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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 13, February - March 1997

Agenda But No Work at the CD
by Rebecca Johnson


The Conference on Disarmament (CD) managed on 13 February to adopt an eight point agenda, but is still deadlocked on its work programme. It has therefore been impossible to convene any ad hoc committees or appoint special coordinators on anything. Proposals have been made to negotiate on three issues: a ban on the production of fissile materials for weapons purposes (fissban); anti-personnel landmines (AP mines); and nuclear disarmament. These were therefore the focus of formal and informal consultations and discussions, with the President, in groups and in plenary. A few delegations also called for the CD to undertake negotiations (or at least further discussions) on negative security assurances (NSA), prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS) and regional conventional disarmament.

The European countries are deeply divided over the issues of landmines and nuclear disarmament. On AP mines, France and Britain are backing a joint initiative for a phased approach, beginning with a ban on exports and transfers. However, Belgium, Austria and Ireland are among the staunchest supporters of the Ottawa fast-track, aiming for a total ban on the production, stockpiling, transfer and use of all AP mines by the end of this year. In an attempt to paper over the cracks, diplomats in Geneva cobbled together a draft mandate that put a phased approach in the context of the objective of a full ban. This has been discussed, but not yet agreed, by the western group members. The formal position of most western group members is that they would not oppose negotiations in the CD providing that they complemented and reinforced the Ottawa Process. Similarly, Russia, China and several non-aligned and eastern European States are saying little, although they want to retain the option to use AP mines as long as possible. This has left Mexico carrying the burden of out-front opposition to putting landmines negotiations into the CD, although its formal position is that it remains to be convinced that the CD is the appropriate forum. It now looks unlikely that the CD will have taken a decision on this issue before the next meeting of the Ottawa Process, in Brussels, June 24-27. It is hoped that the prospects for success of the fast track approach will be much clearer by then, which could simplify the options before the CD.

The chances for achieving a fissile materials ban in the CD look less and less promising. Despite repeated calls from many countries for negotiations to commence immediately, and despite the view reiterated by both western and non-aligned delegations that the Shannon mandate is broad enough to enable the issue of stocks to be addressed within the context of negotiations, incentive is lacking. The reasons include linkage with a timetable for nuclear disarmament and a growing lack of enthusiasm from some of the nuclear-weapon States, who are no longer confident that multilateral negotiations will deliver adherence by the threshold States, and from some of the non-aligned, who consider that the 'value added' to the moratoria is not sufficient to warrant the time and resources of multilateral negotiations unless the fissban has a stronger disarmament component, especially with respect to existing stocks of plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU).

The elimination of nuclear weapons remains the highest priority for many States. Since the western nuclear powers, Britain, France and the United States, continue to oppose an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament, the deadlock on this conditions the overall paralysis in the CD. With Jesse Helms sitting on ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in the United States, it seems unlikely that the Clinton Administration would risk any positive moves on any other area of arms control that the hardline Republicans might portray as 'weakness' on defence until that important treaty is through. It is also unlikely that Britain would show flexibility before its general election, called for 1 May. While few now anticipate any dramatic change of policy on nuclear matters if the Labour Party wins, a more constructive attitude towards negotiations might well be forthcoming, which could result in withdrawal of Britain's adamant opposition to a nuclear disarmament committee.

Since so little is happening in the CD, Geneva's disarmament delegations have devoted the majority of their time over the past two months to other issues, including strengthening the verification provisions of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), where progress is slow and painstaking, and getting agreement on the CTBT Organisation.

Agenda Agreed

The CD requires both an agenda and a programme of work. The generalised agenda, based on the 10 point decalogue adopted at the UN Special Session on Disarmament in 1978, is a form of ritual. Therefore, adoption of the following agenda by the 755th CD plenary, chaired by Ambassador Joun Yung Sun of the Republic of Korea, did not get the CD working, but only took the small step of resolving a theological (and, some would say, diversionary) procedural debate.

