Press Releases

    DCF/442
                                                                                                                                        4 June 2004

    Conference on Disarmament Hears Statements by Poland, Russian Federation, United States and Sudan

    President of Conference Summarizes Outcome of Informal Plenary on Prevention of Arms Race in Outer Space

    (Reissued as received.)

    GENEVA, 3 June (UN Information Service) -- The Conference on Disarmament today heard statements from Poland, Russian Federation, United States and the Sudan on efforts to ensure the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

    The President of the Conference, Ambassador Khasbazaryn Bekhbat of Mongolia, speaking in his national capacity, summarized the outcome of the informal plenary held on Thursday, 27 May, on the issue of the prevention of an arms race in outer space.  He said delegates had reflected that the civil and commercial as well as the so-called legitimate military use of space needed to be secured, and that the legal ad hoc framework in place had become insufficient to prevent the weaponization of outer space.

    Mr. Bekhbat said many delegations said the re-establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee on prevention of an arms race in outer space in the Conference, with an appropriate mandate, would be highly welcomed.  However, further harmonization of views was still required to ensure consensus.  Proposals were also made to establish an expert group within the Conference, or at least to convene meetings of the Conference in the presence of experts, with a view of arriving at a common understanding of various terms and definitions relevant to the issue. 

    Poland spoke about the First Anniversary Meeting of the Proliferation Security Initiative which was organized by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Krakow, Poland, from 31 May to 1 June to commemorate the first anniversary of launching the initiative by United States President George Bush.  The aims of the meeting included emphasizing the Proliferation Security Initiative as a global initiative, further development of international support for the aims and objectives of the initiative, and promotion of broad international cooperation and participation in activities concerning the initiative.

    The Russian Federation said that on 31 May, the Russian Federation had joined the core group of the Proliferation Security Initiative. The initiative would be useful to prevent the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the possibility that terrorists might get their hands on these weapons.  The threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction had a global nature and the response to the problem should also be global. 

    The United States reported on the “Global Threat Reduction Initiative” which was announced last week in Vienna by the United States Secretary of Energy.  The United Sates would devote $450 million to this initiative which was designed to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear and radiological material that could be used to build a nuclear or radiological weapon.  

    The Sudan, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said all Arab countries had adopted clear policies on nuclear disarmament, and they had ratified all the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation treaties in order to free the region and the world of weapons of mass destruction.  It was more important than ever to free the Middle East from weapons of mass destruction. The final document of the Fifth Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference stipulated that Israel should accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and that all its facilities should be inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency.  Arab countries asked the international community to assume its responsibility in implementing the treaty.

    Israel, responding briefly to the statement by the Sudan, said it was regrettable that the Sudanese Ambassador had chosen to stray from the path of the Conference and had attempted to politicize it.

    At the beginning of the meeting, the Conference decided to accept requests from Saudi Arabia and the Sudan to attend the 2004 session of the Conference as observers.

    Following the public plenary, an informal plenary was held on the effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.

    The next plenary of the Conference will be held at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 10 June.  The President of the Conference said it would be followed by an informal plenary to discuss item five of the agenda of the Conference concerning new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons; radiological weapons.

    Statements

    STANISLAW PRZYGODZKI (Poland) said he wished to share with the Conference information about the First Anniversary Meeting of the Proliferation Security Initiative which was organized by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Krakow, Poland from 31 May to 1 June. The Statement of the Chairperson of the meeting summarized well its goals and proceedings, and he would now read out that statement.

    Mr. Przygodzki said that the Chairperson of the First Anniversary Meeting of the Proliferation Security Initiative said that they were meeting to commemorate the first anniversary of launching the initiative by United States President George Bush in his speech in Krakow on 31 May 2003.  The meeting brought together senior representatives from over 60 countries.  The aims of the meeting included emphasizing the Proliferation Security Initiative as a global initiative, further development of international support for the aims and objectives of the initiative, and promotion of broad international cooperation and participation in activities concerning the Proliferation Security Initiative.  The initiative was not about structure and organization, but operation and cooperation.  During one year, the Proliferation Security Initiative had been transformed from a vision into an active network of partnership and practical cooperation.

    The Chairperson of the meeting said that the Proliferation Security Initiative was an important element in responding to the growing challenge posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to or from States and non-State actors worldwide. The meeting confirmed the importance of continued outreach efforts to build the Proliferation Security Initiative and to make it harder for proliferators to engage in this deadly trade.

    After reading out the statement, Mr. Przygodzki said that he wished to point out that the need to adapt the non-proliferation policies and approaches to the new threats and challenges was self-evident.  One of the main tasks was not to allow weapons of mass destruction to fall into the hands of terrorists.  The cooperation of States in preventing such a development with all its unimaginable consequences and in ensuring the success of non-proliferation arrangements was of fundamental importance.  Poland welcomed the decision by the Russian Federation to join the Proliferation Security Initiative as a new member of the core group.  Poland was also deeply convinced that the success of non-proliferation efforts like the Proliferation Security Initiative would lead to progress in the disarmament initiative.  He expressed a strong belief that the Conference would be able to generate enough innovative thinking and political will to move it from its current stalemate.

    ANTON VASILIEV (Russian Federation) said that on 31 May, the Russian Federation had joined the core group of the Proliferation Security Initiative which was launched by President Bush in May 2003 to identify, prevent and suppress illicit trafficking in materials and delivery systems of weapons of mass destruction.  The initiative would be useful to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the possibility that terrorists might get their hands on these weapons. The threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction had a global nature and the response to the problem should also be global. 

