Issue No. 14, April 1997
Geneva Update No. 34
By Rebecca Johnson
The Conference on Disarmament (CD) closed on 27 March without
any agreement on its programme of work. Three formal proposals were
submitted in late March, but none has gained consensus. Iran
proposed that two ad hoc committees be established, on negative
security assurances (NSA) and on transparency in armaments.
Recognising the lack of consensus on addressing nuclear disarmament
and landmines, Iran proposed that special coordinators be appointed
on agenda items 1 and 6 to consider the 'most appropriate
arrangements' to deal with these issues. Although Iran had pressed
for a decision before the first part of the 1997 session closed,
the CD President reported that further consultations would be
needed before agreement could be reached.
Coming from the three CD groupings, Chile, Finland and Poland
jointly proposed that the CD appoint a special coordinator to
determine how (or whether) to address the question of
anti-personnel landmines. Egypt proposed a mandate for an ad hoc
committee on nuclear disarmament.
The CD will reconvene on 12 May, but agreement on any of these
proposals looks rather remote. The most optimistic delegations hope
that the CD will decide on what it is going to do by the time this
year's session ends in September. It appears that no-one expects to
start on further real work in the near future.
Since my last report in Disarmament Diplomacy No. 13,
only two plenaries were held. At the 761st meeting on 20 March, the
incoming President, Ambassador Grigori Berdennikov of the Russian
Federation, read a message of greeting from the Russian Minister of
Foreign Affairs, Evgeny Primakov. Norway and Switzerland addressed
the priorities for future CD work. Switzerland announced a seminar
in Thun on 17 and 18 September on the traumatic effects of
ballistics. Iran presented its proposal for the 1997 programme of
work. In a graceful farewell speech, the outgoing Ambassador of
Italy, Alessandro Vattani, likened the CD to a monastic way of
life, regulated by meals, debates and meditations, where
'perseverance, patience and conciliatory will were often put to the
Stephen Ledogar, US Ambassador for the CWC and CTBT
negotiations, also bade farewell to the CD. With characteristic
bluntness, he expressed frustration at 'the doomed effort to force
the nuclear powers to negotiate now in this forum the elements of a
disarmament process that they are conducting elsewhere.' Arguing
that 'the real disarmament needs of the world community are simply
too overwhelming and urgent', Ledogar hoped 'that a sense of
realism will once again assert itself in the CD'.
The 762nd plenary, chaired by Berdennikov on March 27, heard
from Germany on the necessity to start negotiations on a fissile
materials ban (fissban) and on an effective legally binding
international agreement to ban anti-personnel mines. Finland and
Chile presented their proposal for a special coordinator on
landmines, while Canada reiterated the importance of the Ottawa
process for achieving a global ban on the use of landmines.
Future CD Work
Primakov's statement noted the 'attention and interest' in
Russia for the work of the CD. Referring to the CD's
achievements on the NPT, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the
Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and Comprehensive Test Ban
Treaty (CTBT), Primakov acknowledged its role as the 'sole forum in
which practical talks on disarmament issues are conducted on a
multilateral basis and in a global framework'.
The Foreign Secretary of Norway, Siri Bjerke, also
commented on the CD. Calling it a 'key instrument' for negotiating
global agreements on disarmament, she warned that if it is
persistently blocked or cannot agree on its objectives, 'then
negotiations will be taken elsewhere'.
Iran's Ambassador Sirous Nasseri warned that the CD might
be 'moving towards a deepening of the stalemate'. Claiming 'no
political agenda', he submitted his proposal so that 'the
Conference can engage itself to do some work and not sit idle and
discuss, in ways that are becoming rather intolerable...the issue
of the agenda and the programme of work.' Iran proposed two
committees, on security assurances and transparency in armaments,
as well as special coordinators to consult with CD members and
report on their views of how best to address nuclear disarmament
and conventional disarmament (of which landmines requires the most
A week later, Ambassador Jorge Berguno expressed similar
frustration and said that while Iran's proposal did not fully
satisfy Chile or many others, it was realistic, and 'we must
give not just consideration but support' to it.
ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN: PROPOSAL ON THE PROGRAMME OF
(CD/1450, March 20, 1997)
1. The Conference on Disarmament decides, without
prejudice to any future decisions on the organisational framework
of other items, to establish:
I An Ad Hoc Committee under agenda item 4 "Effective
international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States
against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons" with the
mandate as described in CD/1121.