1997 Agenda

  1. Cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament
  2. Prevention of nuclear war, including all related matters
  3. Prevention of an arms race in outer space
  4. Effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons
  5. New types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons; radiological weapons
  6. Comprehensive programme of disarmament
  7. Transparency in armaments
  8. Consideration and adoption of the annual report and any other report, as appropriate, to the General Assembly of the United Nations.

In an oblique reference regarding the debate over whether a ban on landmines should be negotiated at the CD, the President read into the record the following understanding: 'If there is a consensus in the Conference to deal with any issues they could be dealt with within this agenda.'

As acknowledged by the President, the 1997 agenda is the same as the 1996 agenda minus the comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT). In joining consensus, Germany stated a formal reservation over repeating an annual formula. Germany would have preferred the agenda to have explicitly included the concrete issues under discussion, such as the fissban and landmines, rather than vague and generalised categories.

No agreement on work

With the agenda agreed, the substantive and more difficult question remains: what issues should the CD negotiate or prepare to negotiate? The programme of work has to be much more specific, bearing only a loose relationship with the agenda, as evidenced by the President's on-the-record understanding. Proposals have been made for ad hoc committees on three issues:

  • fissile ban convention
  • nuclear disarmament
  • anti-personnel landmines

Attempts by Sun to focus informal discussions on these three topics caused a furious exchange in the 754th plenary on 6 February. The Mexican Ambassador, Antonio de Icaza, said categorically that 'Mines have no role to play here' and that his delegation would not participate in discussions aimed at putting landmines into the CD's programme of work. In Mexico's view, priority should be accorded first to nuclear disarmament, then to negative security assurances (NSA), and thirdly to regional conventional disarmament. Ambassador Mounir Zahran said that Egypt would not oppose any new item but had reservations over separating the fissban item from nuclear disarmament: 'the 'fissban' or 'cut-off'...could be discussed as a sub-item of nuclear disarmament.' He would also consider security assurances, the prevention of nuclear war and the nuclear arms race as sub-items of nuclear disarmament. India's Ambassador Arundhati Ghose underlined the 'paramount importance' of the issue of nuclear disarmament.

For the United States, Ambassador Stephen Ledogar responded to de Icaza's objections to discussing landmines, by pointing out that 'there is no consensus in this Conference on what is called "nuclear disarmament"'. He said that the US was opposed 'to the concept of the Conference on Disarmament doing "nuclear disarmament'". China did not want the discussions to be limited to only three topics, arguing that the CD should establish ad hoc committees on NSA as well as on outer space. France, the Netherlands and Britain commended the President on his initiative and put in a plea for trying to 'get this show on the road'. Pakistan's Ambassador Munir Akram suggested getting the agenda agreed first, followed by discussions on negotiating mechanisms and work programme. However, he warned against preordaining the items for consultation.

The debate which spilled into the 6 February plenary was just the tip of an iceberg of bilateral and group consultations with successive presidents, first Sun, and then Pavel Grecu of Romania. Handing on his presidency to Russia, Grecu told the 760th plenary on 13 March that the consultations had been useful. He emphasised that the purpose of addressing the three issues separately was for each to be approached on its own merits, without the 'destructive linkage' that bedeviled the Conference. However, though he thanked everyone for their cooperation, he had to admit defeat.

Notwithstanding the objections to the Presidential identification of the three items for priority consideration, and alternative suggestions for work put forward by China, Mexico and others, the fissban, nuclear disarmament and landmines are in fact the three areas under serious consideration. It therefore makes sense to consider each of these in turn.


In March 1995 the 38-member CD accepted a report from the Canadian Special Coordinator, Gerald Shannon, with a mandate to negotiate a 'non-discriminatory, multilateral and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices'. The CD has since been unable to convene a committee to do this. During discussions over a mandate in 1994 and 1995, the major difficulty was over stockpiles, the result of past production. The five nuclear-weapon States, India and Israel (though not yet a CD member) were prepared only to negotiate a cut-off of future production of plutonium and HEU for nuclear weapons. Pakistan, Egypt, Iran and Algeria were most prominent among the countries which argued for past production also to be taken into account, arguing that a cut-off would leave stockpiles untouched, thereby merely reinforcing the inequalities of the nuclear status quo. However, since 1995, the major point of contention is the relationship between the fissban and nuclear disarmament.