    Mr. Vasiliev pointed out that in order to ensure the success of the Proliferation Security Initiative, it needed to be compatible with international law and consistent with national laws. The Russian Federation considered that the Proliferation Security Initiative was a component of the global strategy to strengthen the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. There was also a need to ensure that the activities of the initiative did not create obstacles to legitimate scientific work.

    JACKIE SANDERS (United States) said that she wished to report to the Conference on the “Global Threat Reduction Initiative” which was announced last week in Vienna by the United States Secretary of Energy.  The United Sates would devote $450 million to this initiative which was designed to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear and radiological material that could be used to build a nuclear or radiological weapon.  In response to an evolving proliferation threat, the Global Threat Reduction Initiative would focus exclusively on efforts to secure and dispose of a broad range of nuclear and radiological materials around the world that were vulnerable to theft.  Among other things, the initiative called for partnering with the Russian Federation to repatriate all Russian-origin fresh highly enriched nuclear fuel by the end of 2005 and accelerate and complete the return of all Russian spent fuel by 2010. 

    Ms. Sanders said that while the current focus was on bilateral cooperation between the Russian Federation and the United States, it was clear that a true non-proliferation regime depended on the cooperation and collaboration of efforts by all members of the international community.  Reducing the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction remained the highest priority for the United States.  The delegation of the United States would address this topic in more detail next week at the informal plenary.

    MOHAMED ELHASSAN AHMED ELHAJ (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that the members of the Arab Group attached great importance to the topic of nuclear disarmament.  They had expressed their will to create stability and peace at the regional and international levels.  All Arab countries had adopted clear policies on nuclear disarmament, and they had ratified all the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation treaties in order to free the region and the world of weapons of mass destruction.  The League of Arab States had set up a committee of experts to prepare a draft on a zone which was free from weapons of mass destruction and nuclear disarmament.  It was more important than ever to free the Middle East from weapons of mass destruction.

    The Sudan and Arab countries were fully convinced that the NPT was one of the most important treaties and that it had been effective.  No one doubted that the fact that so many countries had acceded or ratified the NPT was an indication of the importance attached to the removal of that spectre.  The NPT was the cornerstone for non-proliferation.  All Arab countries had acceded to or ratified the NPT which should be extended indefinitely.

    Mr. Elhaj said the final document of the Fifth NPT Review Conference stipulated that Israel should accede to the NPT and that all its facilities should be inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Arab countries asked the international community to assume its responsibility in implementing the treaty.  He also referred to General Assembly resolutions which called for the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons in the Middle East and which called on Israel to open its facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency.  There should be international efforts to ensure that the Middle East was free of weapons of mass destruction.  Peace and security in the Middle East were essential for the stability and peace of the world at large.  This was the responsibility of the international community which all the members of the Conference represented.

    YAAKOV LEVY (Israel) welcomed the arrival of the new Ambassador of the Sudan but said it was regrettable that he chose to stray from the path of the forum and had attempted to politicize it.  He reminded the Sudan of the parameters for the discussion traditionally observed in the Conference. 

    KHASBAZARYN BEKHBAT (Mongolia), President of the Conference, said that in his national capacity, he would give a brief summary on the informal plenary which was held on Thursday, 27 May, on the prevention of an arms race in outer space.  The subject had drawn a lot of interest, and 18 Member States had made statements.  Without attempting to provide an exhaustive summary of the discussion, he wished to share some personal observations which identified a number of key elements raised during the discussion.  The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies of 1967, otherwise known as the Outer Space Treaty, stipulated that “the exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind”.  The discussion had manifested again that the use of space in daily activities and applications was constantly gaining in importance and it was to be feared that any disruption would have a dramatic impact on life on earth. 

    Mr. Behkbat said delegates had reflected that the civil and commercial as well as the so-called legitimate military use of space needed to be secured.  This legitimate military use of space was often referred to as passive military use such as surveillance and information gathering.  It was perceived by many States that the placement of weapons in space could be a stimulus for the development of new weapon systems, could trigger an arms race and eventually could lead to the collapse of the international security system.  The legal ad hoc framework which had been in place for several decades was based on the Outer Space Treaty and other instruments.  It was underscored by several delegations that these instruments and measures had become insufficient to prevent the weaponization of outer space.  Moreover, many States believed that at a time when there were no weapons in space yet, it had become imperative to address the issue sooner rather than later in order to avoid attempting to negotiate a disarmament or non-proliferation agreement a posteriori.

    Mr. Behkbat said that many delegations had pointed out that various relevant General Assembly resolutions had stipulated that the Conference on Disarmament had the primary role in the negotiation of a multilateral agreement or agreements as appropriate on the prevention of an arms race in outer space.  Therefore, the re-establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee on prevention of an arms race in outer space in the Conference, with an appropriate mandate, would be highly welcomed.  However, further harmonization of views was still required to ensure consensus.  Awaiting the re-establishment of a subsidiary body, some members proposed other avenues of approach, including steps to build confidence and maintain the normative threshold preventing the deployment of weapons in space, possibly through a code of conduct, as well as a moratorium on testing and development of weapons to be put in space.  Proposals were also made to establish an expert group within the Conference, or at least to convene meetings of the Conference in the presence of experts, with a view of arriving at a common understanding of various terms and definitions relevant to the issue.

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