliferation of conventional arms which undermined peace, security, development and full respect for human rights. 

ERASMO LARA-PENA (Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, observed with concern the lack of sufficient political will to reach substantive agreement on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  That lack of political will was hard to justify, taking into account the threat represented by the existence of those types of weapons.  The Rio Group, whose members formed part of the first nuclear-weapon-free zone –- established now for over 40 years, called on nuclear weapon States to offer clear signs of commitment to reduce their arsenals, stressing the responsibility that those States had in the application of disarmament and non-proliferation measures. 

He said it was important to strengthen security assurances against the possible use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, and called for the conclusion of a universal and legally binding instrument on negative security assurances for non-nuclear States.  Such an instrument would provide a legal framework and guarantee the decline of horizontal proliferation, making it unjustifiable and illegitimate.  He also favoured the prompt initiation of negotiations without preconditions on an international treaty prohibiting the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices. 

The adoption of confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms contributed to the enhancement of international peace and security, which promoted understanding, transparency and cooperation among States, he said.  For that reason, it was necessary to strengthen, enhance and broaden confidence-building measures at all levels, as in the cases of the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, and the United Nations System for the Standardized Reporting of Military Expenditures. 

He expressed his concern with the lack of political commitment of some States to prevent the proliferation of conventional weapons, including those that had excessively cruel and indiscriminate effects.  In that regard, he saluted the initiative of some countries to commence negotiations to regulate the use of cluster munitions and hoped that that exercise would culminate with the adoption of a legally binding instrument that would strengthen the international humanitarian law regime.  It was also important to discuss the issue of international norms on the import, export and transfer of conventional arms.  He encouraged States to present their opinions to the Secretary-General to facilitate the presentation of his report on the issue to the General Assembly.

ROBERTO GARCÍA MORITÁN, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Worship of Argentina, supporting the Rio Group statement, said that, since the adoption of the Treaty of Tlatelolco, the Latin American and Caribbean region had been a pioneer in the search for a world free of nuclear arms.  Forty years since its entry into force, Argentina renewed its commitment to general and complete disarmament.  That was why, as a highly populated country belonging to a nuclear-arms-free zone, it called upon nuclear weapon States to renew their efforts to fulfil their objectives put forward in article VI of NPT, which remained the cornerstone of the disarmament and non-proliferation regime and to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.  At the same time, Argentina urged those members of the Commission that had not yet adhered to that instrument to reconsider and join the regime as non-nuclear weapon States.

Expressing his deep concern about the non-implementation of the Thirteen Practical Steps recommended in the final document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference, he said it was unfortunate that measures agreed upon seven years ago had hardly been applied.  It was discouraging that the Commission had been unable to adopt a working programme and that no negotiations had been initiated on an international instrument to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices.  Argentina hoped that the proposals circulated recently would contribute to the initiation of substantive negotiations next May.

Discouraged also to note the lack of progress towards the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, he said challenges in the field of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation would be effectively addressed if the nuclear weapon States would show the determination to completely eliminate those weapons as their existence and inclusion in military doctrine strengthened the arguments of States which had recently shown a certain interest in such weapons.

He said that, as in the case of nuclear disarmament, the Latin American and Caribbean region had been a pioneer in implementing confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons and had witnessed their benefits in terms of safeguarding peace and consolidating democracy in the Americas by enabling even greater transparency and dialogue among the hemisphere’s countries.  The objective of confidence-building measures was to reduce uncertainty and erroneous perceptions about the behaviour of States, thus reducing the risks of military confrontations.  Since the concept was dynamic, its implementation and consolidation not only allowed the prevention of armed conflict, but also offered an effective tool to encourage greater political, economic and cultural integration.

Referring to his recent experience as Chair of the Group of Experts of the Register of Conventional Arms, he said that mechanism, alongside the Standardized Report on Military Expenditure, was a concrete tool which enhanced transparency in purchases of conventional weapons and enabled an identification of potentially destabilizing situations.  The latest session of the Group of Experts had modified several categories of the Register in response to technological innovations and new threats in the design and use of conventional weapons.  It had also advanced in the identification of transfers of small and light weapons for military use as a new priority.  States wishing to do so could send information on such transfers through the use of an additional standardized report, although that did not constitute a category.