When the G21 group of non-aligned States were working on their programme of action for nuclear disarmament in August 1996, India insisted that four measures identified for immediate negotiations should be addressed concurrently. These were:

- a multilaterally negotiated legally binding instrument to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons;

- a convention prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons;

- a treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons; and

- a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.

The 'concurrent' addition was unsuccessfully opposed by some G-21 delegations. South Africa's Ambassador Selebi called it a recipe 'to block progress on all fronts'. Although a number of G-21 delegations privately agreed, only South Africa and Chile refused to co-sponsor the programme, which now forms the basis for G-21 discussions over a mandate for the proposed nuclear disarmament committee. The fact that the fissban came fourth in the list was also not lost on the rest of the CD, although the G-21 claimed the order was unimportant since the measures were to be addressed concurrently.

Since then, alliances have shifted slightly, but no real progress has been made. During 1997, numerous western and European countries called on the CD to convene the committee immediately and get on with fissban negotiations. Many referred to the priority accorded the fissban in the programme of action on nuclear disarmament in the Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament adopted by NPT parties in May 1995. Spain's Ambassador Amador Martinez Morcillo called it the 'next, complementary step'. New Zealand's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Don McKinnon, said that a fissban would 'constitute a prerequisite step...towards a nuclear-weapon-free world'. He emphasised that a fissban should cap the fissile materials available not only to the declared nuclear weapon States but also to those with unsafeguarded enrichment or reprocessing plants, and would 'contribute to ensuring the conditions under which the process of nuclear disarmament can broaden, constrain the opportunities for vertical proliferation and help prevent any future resumption of the nuclear arms race.'

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Poland, Eugeniusz Wyzner, echoed this view, saying that a fissban represented 'a significant supplement to the NPT and CTBT'. Sweden's Foreign Minister, Lena Hjelm-Wallen, agreed, saying the fissban treaty was 'of the highest significance both for continued nuclear disarmament and for nuclear non-proliferation'. Hungary's Ambassador Peter Naray said that the fissban was 'ripe for serious negotiations' and that the mandate in the March 1995 Shannon report 'accommodates the different shades of opinion' with respect to existing stocks. Slovakia's Ambassador Maria Krasnohorska concurred: 'Special Coordinator Ambassador Shannon's mandate can serve as the basis of the ad hoc committee's work [and] is broad enough to meet all legitimate concerns.' Switzerland also encouraged the CD to get on with it, while Ireland's Ambassador Anne Anderson called for an immediate start to fissban negotiations 'on the basis of the Shannon mandate'. Austria's Ambassador Harald Kreid shared the view of non-aligned nations that nuclear disarmament was of utmost importance, but urged the CD to start work on a fissban, for 'if we are not able to solve the daunting issue of nuclear disarmament in one great stroke now, let us attend to what is feasible'. Kreid refused to dodge the sensitive issue of stocks, voicing the concerns of many western delegations (as well as the non-aligned) when he commented that negotiations 'would inevitably have to touch upon the question of stockpiles, even if they would remain outside of the treaty, because it is hard to see how [a] cut-off could be verified without transparency with regard to existing stockpiles.' Clearly referring to South Asia and the Middle East, Kreid added that improvising transparency and confidence could be important regionally.