II An Ad Hoc Committee under agenda item 7 to consider
means of promoting transparency in armaments.
2. The Conference also decides to appoint a special
coordinator to seek the views of its members on the most
appropriate arrangement to deal with issues under agenda item
3. The Conference decides further to appoint a special
coordinator to seek the views of its members within agenda item 6
on the most appropriate arrangement to deal with the issues on
which consensus could be achieved.
4. The special coordinators appointed under paragraphs 2
and 3 above shall present an interim report at the end of May and a
final report not later than mid-June 1997 to the
Egypt's Ambassador Mounir Zahran submitted a working
paper on March 27 with a draft mandate for an ad hoc Committee on
nuclear disarmament (CD/1453, April 1, 1997). According to
The Conference decides to establish an Ad Hoc Committee
under agenda item 1 on nuclear disarmament to commence negotiations
on a phased programme of nuclear disarmament for the complete
elimination of nuclear weapons and on a convention on the
prohibition of the production of fissile material for nuclear
weapons and nuclear explosive devices taking into account the
report of the special coordinator on this item (CD/1299) and the
views relating to the scope of the treaty.
In discharging its function, the Ad-Hoc Committee will
take into account the Proposal for a Programme of Action for the
Elimination of Nuclear Weapons submitted by 28 members of the
Conference belonging to the Group of 21 (CD/1419) as well as any
other existing proposals and future initiatives in this
Norway also emphasised the importance of nuclear
disarmament. Germany and Switzerland emphasised their
views that the CD should get negotiations on a fissile materials
ban underway without delay. Norwegian Foreign Secretary Bjerke
referred to the constructive ideas in the Canberra Commission and
said that the thousands of tactical nuclear weapons which have been
withdrawn 'must be destroyed and not merely stored'. Acknowledging
the proliferation risks 'inherent in both military and civilian
nuclear activities', she called for better 'management of
disarmament' including the 'secure and environmentally safe
handling' of weapons materials. Norway considered that a fissban
should be the next major item on the CD's agenda, and suggested
that 'the inclusion of measures to monitor enrichment and
reprocessing facilities would strengthen a "cut-off" treaty'.
Arguing that such monitoring could be applied 'without undue
interference with remaining military stockpiles', Norway also
called for greater transparency on the stocks of plutonium and
highly enriched uranium held by the nuclear-weapon States,
including voluntary information, cooperative measures to clarify
and confirm the information, international inspection, and
eventually the verified reduction of all stockpiles.
Foreign Secretary Bjerke pointed to Norway's work in mine
clearance but complained that 'new deployments of APLs by far
outstrip present mine-clearing capabilities'. Immediate measures to
ban landmines were urgently required, she said, but since
'agreement in the CD seems to be blocked by the fact that many
members cannot - for the time being - accept a total ban', Norway
backed the Ottawa process. Criticising the step by step or phased
approaches and arguing that complete verifiability was 'neither
feasible, nor necessary, nor desirable', she said that 'Once this
norm is established we will work to make it universal'.
Noting that there are differences of view on how to deal with
landmines, Finland presented the three-country proposal for
a special coordinator, as 'the best way to start serious work to
tackle and solve these questions, and so to find the most
appropriate way to deal with anti-personnel landmines in the CD.'
Another co-sponsor, Chile, said that landmines have both a
humanitarian and a disarmament dimension, but warned that the CD
must recognise that if it concludes that 'it cannot address this
issue and that it is not in a position to do so', then other
processes will aim to accomplish the prohibition of landmines.
CHILE, FINLAND AND POLAND: PROPOSAL TO APPOINT A SPECIAL
COORDINATOR ON ANTI-PERSONNEL LANDMINES
(CD/1452, March 27, 1997)
1. The Conference on Disarmament decides to appoint a
Special Coordinator to conduct consultations on the most
appropriate arrangement to deal with the question of anti-personnel
landmines under agenda item 6.
2. The Special Coordinator shall present a report to the
Conference on Disarmament before the end of May 1997.
1997 CD SESSION
The first part of the 1997 session ran from 20 January to 27
March. The second part resumes 12 May to June 27; and the third
part from 28 July to 10 September.
© 1998 The Acronym Institute.
Return to top of page
Return to List of Contents
Return to Acronym Main Page