29 June 1999


29 June 1999

Press Release


19990629 Says Agenda Must Be Comprehensive and Not Selective

Following is the text of remarks made today in New York by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette to the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters:

It is good to see you all here again, pursuing your vital work. Let me start by expressing my gratitude to the Chairman for 1999, Ms. Thérèse Delpech, for her report on the Board's discussions this past January. I would also like to thank all the Board members, a majority of whom are new to this forum, for their service.

In the final months of the twentieth century, many observers are forecasting a gloomy future for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, as well as rough times ahead for all efforts towards disarmament. Aspects of the war in the Balkans have raised questions about the direction of international cooperation in security matters and the role of the United Nations. The need for creative thinking and diplomacy is clear.

Global negotiations on nuclear disarmament remain at a standstill. They are likely to remain in this condition until the Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START II) treaty is ratified by the Russian Federation and until START III negotiations are begun on bringing down the levels of nuclear weapons even further.

On 20 June, the United States and Russia issued a Joint Statement that offers some hope in the revitalization of the START process, as discussions will soon resume on new reductions in strategic nuclear arms. Let us hope for early and positive results.

The deadlock over nuclear arms reductions is frustrating progress in the Conference on Disarmament, which has now finished the second part of its session this year without a comprehensive and balanced programme of work. The

Conference should not be left to languish. Pre-negotiations in some areas would be better than no negotiations at all.

As for efforts to conclude a fissile material treaty, this goal will not be achieved overnight. Any further delay in negotiating such a treaty would only postpone efforts to reduce the global security threats from such material.

As with so many of our efforts, the progress we do manage to make is fragile. The adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996 was an important step forward in the non-proliferation regime, reflecting the fact that an overwhelming majority of United Nations Member States, supported by international public opinion, want a permanent end to all nuclear weapons testing.

However, only 18 of the 44 countries whose ratification is essential to the treaty's entry into force have ratified the agreement. The United States, Russian Federation and China must set an example here. India and Pakistan must also live up to their declarations of intent to sign announced during the General Assembly last year. The Secretary-General, as Depositary of the Treaty, will soon be convening a conference of the States that have ratified it to assess what measures can be taken to accelerate its entry into force.

Despite the delay, we should at least be grateful that there is an international treaty covering nuclear testing. For there is no such treaty regulating missiles.

The recent tests of medium-range missiles in South Asia, North-East Asia and the Middle East have underscored the need for multilateral norms pertaining to the development and possession of such weapons. Indeed, there are reasonable fears that without such norms, missiles carrying weapons of mass destruction will proliferate and further jeopardize international peace and security.

In a separate but related development, recent policy decisions by some countries to develop or deploy highly-capable missile defence systems have raised concerns over the future of the Treaty on the limitation of Anti- Ballistic Missile Systems (ABM Treaty). Concerns have also been raised about the prospect of increased military expenditures spurred by a new arms race.

It was therefore heartening that the Presidents of the Russian Federation and the United States reaffirmed last week the obligations of both countries under that treaty, and that both leaders termed the treaty a "cornerstone of strategic stability".

- 3 - Press Release DSG/SM/62 DC/2649 29 June 1999

Our concern about weapons of mass destruction should not obscure the devastating impact of conventional weapons, in particular of small arms. As you know, the General Assembly has decided to convene an international conference on illicit trafficking in small arms not later than the year 2001.

That conference offers an opportunity for action on an issue on which international cooperation through the United Nations can make a difference. The courageous efforts of the West African moratorium on arms transfers, the European code of conduct on arms sales, and the Organization of American States (OAS) ban on transfers of firearms should be supported by the international community and serve as guides for what can be achieved.

Looking ahead in broad terms, there is an urgent need for the global community to agree on a new agenda for disarmament.

Such an agenda must be comprehensive and not selective. Though no international conference on overall disarmament is in view, there will be opportunities in the next several years to assess progress and make commitments for future action.

One such opportunity will be the Millennium Summit, which is scheduled to be held in September of next year. Disarmament will be among the principal themes to be addressed in the report that the Secretary-General will be preparing for that Summit. The retreat you are to hold on the next century's disarmament and international security agenda will no doubt generate some useful ideas, and I look forward to hearing about them.

As usual, your agenda is urgent and wide-ranging. Thank you again for contributing your expertise to the United Nations. I wish you the best for a successful session.

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For information media. Not an official record.