Notwithstanding these exhortations, there is a growing view that (with the possible exception of the United States), the nuclear-weapon States are less than enthusiastic, while the non-aligned want much more. Prior to the consensus UN General Assembly resolution 48/75L in 1993, from which the CD mandate derived, the US and Russia, awash with plutonium and HEU from dismantled warheads, brokered agreement among the P-5 to agree multilateral negotiations on a basic cut-off. This was accompanied by declared moratoria on production from Britain, France, Russia and the United States, and a widespread (but unconfirmed) belief that China has also now halted its fissile materials production programme. The moratoria, while intended to encourage negotiations, have paradoxically led to diminished commitment to make the halt legally binding. For the smaller nuclear-weapon States, a voluntary moratorium earns them brownie points while leaving open an escape hatch if they should want to restart production in the future. They have made it clear that they are only interested in a multilateral cut-off that brings the threshold States, India, Israel and Pakistan, on board but does not touch stockpiles. For many non-nuclear-weapon countries, the moratoria remove the pressure for speedy action. This makes them reconsider the cost of negotiating a treaty in the CD, which could take considerable time and resources, while also encouraging them to hold out for a more substantial measure, including stockpiles.

Most non-aligned statements incorporated their remarks on a fissban or cut-off in their positions on nuclear disarmament. Indeed, Syria made no specific mention of a fissban in its intervention on 6 February, although it endorsed the G-28 programme of action. Brazil's Ambassador Celso Lafer suggested establishing a nuclear disarmament committee 'under which separate working groups would take up issues such as the fissile materials convention and nuclear disarmament measures.' Furthermore, he stated that if the Shannon mandate were to be the basis for fissban negotiations, 'it is our expectation that the question of stocks will be dealt with within committee discussions on the scope of the future treaty.' He gave two reasons for this: i) adequate verification of a ban on production would require knowledge and accountability with regard to fissile materials already in existence; and ii) the moratoria. He stated that 'if the future treaty is to have real impact beyond non-proliferation, and we hope it will, it would therefore also have to go beyond the narrow scope that some currently envisage for it.' Reiterating one of its concerns regarding the CTBT implementing organisation, Brazil also required that the costs of verification for a fissban should not 'unduly burden' countries which already accept safeguards, such as members of the NPT or regional nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties.

For Mexico, de Icaza argued that the 'implicit mandate' in Shannon's report 'should allow that, within the ad-hoc Committee on Nuclear Disarmament, the cessation of the production of fissile material for weapon purposes as well as the problem of past production and management of existing stocks be examined, so as to make sure that any production of nuclear weapons will cease.' Ambassador Agus Tarmidzi said that Indonesia considered the fissban would 'significantly contribute' to non-proliferation, but emphasised that it should 'encompass not only the future production but also the past production', in order to fulfil a disarmament commitment as well. If stockpiles were brushed aside, the cut-off would be 'a mere non-proliferation measure' with 'no added value to date ... [and] therefore unappealing'. However, Indonesia would be ready to 'revisit the question' of a fissban, with the understanding that the Shannon mandate 'acknowledged that this issue [stocks] to which many delegations attach great importance cannot be isolated...'


There has been considerable manoeuvring on the question of negotiating a ban on landmines in the CD since US President Clinton called for this on 17 January. Both the UK and France gave strong and early backing, with Britain putting forward a draft mandate for a phased approach, beginning with a ban on the export, import or transfer of all AP mines. There is little public expression of outright opposition to negotiating on landmines in the CD, but considerable reluctance, coming from two corners: those who want a 'fast track' total ban, such as Canada, Mexico, Belgium, Austria, Ireland and others who would prefer to back the Ottawa process, initiated by Canada in October 1996; and those who want to hold open the option of producing and using landmines, such as Russia, China, Cuba, Syria, North and South Korea. These countries would prefer negotiations to remain within the purview of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).

The second meeting under the Ottawa Process took place in Vienna from 12-14 February. Kreid reported that 111 States participated and that proposals for revising Austria's tentative draft treaty were now being considered. The next meeting will be held in Brussels on 24-27 June. Mixed reports of progress are emerging from the Vienna meeting. It is pointed out that of the 111 participants, around 50 are strong supporters of a total ban on AP mines, the others participating as critics, or with the hope of influencing or slowing down the process. Nevertheless, it is clear that the Ottawa Process intends to move ahead. Since few now expect the CD to have come to agreement on its agenda before June, the tough decision point is likely to come after the Brussels meeting, when the prospects and products of the Ottawa Process have become clearer. Pointing out that the landmines, which he called 'hidden killers' take a toll of 25,000 victims a year, Kreid said that 'the CD cannot simply ponder the matter in its customary slow motion fashion'. Nor would the CD process guarantee participation by all the relevant countries, Kreid warned that 'we are not willing to submit to a strategy of long-term persuasion complete with trade-offs and linkages and subject to an unpredictable stop and go process.' In his view, establishing a universal norm by means of a lawmaking treaty would bring adherents 'in due course'.