ADIYATWIDI ADIWOSO ASMADY (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that, since the last session of the Commission in 2003, there had been real concern over the fact that the Commission was unable to play its role in meeting the challenges of the current global environment.  However, the Movement recognized that the Commission had had very productive sessions, particularly in 1999, when it was able to reach consensus on guidelines for establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones and for conventional arms control. 

Turning to the item on practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms, she supported such measures as a way to strengthen international peace and security.  Since the Second World War, millions had lost their lives in numerous conflicts fought with conventional weapons, and current trends did not give any reason to believe that there would be a decrease in the incidents and severity of those conflicts.  Hence, the situation regarding conventional arms was a source of increasing concern. 

Confidence-building measures, she said, were neither a substitute nor a precondition for disarmament measures.  Yet their potential for creating an atmosphere conducive to arms control and disarmament had been demonstrated in various parts of the world.  An unbalanced and incomplete approach, especially in some regions of the world, could not attain the desired results of building confidence.  Such measures, when applied in a comprehensive manner, could be conducive to achieving structures of security based on cooperation and openness and thus contribute to the wider objective of the renunciation of the threat or use of force. 

She expressed support for unilateral, bilateral, regional and multilateral measures adopted by some Governments aimed at reducing their military expenditures, thereby contributing to strengthening regional and international peace and security.  Confidence-building measures assisted in that regard.  In addition, she welcomed the working paper distributed by the Chairman of Working Group 2 and said the Movement was ready to engage constructively in the deliberations regarding the item on nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation.

RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG ( Brazil), endorsing the Rio Group statement, said the issues before the Commission were both sensitive and complex as they pertained to security, one of the prerogatives of States.  The Commission had a unique role to play in discussing future disarmament options and it should be in no one’s interest for the Commission to be seen as failing in that mandate.  Achieving positive and substantial results was even more important in view of the lack of tangible progress in other disarmament forums.

He stressed that the Commission was not a body that negotiated legally binding agreements, which was the responsibility of the Conference on Disarmament.  It therefore did not operate under the constraints that characterized such negotiations.  Its location within the scope of the General Assembly implied it was the right place to hold thematic discussions on disarmament and non-proliferation issues, which was particularly important, especially in the context of recurrent Security Council encroachment on General Assembly competencies related to international peace and security.

In 2006, the Commission had been able to overcome the difficulties that had prevented substantive discussion in the two previous years, he said.  This year’s substantive work would continue to be entrusted to two working groups with diverse responsibilities.  The issues were distinct in nature and scope, and advances in one should not be allowed to be contingent on progress in the other.  Working Group I on “ways and means to achieve nuclear disarmament” would carry on its discussions in an international environment that continued to be marked by impasses and distorted approaches.  The growing emphasis on strengthening non-proliferation mechanisms had not, regrettably, been accompanied by parallel efforts in terms of disarmament and enhancement of international cooperation for the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  Moreover, seeking new rationales for maintaining or developing new, more sophisticated nuclear weapons was a disturbing development that must be reversed.  Attempting to limit or otherwise reinterpret the right to development, research and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes recognized in article IV of NPT was unacceptable.

Noting that the Commission’s deliberations would take place right before the next NPT review process, he expressed hopes for a smooth start and a good substantive basis for the new review conference.  The strength, credibility and endurance of NPT rested on a fundamental trade-off that must be recognized and upheld for the Treaty to be effective and lasting on its own merits.  Consensus at the review process would depend primarily on the ability to keep the Treaty not only alive, but also functional.  It was all the more relevant that Working Group I seriously engage in debate on its subject matter and advances in the formulation of a substantive document.  The three coming weeks were an opportunity for an updated exchange of views on those issues.

