19 February 1998

Press Release


(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 19 February (UN Information Service) -- The Conference on Disarmament this morning heard the delegations of Chile, Germany, Italy and Poland outline their positions on such issues as nuclear disarmament, anti-personnel landmines and the future of the work of the Conference.

At the outset of the meeting, Ambassador Erwin Hofer of Switzerland, the new president of the Conference, said that in 1997, after having gone through a first phase in which Member States put forward their positions and proposals regarding the programme of work, the Conference had entered a second phase of the identification of specific subjects. This had created the basis for a third phase which would include a search for areas of understanding and dialogue.

Mr. Hofer anticipated "a very difficult period, characterized by many risks". However, he pointed out that most of the subjects on the agenda enjoyed wide support and some were close to consensus. He would call on the creativity of delegations to overcome the last obstacles. The President could only stimulate the process, but the results depended entirely on the political will of the sovereign Members of the Conference.

The representative of Chile urged the Conference to start negotiations immediately on nuclear disarmament, and also supported the prompt establishment of an ad hoc committee on a fissile materials cut-off treaty. He suggested that the Conference create more or less permanent committees or working groups in charge of pertinent issues as a way to resolve the current deadlock. Special coordinators or "friends of the Chair", could be appointed by the President to consult with all delegations about a given agenda item.

The representative of Germany, too called for discussions on nuclear disarmament and a fissile materials cut-off treaty, adding that his country supported the immediate establishment of an ad hoc committee to ban the transfer of anti-personnel landmines.

The difficulties in negotiating and the obstacles to reaching agreement within the Conference were of an increasingly political nature, the representative of Italy said. It was time to find a minimum common denominator for success to be achieved by the Conference.

The representative of Poland focused on the issue of anti-personnel landmines and said that the pursuit of a global ban on the transfer of landmines within the Conference on Disarmament would represent an important step in the direction of promoting the broader objective of a worldwide, effective landmines ban.

The representative of the Russian Federation addressed the Conference for a last time prior to assuming new functions within his Government. He expressed the hopes that work on important issues would start within the Conference so that nobody would look back and consider this a period of lost opportunities.

Also today, the Conference admitted Saudi Arabia, Costa Rica and the Sudan as observers.



He said the Conference should start, as soon as possible, to address the important issue of nuclear disarmament. In this respect, Chile resolutely supported the proposals suggested by Canada and South Africa. Chile also favoured the prompt establishment of an ad hoc committee on a fissile materials cut-off. The Conference should also deal with the subject of negative security assurances. A balanced work programme should include matters pertaining to conventional weapons, where anti-personnel landmines clearly constituted the first priority for the world community.

- 3 - Press Release DCF/325 19 February 1998




He said that an issue which must be urgently addressed by the Conference was a fissile materials cut-off treaty. Substantive work should commence on this item, either in an ad hoc committee or, if necessary, a less formal setting.




- 4 - Press Release DCF/325 19 February 1998

He said that Italy considered negotiations on the prohibition of fissile materials to be ripe. Therefore, the immediate reappointing of the ad hoc committee on this issue was logical.


GREGORI V. BERDENNIKOV (Russian Federation) took the floor to thank everyone, as he was leaving after four-and-a-half years as Russian Representative to the Conference. He believed that the Conference on Disarmament should resume practical work on the prohibition of fissile material and a prohibition, first, of the import and export of anti-personnel landmines, to be followed by a global prohibition. The Conference should also continue work on negative security assurances and on the arms race in outer space. It was essential to do everything possible to move forward at this time when there was no more cold war to complicate the work. Otherwise, if the situation changed and, God forbid, an outbreak of hostilities happened, the present time would be recalled as an era of lost opportunities.

* *** *