Fissile Material Production Cutoff Treaty [FMCT] Excerpts

9 September 1997
Original: ENGLISH

Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Tuesday, 9 September 1997, at 10 a.m.
President: Mr. Goonetilleke (Sri Lanka)

Ms. GHOSE (India):


I believe that what we did in the CD this year was necessary and may continue to be necessary for a longer period. It was, in my view, inevitable. It is necessary that this loss of confidence be worked out of our systems. This year, 61 countries have tried to identify issues on which their views of their security concerns coincide. Our priorities, at the moment at least, clearly differ. For example, those with nuclear weapons and those protected by those weapons have one set of priorities ­ I respect that. Those who have neither weapons nor umbrellas have different priorities, different perceptions of national security. In my view, this is not deadlock or failure of the CD. We just do not agree on the bases or objectives of the negotiations on specific issues. There are others perhaps on which we may find agreement and, if we do, the CD is there ready for our use.

There are, however, two other general issues which have intrigued me during the entire time I have spent in the CD and I cannot but put this before my colleagues here today. The first concerns the "logic" often promoted in this forum. An annual report on the activities of the CD this year must reflect the preferences for the programme of work next year, in the full knowledge that the annual reports of one year have rarely affected the following year's work. The logic of that completely misses me. A stand­alone FMCT, it is said, is closely linked with the CTBT and has been mandated by the NPT review process. Having had the personal pleasure of pressing a red button on the CTBT last year and not being part of the NPT review process, I have never understood the logic which leads any country to think that we can somehow, perhaps with some clever drafting, be bound to negotiate a stand­alone FMCT. Finally, and still on the intriguing logic in the CD, we all accept that not all States are equal in power, whether through the possession or non­possession or protection or non­protection of nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, whatever. There are some, indeed, who are more equal than others. I accept that. What is, however, difficult to comprehend is the logic of an approach that assumes that the security interests of the powerful are more important than the security interests of the less powerful, not only to the international community but to the less powerful themselves.


Ms. CRITTENBERGER (United States of America):


I have asked for the floor today to offer a few reflections and comments on the CD year we are now bringing to a close. Unlike last year, it is not a year for which any of us should be proud. And, while not surprising, it is nonetheless disappointing that the differences between participants over priorities in 1997 prevented the CD from engaging collectively in any substantive work on any of the issues related to its agenda.

It is clear that the divisions within the CD reflect genuine foreign policy differences and priorities among the member States. These divisions and the CD's concomitant lack of progress this year, however, should not constitute a reflection on the Conference on Disarmament itself as an institution. As we have all witnessed or are aware of, the Conference is as productive as it is allowed to be ­ no more, no less.

Policy differences notwithstanding, there also seemed to be, at times, a fundamental lack of desire and will to achieve any substantive results. It is the hope of my Government that next year things will be different and that the CD will resume work and find one or more issues on which to begin substantive negotiations. For the United States, the obvious and feasible choices for negotiations are a convention on the prohibition of the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, in the nuclear arena, and steps towards a global ban on anti­personnel landmines in the conventional arena.

With or without the CD, the United States is moving forward on arms control issues and is hard at work in the field of nuclear arms control and disarmament. The recent agreement reached between the United States and the Russian Federation after several years of hard work on theatre missile defence issues is just the latest example of tangible progress. We continue to believe that the most expeditious way to ensure continued progress in nuclear disarmament, at least for the foreseeable future, is for the United States and the Russian Federation to continue bilateral negotiations. While there is a multilateral role on specific nuclear disarmament issues such as CTBT and FMCT, multilateral efforts to programme nuclear disarmament writ large would only serve to hinder the real progress already well under way.

In the heat of the moment unfortunate remarks are sometimes made that will remain for ever a part of our written record. These remarks will undoubtedly cause scholars and historians in future years to wonder where the CD priorities were in 1997. We heard one such unfortunate remark at last week's plenary when it was asserted that the five declared nuclear Powers want the CD to discuss only "small items" such as anti­personnel landmines and a fissile material cut­off treaty. The root of the CD's problems, we were told, was our trenchant refusal to acknowledge the "world will" to negotiate nuclear disarmament in the CD.


The fissile material cut­off treaty was also referred to as a "small item". Although those who call for nuclear disarmament negotiations in the CD accept that FMCT is an integral component of nuclear disarmament, they refuse to negotiate a separate treaty to halt the production of fissile material which gives nuclear weapons their potential to kill. If delegations honestly want the CD to work on nuclear disarmament, they should jump at the chance to negotiate a treaty to prohibit the production of fissile material. This treaty would be a vital step, a multilateral step, in the path toward nuclear disarmament.

It is not surprising that the frustrations built up over a year of inactivity have resulted in a series of statements attempting, to use an American colloquialism, to remove the monkey from one's back and to shift the blame for the 1997 CD failure to others. At the end of the day, of course, we must all accept responsibility for the fact that 1997 is the first and only year in which we were unable to convene an ad hoc committee or undertake any collective substantive work.

What happened to us? In our view, the answer is quite simple. In any negotiating situation ­ be it labour relations, a real estate transaction, diplomacy, or even a marriage, so I am told ­ the parties must be committed to a continuing relationship and a reasonably acceptable outcome. This is the so­called "win­win" situation in which the parties achieve some, if not all, of their objectives. The parties must work to narrow their differences, to settle the issues that can be resolved, and to set aside the issues on which there can be no agreement. The ideal outcome is for the negotiators to leave the bargaining table reasonably satisfied that all have won something and that no one has lost or capitulated. The alternative is divorce, resulting from irreconcilable differences or, in CD parlance, linkage and a time­bound framework, a sure recipe for torpedoing any progress on substantive issues. By this "all or nothing approach" practised in the CD this year, concrete progress on specific and timely issues, issues ripe for multilateral negotiation, was held hostage to demands for an agreement to negotiate multilaterally nuclear disarmament in a time­bound framework.

I think that the negotiations of the past two days have shown that we are all capable of being flexible and of compromise. My delegation has certainly tried to show flexibility and a willingness, in principle, as well as throughout the year, to discuss topics that we do not particularly wish to discuss. Our flexibility was based on an individual appraisal of each topic. If we are to negotiate in 1998, the Conference on Disarmament will have to determine what it is realistically capable of negotiating, and not what individual members see as their only priority. Without flexibility and a significant change in attitude, our prospects for 1998 are no better than the year we have just concluded.

On 21 August, when you opened the 775th CD plenary, you expressed optimism that the 1998 Conference on Disarmament will get back to work. This is a view my delegation shares.

The PRESIDENT: I thank the representative of the United States for her statement. Does any other delegation wish to take the floor at this point in time? I give the floor to the distinguished representative of Pakistan.

Mr. AKRAM (Pakistan): I have not asked for the floor to respond to the distinguished representative of the United States, although I must say that there is much that could be said for the other point of view, the point of view of the developing countries and the members of the Group of 21. But I shall leave the record to speak for itself. I have asked for the floor merely to announce that the Group of 21 will meet tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock.


The meeting rose at 12.35 p.m.