Expressing his Government’s deep appreciation for the confidence that the Commission had shown by endorsing a Brazilian official to continue to chair Working Group II, charged with confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons, he said the work done in the last year had resulted in a text that could form the basis for further discussion, with a view to reaching consensus at a later stage for making concrete recommendations on the issue.  By definition, confidence-building measures were a valuable instrument to generate trust.  Their implementation had a positive impact in the consolidation of a more cooperative environment, essential to the full development of potential at the national and regional levels.  Brazil’s bilateral, regional and multilateral experience in that field confirmed that evaluation.

CHENG JINGYE ( China) said that, since last year, the multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation machinery had faced severe challenges.  Disarmament and non-proliferation should always complement each other and be promoted mutually without giving priority to one or the other.  The elimination of nuclear weapons was the common objective, and China had always advocated the complete elimination of all such weapons with the aim of ridding the world of them.

The two leading nuclear-weapon States should substantially reduce their arsenals, he said.  However, since that could not be accomplished overnight, it must be done in balanced and stable international conditions.  No country should use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against another, especially a non-nuclear-weapon State, or in a nuclear-weapon-free zone.  As a nuclear-weapon State, China had never evaded its responsibilities under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, had never participated in an arms race and would not do so in the future.  That policy was unique among nuclear-weapon States.

He stressed the need to address non-proliferation comprehensively, dealing both with its root causes and its symptoms, and to respect the security interests of other States.  In the pursuit of disarmament and non-proliferation, States should commit themselves to enhanced dialogue and confidence-building measures rather than confrontation, embargoes and threats.  International efforts should not deviate from the purpose of promoting regional and international peace and stability.  The legitimate rights of all countries to nuclear technology should be scrupulously respected, but its pursuit by any State under the guise of peaceful use must be prohibited.  It was particularly important to preserve the non-proliferation regime and especially NPT.

As a permanent member of the Security Council, China remained committed to a nuclear-free Korean peninsula and had played an active role in the six-party talks on that issue, he said.  Since last year’s nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, China had actively used its good offices to carry out discussions on denuclearization and the next phase of the talks.  Regarding Iran, it was important to promote peace and stability in the Middle East, but the rights of States to the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes must be respected. 

Turning to conventional weapons, he said the purpose of confidence-building measures was to promote trust and maintain stability.  The precondition of any confidence-building measure was to ensure undiminished security for all countries.  Different measures should be adopted in light of different situations and different times.  China attached great importance to actively promoting confidence-building measures in efforts for the further exploration in that field and was willing to cooperate with any other country.

RODRIGO MALMIERCA DIAZ ( Cuba) said the Commission was entering the second year of its three-year cycle on two important issues.  Reaching definitive results next year would depend significantly on what was achieved this year.  Noting that nuclear weapons proliferation had not stopped, he said the mere existence of such weapons represented a threat to international peace and security.  Nuclear disarmament must be the highest priority within the disarmament field.  Cuba opposed the intentions of some who ignored or minimized the importance of nuclear disarmament.  He added that there could not be a selective implementation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  Nuclear disarmament obligations could not continue to be disregarded in the context of that Treaty.  As a matter of high priority, he supported the conclusion of an international, legally binding agreement on security guarantees for non-nuclear States. 

He welcomed the efforts of the Chairman of Working Group I on recommendations for the achievement of nuclear disarmament, including the convening of consultations on the item during the intersessional period.  While he was open to other options, he considered the structure contained in the working paper presented by that Group to be a good one. 

Regarding the other item on the Commission’s agenda, he supported confidence-building measures as a means to strengthen international peace and security.  Such measures should abide by the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter, and should not be imposed but be voluntary in nature to ensure their success.  To be effective, such measures should respond to the special situation of the country or region in question.  The ever-increasing global military expenditure was a factor that contributed to a climate of distrust, he said, noting that one country spent more on military expenditure than the rest of the world combined.  He proposed the establishment of a United Nations-managed fund to which at least half of current military expenditure could be given in order to meet economic and social needs. 

