13 April 2004


Press Release

Disarmament Commission                                     

2004 Substantive Session                                   

260th Meeting (PM)


Adjournment under Consideration

Faced with the possible postponement or adjournment of the 2004 substantive session of the Disarmament Commission in the absence of an agreed agenda halfway through the three-week session, delegations expressed divergent views on the best course of action and agreed to resume the discussion tomorrow morning in a formal meeting.

The Commission, whose membership is universal, generally considers the same two items each year for a three-year cycle, including one related to nuclear disarmament.  Last year, it was unable to agree on concrete proposals to advance either nuclear disarmament or confidence building in the field of conventional arms, departing from its usual practice of completing consideration of two items in three years with the consensus adoption of guidelines and recommendations.  A new cycle was to begin this year.

Prompting the discussion this afternoon, the Chairman read out his proposal, as follows:  “Guidelines for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in all its aspects, including, in particular, strategies for dealing with illicit activities that undermine nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation objectives; Elements for verification mechanisms and instruments of conventional arms agreements; and Measures for improving the effectiveness of the United Nations disarmament machinery, without prejudice to efforts within the framework of SSODIV.”  (That acronym refers to the fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament). 

During three formal meetings since the session began on 5 April, proposals were circulated, including by the Non-Aligned Movement of countries (NAM), the European Union (EU) and the United States.  Those had included consideration of strategies for dealing with illicit activities that undermine nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation objectives (United States), guidelines for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in all its aspects (NAM); and enhancing verification mechanisms and instruments of the international system of treaties and agreements against the spread of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery (EU).

Today, opinion was divided between pursuing consensus beyond this mid-way point in the substantive session, since, some had suggested, momentum was building towards some agreement, or adjourning the substantive session, which was bogged down in informal consultations, and then reconvene it some time after the Preparatory Committee for the 2005 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), scheduled for 26 April to 7 May. 

Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement of countries, the Indonesian representative reiterated his position, as outlined by the Chairman, that the session could be adjourned and reconvened sometime after the Preparatory Committee for the 2005 NPT Review Conference.  Meanwhile, he had encouraged the Chairman to continue the informal consultations within that time frame, with the Chairman’s proposal of 12 April as a basis for further discussion.  He stressed that the proposal should be seen in its entirety and not taken on the basis of individual elements only.

The representative of Ireland, on behalf of the European Union, said she had thought that everyone was closer to reaching a consensus.  Preliminary reactions to the Chairman’s proposal had been “quite positive”.  Although those were “quite far” from the Union’s original proposals, it was prepared to work towards consensus on that basis, and it wished to spend the remaining days of this week to try to achieve that consensus.  If the session was adjourned now, in the formal sense of that term, the momentum would be lost, with all the attendant difficulties of trying to “recrank” the engine.  It still made sense to try and reach agreement on the substantive items for the current cycle within the current session.

There were no definitive answers from Washington to the Chairman’s proposals, the United States’ delegate said, but they were working hard on the basis of those proposals, which offered a basis for reaching some agreement in the next few days.  Whether that was one or two, or several days, he was not sure.  But, he thought it was possible.  It would be a shame to lose what everybody had called “the momentum”.  He was an inveterate optimist, but he thought that if the Commission continued its session, it had a “good chance” of coming up with some useful work to do over the next few years.

Shedding light on both the rules of procedure of the Commission and the 2004 calendar at Headquarters, Commission Secretary Timur Alasaniya explained that, in the case of a postponement to a later date, the Commission would have to get in a long line for June or July.  The way it stood now, there was no possibility to have additional services beyond what was planned, without additional resources.  The rules of procedure concerning a request or motion for an adjournment required that such a decision be made by consensus.  Only a meeting, and not a session, could be adjourned by a vote, he explained.

Statements in the discussion were also made by the representatives of Egypt, Argentina, Iran, Cuba, Japan, Mexico, Russian Federation, Philippines, China, Pakistan, Algeria, and the Republic of Korea.  The Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Nobuyasu Abe, responded to some questions.

The Disarmament Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.

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For information media. Not an official record.