Canada spoke on 6 February, the week following Britain's proposal for a CD mandate on landmines. Ambassador Mark Moher reiterated that 'use is the problem' and said that Canada had set itself 'a straightforward objective: a legally binding agreement in 1997 to ban the production, stockpiling, transfer and, particularly, the use of AP mines.' To this end, the Ottawa Process would 'proceed without interruption until a successful conclusion later this year.' He cast doubt on the 'lengthy step by step approach' but said that Canada would 'not object' if members of the CD wanted to negotiate a ban on exports. However, he said that Canada had 'major difficulty' with the concept underlying the UK proposal. Moher 'acknowledged' those who wanted the CD to deal with the issue, but rejected the view that the Conference was the 'only acceptable mechanism' for this. If the CD wanted to negotiate on landmines, Canada would 'not oppose', but he underlined that Canada set one criterion: that any CD approach 'be complementary to and mutually reinforcing of, the Ottawa Process'. If not, he warned that Canada would oppose.

Ireland spoke in a similar vein two weeks later, underlining that any negotiations on landmines in the CD 'must reinforce and complement other efforts, such as the Ottawa Process, which have already begun, which are working well, and which have attracted a high level of international support'. After analysing the benefits and drawbacks of the CD and Ottawa approaches, Anderson argued that if the CD took on the issue it would have to 'build on what has already been achieved in terms of international consensus on the way forward'; that negotiations must be comprehensive from the outset and 'must cover the central question of use'; and that the CD must move rapidly. 'If the Conference spends months talking around a mandate, further months discussing the modalities of the negotiations and yet more time on the scope of the convention, then the Conference will not respond to the humanitarian urgency implicit in the words "as soon as possible"'.

While saying that he did not reject the CD out of hand, Ambassador Erwin Hofer made clear that Switzerland prefers the Ottawa process to the CD, since the 'time factor is decisive'. Hofer emphasised that the planned rules should cover 'first, a ban on the manufacture, stockpiling, possession, transfer and use of anti-personnel landmines, and secondly, an obligation to destroy existing stockpiles.'

Of the non-aligned who made plenary statements, only Mexico expressed a strong opinion on the issue of landmines. De Icaza made two telling arguments against the CD taking on landmines negotiations: i) that it would divert attention from what should be the CD's 'highest priority' - nuclear disarmament; and ii) that the CD will have the disadvantage of slowness without being able to guarantee universality or the participation of key States. Commenting memorably that 'swiftness is not this Conference's main virtue', de Icaza raised doubts that the CD was 'capable of pursuing and bringing to conclusion more than one negotiation at a time'. In that case, he continued, 'it is necessary not to waste our limited capabilities by undertaking tasks which are not of the highest priority or which would duplicate efforts undertaken in other multilateral fora.' Indonesia seemed largely to share this perspective. Although saying he would not stand in the way if the CD reached agreement on landmines, Tarmidzi reiterated that 'this Conference should not be sidetracked from negotiating the highest priority item in our agenda, namely nuclear disarmament.'