YOUCEF YOUSFI (Algeria), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, recalled that his delegation had been pleased to greet the consensus that had met the new three-year cycle.  However, the outcome of the first part had been discouraging and even frustrating for all those committed and devoted to nuclear disarmament, owing to the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons and the growing threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  Nevertheless, those difficulties should not discourage member States since today, more than ever, there was a need for more cooperation to fulfil collective security, which was within reach as long as countries showed the necessary political will.

He said the Commission remained the ideal forum for dialogue on generating proposals and recommendations on the establishment of the new era of peace and security.  It was in that constructive spirit of dialogue and cooperation that Algeria wished to see consensus on the two items on the Commission’s agenda.  It was of the greatest importance that the objectives regain their full relevance in full compliance with the first General Assembly session on disarmament and non-proliferation.  There was also a need to re-energize the Conference on Disarmament as the only legitimate forum that could create binding legal instruments in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation.  NPT remained the cornerstone of both horizontal and vertical non-proliferation and it was important to apply it strictly and non-selectively.  With that in mind, African countries had recently reiterated, in Algiers last January, their inalienable right to nuclear energy for peace and development.

Regarding the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, he expressed the hope that a consensus would emerge this year on that subject, and that it would be greatly strengthened by a restatement of the Charter principles of legitimate self-defence, non-use of force or threat of force, respect for the independence and territorial integrity of States and the right of self-determination.  It was important to avoid a selective approach whereby only conventional weapons were targeted for disarmament and non-proliferation.

JEAN-MARIE EHOUZOU ( Benin) said that, despite the difficult situation in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation, States must tackle the current session of the Commission with optimism and resolve.  As a deliberative body, the Commission had a crucial role to play.  He urged all member States to begin a thorough and honest discussion on outstanding issues in a spirit of frank cooperation and with a view to seeking mutual advantage.  Nuclear weapons were a threat to international peace and security.  It was crucial for the Commission to be able to make progress in developing recommendations to achieve nuclear disarmament.  The total elimination of those weapons was a crucial requirement of the present time.  He appealed to those who had such weapons to stop their production and destroy their stockpiles.  He highlighted the intrinsic link between nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. 

Noting that the path to pursue was the implementation of internationally agreed treaties, he reaffirmed his country’s attachment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, as well as to the treaties concluded for the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones.  The agreements resulting from the 1995 and 2000 NPT Review Conferences should be implemented in a consistent fashion for a world free of nuclear weapons, in particular with respect to article VI of the Treaty.  Also, existing agreements should be reinforced by an international, legally binding treaty on security guarantees for non-nuclear-weapon States.  Likewise, the swift conclusion of a treaty on fissile material would be a great contribution to efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  In addition, the question of verification should be reviewed with all of the attention that it warranted. 

He launched an urgent appeal to the nuclear Powers to take proper measures to avoid the accidental use of nuclear weapons.  He was also deeply concerned about strategic plans calling for the advanced deployment of new nuclear weapons, which could only lead to the kind of confrontation seen during the cold war.  The prevention of the nuclearization of outer space was an important component of nuclear disarmament.  At the same time, he reaffirmed the right of developing countries to the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  He added that confidence-building measures in the area of conventional weapons were crucial for the maintenance of international peace and security.  It was necessary to promote an integrated view of confidence-building measures, taking into account the different perceptions of security threats and challenges that States had. 

OH JOON ( Republic of Korea) said that, while it had become customary to note the many setbacks that had befallen the multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation machinery, what truly mattered was not the setbacks themselves, but their consequences.  The accumulated failures of major negotiations had weakened confidence in the usefulness of multilateralism, and there was a temptation to fall into fatalism, which must be resisted.  To give up hope was to acquiesce to the gravest of threats to international peace and security.  The Commission could play a role in reversing the current trend.

When the current session ended, a new NPT review cycle would begin almost immediately afterwards, he said.  The Commission could contribute to that subsequent effort by agreeing on recommendations for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, which could then become useful reference points during the NPT review process.  To break the current impasse in the NPT regime, it would be necessary to forego the notion that each party could wait to fulfil its obligations until someone else moved first.  Cooperation was crucial, but so was action.  Despite its mounting need for a peaceful nuclear fuel cycle, the Republic of Korea had signed the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in 1992, thereby voluntarily renouncing nuclear enrichment or reprocessing facilities on its soil.

To address the challenge of nuclear proliferation more effectively, he said, it was necessary to achieve universal adoption of the IAEA Additional Protocol, which would enhance global confidence in the NPT system by bolstering its monitoring and verification capabilities.  Parallel efforts should be made to strengthen the existing export control regimes and measures to secure nuclear materials and sensitive technologies so they did not fall into the wrong hands.  In particular, the international community should make a concerted effort to cope with illicit brokering activities, a growing contemporary threat, as revealed through the unravelling of the A.Q. Khan network.  Momentum was building for the formation of an international consensus on the strengthening of brokering controls.

Turning to conventional weapons, he said they posed a destructive threat no less serious than that posed by weapons of mass destruction.  The unrestrained proliferation of small arms and light weapons not only fuelled and exacerbated conflicts, but also hampered socio-economic and human development.  Since its inception in 1992, the Register of Conventional Arms had enhanced the level of transparency in military affairs worldwide.  Practical confidence-building measures should begin in areas where progress could more easily be achieved before moving on to more difficult areas.  As trust could not be built overnight, there was a need for patience with such a step-by-step approach.  At the same time, there was a need not to use a lack of progress on the most controversial issues as an excuse for inaction in other areas.  That was the basis for the Republic of Korea’s approach to the promotion of inter-Korean reconciliation.

JOHN BRAVACO (United States) said that the drafting of consensus recommendations on the matters before the Commission would be a difficult enterprise in the best of times, let alone at a time of heightened international tension brought about by Iran’s defiance of the international community as it pursued a nuclear weapons capability in violation of its Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and International Atomic Energy Agency obligations, as well as two unanimously adopted chapter VII Security Council resolutions.  While the United States recognized Iran’s right to peaceful, civil nuclear energy under relevant articles of NPT, that right came with several responsibilities.  Paramount among them was an obligation to forgo the pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.  Iran’s failure to comply with that basic obligation represented a grave threat to global proliferation and disarmament efforts. 

Likewise, he said, Iran’s vice-chairmanship of the Commission threatened the credibility and efficacy of multilateral efforts to ensure global peace and security.  When unanimously adopting resolutions 1737 and 1747, the Security Council acted on behalf of a concerned international community, and made clear that now was not the time for business as usual with the Iranian regime.  Allowing Iran -– 1 of only 11 nations subjected to Security Council chapter VII sanctions –- to serve as Vice-Chair of a United Nations body charged with examining and making recommendations on nuclear proliferation and disarmament was contradictory and inconsistent with the intent of the Council.  Iran’s presence on the Commission’s bureau undermined the body’s integrity and credibility.  “By allowing Iran to serve as Vice-Chair of this Commission, we are undermining UNDC’s legitimacy and endangering our success.”

He noted that the Commission’s Chairman was assuming his responsibilities at a time when the international community had expressed its grave concern regarding the threat to international security posed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  “You face a heavy burden and distinct challenge to lead the Commission towards a productive way forward, to ensure that our work is not hijacked by the actions and policies of a country that defies the Security Council, and to lay the foundation for restoring the damaged image of this body.”  Indeed, while the United States remained committed to making the Commission an efficient and effective multilateral instrument -– one that remained relevant to twenty-first century threats to international peace and security –- the results of the current session would inform his country’s future deliberations about the role of the Commission, and the value of participating in its proceedings.

JORGE URBINA ( Costa Rica), associating himself with the Rio Group, expressed concern over the highly restricted scope of United Nations disarmament activities.  The twentieth century had ended with the largest number of victims of armed conflict in history.  Only substantial progress on disarmament would make the twenty-first century a more civilized one and one with less spilt blood.  Peace would be closer than ever before if the resources expended on weapons were devoted to actions that would lead to greater achievements in the field of disarmament.