Intending to bolster his argument that the CD was the inappropriate forum, de Icaza argued that the principles for a landmines ban were based on humanitarian and not disarmament considerations. Others, arguing from the opposite side (and advocating the CCW as the appropriate mechanism to deal with AP mines) have made the same distinction. However, as pointed out by Kreid, 'banning a defensive weapon carries with it a strong disarmament dimension as well.' The Ottawa Process recognises this. Although with the objective of outlawing the use of anti-personnel mines, Ottawa is aiming for a treaty which will give teeth to such an objective by banning the production, stockpiling, export and transfer as well. Recognising the disarmament dimension does not necessarily mean that the CD is the only forum for negotiations. As Kreid pointed out, there are precedents in disarmament law, such as the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty, where a small number of States signed the original treaty, opening it for accession by others. By 1974 this treaty was a sufficient international norm that the prospect of a case taken in the ICJ by South Pacific countries over atmospheric testing was decisive in making France halt its atmospheric testing programme, despite having never acceded to the PTBT itself.

Mexico's concern that the US-UK-French initiative to prioritise landmines on the CD's negotiating agenda was in part designed to divert attention from demands for the CD to negotiate further nuclear disarmament measures is shared by many non-aligned delegations. However, several, including Cuba, DPRK, Pakistan and Syria, are less enthusiastic than Mexico for the fast track Ottawa Process as an alternative. Syria referred to the 'pain' it felt at the human suffering caused by AP mines 'in some parts of the world where those mines have been misused'. Its representative, Iyad Orfi, went on to argue that for some States, mines 'are still a legitimate weapon to defend their security and their borders in the face of more lethal weapons.'

While the attitude of several non-aligned States seems to be unenthusiastic either way, Brazil stated its backing for the CD as 'the proper forum for the attainment of a universal and effective ban.' Lafer said that the proposed phased approach could 'yield early results', but said that Brazil would also continue to participate in the Ottawa Process, which could play 'an important role in building political momentum for attaining the goal of a universal ban.'

The western and European States are deeply divided. Although France and Britain have taken the lead in pushing for the CD as the venue for negotiating on landmines, Austria, Belgium, Canada and Ireland have been determined to press ahead with the fast track Ottawa approach. Other western countries are positioned along a continuum between these two strongly held positions, with some leaning closer to Ottawa and others towards the CD. New Zealand's Foreign Minister said that it supported the Ottawa process but could also accept a 'potential role' for the CD, providing it proceeded in parallel with Ottawa and agreed a 'strong mandate supportive of an early and comprehensive outcome.' Sweden's Foreign Minister said that 'the only effective solution to the landmine crisis is a total ban on APLs. No more, no less.' However, she went on to say that Sweden participated in the Ottawa Process and was also ready to do so in the CD. Swedish ratification of the amended Protocol II of the CCW was foreseen for June.

Poland endorsed the Anglo-French proposal for a phased approach within the context of the CD, saying only that it 'noted with interest' the Canadian initiative to conclude a ban by the end of 1997. However, Poland considered that the Ottawa Process and the CD could complement each other and have a 'potentially synergistic effect'. Hungary was a stronger supporter and participant in the Ottawa Process, but Naray said that the 'CD's role in the concert of efforts aimed at a total ban should be considered from the point of view of the universality and efficiency of the future convention.' Hungary could be flexible towards the Anglo-French approach, but 'would have serious difficulties with a mandate not stipulating a total ban on use and production as the ultimate goal of the negotiating process in the CD.'

Nuclear Disarmament

Both Indonesia and Mexico identified nuclear disarmament as the 'highest priority' for the CD, underlined by the UN Special Session on Disarmament in 1978. They both wanted the CD to establish a nuclear disarmament committee, but stopped short of insisting that it be convened with a negotiating mandate from the beginning. Within the G-21 there are attempts to get agreement on a negotiating mandate, but those who opposed the 'concurrent' linkage in the programme of action put forward by 28 of the 30 members of the G-21 in August 1996 are also resisting any mandate which commits the CD to negotiate a timetable for nuclear disarmament, which they consider impractical at present. They are joined by others, including Egypt and Morocco, who are concerned that if the G-21 demands a negotiating mandate they could frighten away the moderates in the nuclear-weapon States.

Three countries continue to oppose a nuclear disarmament committee: Britain, France and the United States. But the positions are not solid. There is an internal debate in all three capitals, with a growing number of pragmatists willing to accept such a committee, under certain conditions (which do not include a mandate to negotiate a treaty or timetable at this point). However, it is clear that unless and until the Clinton Administration can get ratification of the CWC past the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Jesse Helms, it is not going to risk showing flexibility on nuclear disarmament, while there is no prospect of Britain moving until after the elections in May, if then.

In their statements, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia and also Sweden referred to important new developments, such as the Canberra Commission, the ICJ advisory opinion and the 5 December statement by 61 retired Generals and Admirals calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Indonesia deeply regretted 'the recalcitrant attitude adopted by some of the nuclear-weapon States towards the need to immediately negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons.' Tarmidzi criticised them for narrowly interpreting their multilateral legal commitments, particularly article VI of the NPT, by insisting that nuclear disarmament is a 'bilateral exercise and therefore the sole domain of the nuclear-weapon States.' He said that article VI and the NPT required prompt action and warned the nuclear-weapon States that their prevarication 'may lead to the unravelling' of the NPT.

Brazil referred to the elimination of nuclear weapons as 'the paramount task' for the CD, proposing that a fissban and other measures could be negotiated under the overall umbrella of a nuclear disarmament committee. Lafer argued that making further progress on nuclear disarmament 'contingent on the prior attainment' of the fissban and even entry into force of the CTBT was just linkage of another sort. Syria addressed the nuclear disarmament by focusing on Israel's nuclear arsenal.

Among the western group, several delegations, including Ireland, Sweden, Austria, Hungary, Poland and Japan made a strong plea for a more constructive attitude towards nuclear disarmament, while warning against linkage and the 'blueprint approach', as Anderson called it. Ireland's ambassador went on to ask why some delegations need reassurance about the direction of incremental nuclear disarmament. Like Austria and Sweden, she enumerated progress in the NPT, CTBT, START I and II (if ratified by Russia), expansion of nuclear-weapon-free zones adherence, and so on. But she also called on the P-5 to 'set out their perspective, and imbue the words 'systematic and progressive' with meaning...Such a perspective need not be time-bound, but ... a broad elaboration of the next steps they themselves propose to take.' Sweden's Foreign Minister also called for the concept of systematic and progressive nuclear disarmament to be given a 'concrete content'. She said that 'the steps must be identified and fully translated into action.' New Zealand's Foreign Minister declared that though the process of irreversible nuclear disarmament had begun in a bilateral framework, 'we are also convinced that sustainable progress is not a matter which can be left solely to the nuclear-weapon States...'

McKinnon went further, calling for a nuclear disarmament committee 'with an overarching mandate...[which] could begin immediately with the cut-off negotiations, while also considering longer term issues.' In effect, it would have 'an active negotiating track and a preparatory track.' This would not be a talk shop, he argued, but one 'which prepared the ground carefully and effectively for eventual negotiations.'

Others sought ways to bridge the gap between those who wanted a committee on nuclear disarmament and those who wanted nothing. Ambassador Hisami Kurokochi of Japan proposed that a special coordinator be appointed 'to identify the issue(s) in the field of nuclear disarmament which could be negotiated in the Conference and to report to the Conference on the result of these consultations no later than the conclusion of the 1997 session.' This might have proved acceptable last year, but with many members of the G-21 focusing now on a negotiating mandate, a special coordinator could be perceived as a defeat rather than a compromise.


This is a dismal time for the CD. More than one delegate has likened it to post-natal depression (after the difficult birth of the CTBT). Some hold out hopes that a constructive NPT PrepCom in April could help shift the logjam. Others look forward to a more constructive government in Westminster or a less timid approach in Washington after Senate ratification of the CWC and Russian ratification of START II. Certainly not even the optimists expect any decisions on the CD's programme of work before the end of June. Pointing to the strong reservations (read objections) by significant groups of States on each of the three major issues under discussion, the pessimists doubt that there is sufficient incentive for any movement on anything this year.

1997 CD Session

The CD's 1997 session runs from 20 January to 27 March; from 12 May to 27 June; and from 28 July to 10 September.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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