Recalling that the General Assembly had decided to initiate a process leading to an authentic binding treaty on the arms trade, he called on all States to adhere to that initiative because peace, security and sustainable development would not remain mere dreams if firm steps, concrete agreements and compromises were directed towards achieving established goals.  While there were obstacles in the way of that proposed treaty, such as the arms dealers who did lucrative business without regard to the blood spilt, the road towards disarmament would be paved with increased expenditure on social programmes worldwide, which in turn would have an impact on human security, which in turn would have an impact on disarmament in general.

HOANG CHI TRUNG ( Viet Nam), aligning himself with the Non-Aligned Movement statement, noted that nuclear weapons continued to pose the most serious threat to international peace and security.  In light of the serious danger of terrorists gaining access to nuclear weapons material, that threat loomed even larger for the whole of humankind.  For many years Viet Nam had supported the total elimination of nuclear arsenals and once again underscored the importance of the 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice, which clearly stated the obligation to pursue in good faith and conclude negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects, under strict international control.

It was universally recognized that NPT constituted the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament, he said.  Nuclear-weapon States should comply fully with all their obligations and commitments under article VI, including the Thirteen Practical Steps, to which they had agreed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference with a view to accomplishing the total elimination of nuclear weapons.  In view of the very limited progress achieved in that area recently, it had become even more pertinent and justifiable to urge that the nuclear-weapon States stop the improvement, development, production and stockpiling of nuclear warheads and their delivery systems, and as interim measures, to de-alert and deactivate their nuclear weapons.

Pending the total elimination of nuclear weapons, efforts to conclude a universal, unconditional and legally binding instrument on security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States should be pursued in a matter of priority, he said.  At the same time, respect for the legitimate right of all States parties to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination in conformity with article IV of the Treaty and the IAEA safeguards system was a fundamental pillar to consolidate and enhance the compliance and verification system for the non-proliferation regime.  Based on Viet Nam’s consistent striving for peace, opposing the arms race and preventing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, the President had decided on 15 November 2006 that the country would sign the Additional Protocol to the IAEA Safeguards Agreement.

He expressed the hope that confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms would be further developed as a way to strengthen international peace and security.  At the same time, such measures could not substitute for disarmament measures.  Viet Nam stressed the importance of reducing military expenditures, in accordance with the principle of undiminished security at the lowest level of armaments.  Viet Nam also supported unilateral, bilateral, regional and international measures adopted with a view to reducing military spending, thereby contributing to the strengthening of regional and international peace and security.

Statement in Right of Reply

SEYED MOHAMMAD ALI ROBATJAZI ( Iran) said he wanted to respond to the allegations made by the United States representative.  It was the second time in the Commission’s current three-year cycle that the United States representative had shamefully failed to respect the established practice of the United Nations system, by which 54 countries of the Asian Group had endorsed the vice-chairmanship of Iran.  The United States representative, instead of involving himself in a futile effort to make a fuss about that practice in order to appease the Zionist lobby, should have told that lobby that undermining that practice was out of his hands.  The United States was trying to create a smoke screen to distract from its abysmal record in the field. 

He went on to provide examples of what he termed non-compliance with NPT by the United States, a self-proclaimed champion of compliance.  Among other things, the United States had developed a new nuclear weapons system; replaced the principle of destruction with the policy of decommissioning; abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; continued the deployment of nuclear forces in other territories; signed an agreement of nuclear cooperation with Israel, whose nuclear arsenal represented the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East; and rejected the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, not only damaging the prospects for its entry into force but also undermining the upholding of that agreement in international forums.  It was a habit of the United States to accept commitments at first and to then reject them. 

Iran’s nuclear programme was completely peaceful, he stressed.  The Security Council’s actions were invalid and unhelpful.  There was no need to involve the Council in Iran’s nuclear programme, especially when it was failing in its task to tackle real threats to international peace and security.  He added that, as recently as February 2007, the IAEA Director-General had stated that Iran had provided the Agency with access to its nuclear material and facilities. 

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.