26 January 1999

Press Release



Kofi Annan Says It Is Important To Establish Arrangements To Assure Non-Nuclear-Weapon States against Use or Threat of Use of Nuclear Weapons

Following is the text of a statement made by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Conference on Disarmament at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, on 26 January 1999:

Let me begin by congratulating you, Mr. President, on assuming the leadership of this important forum at such a critical juncture in world history.

When I addressed you in 1997, and again, later that year, when I submitted my reform programme to the General Assembly, I stressed the central importance of disarmament in the global agenda, and the primary responsibility for it which falls on the United Nations.

I am glad that Member States endorsed my proposal to reorganize the Secretariat's disarmament activities. The newly re-established Department for Disarmament Affairs has only limited human resources. But it is now diligently implementing the mandates entrusted to it, which include the servicing of this Conference.

Your Conference is now 20 years old. It is the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community, and it now comprises all militarily significant States.

This is a good moment to look back, to assess our experience so far, and to learn from it so that we can better face the new challenges ahead.

Your Conference can take pride in having produced two major international legal instruments, which have greatly contributed to the search for a world free from the threat of weapons of mass destruction: the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1992 and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty in 1996. The former entered into force in 1997, and I am glad to say its implementation is well

under way. The latter has now been signed by 151 States, including all five nuclear-weapon States, and has been ratified by 26, including two nuclear-weapon States. As Depositary of these two instruments, I shall continue to urge all States that have not yet ratified or acceded to them to do so, in order to ensure their universality.

Just two multilateral agreements may seem a meagre harvest after 20 years of work, especially when there are so many other issues in your field which cry out for joint action at the global level. But the value of your Conference cannot be measured simply by counting the treaties it produces. Before multilateral negotiations can even start, you have to create the right political conditions. That means holding long in-depth discussions, and doing a great deal of technical spadework.

There is always a pre-negotiating stage, in which some shared understanding is reached that a security problem exists, that it has certain dimensions, and that it must be addressed multilaterally.

This process can be arduous and time-consuming, but without it there is no guarantee that the end-product, that is to say, treaty making, will take the security concerns of all parties concerned into consideration. And an agreement which fails to do that will ultimately be neither universal nor effective.

A case in point is the hard work it took to develop a consensus that this forum should deal with the important issue of a ban on production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. That work was rewarded last year, when you decided to set up an ad hoc committee to negotiate such a ban. And the consensus was further strengthened this year, when the General Assembly adopted, without voting, a resolution endorsing that decision.

You must now make full use of the momentum thus created, and embark on meaningful negotiations for a non-discriminatory, multilateral and effectively verifiable treaty. By so doing, you will greatly help the cause of nuclear non-proliferation, and the process of general nuclear disarmament.

In the same cause, it is important to establish effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. Your decision to consider this in the framework of an ad hoc committee is an important step in this direction. Security Council resolutions 225 of 1968 and 984 of 1995, together with the unilateral declarations made by the five nuclear-weapon States, provide a good framework for solving this important issue.

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However, further steps are needed to harmonize the unilateral security guarantees offered by the five nuclear-weapon States in a single legally binding instrument.

The issues we have to address in the field of arms limitation and disarmament are vast and complex. So we cannot afford to ignore any possible avenue, whether bilateral, regional or global. During the past few years, concerned Member States have made praiseworthy efforts to consolidate existing nuclear-weapon-free zones -- notably those in Africa and South-East Asia -- and to move towards the establishment of other such zones, for instance, in Central Asia.

Meanwhile, States parties to the Biological Weapons Convention have been intensifying their efforts to seek ways and means of reinforcing its authority by working out a verification regime. That task is horrendously complex, but the stakes are high indeed. Their efforts deserve the support and cooperation of all.

Anti-personnel landmines are another source of acute concern to the international community. So it is good news that the Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons -- a partial ban on landmines -- entered into force last month, while the Ottawa Convention will enter into force in little over one month's time. Preparations are already under way for a first meeting of the States parties to those two Conventions during this year.

We must do everything we can to ensure that as many States as possible adhere to both of them, and as soon as possible. And I earnestly hope your own efforts in this field will soon result in a decision to start negotiations on a ban on transfers of these barbaric weapons.

The flow of small arms and light weapons circulating in civil society, especially in regions where State structures are fragile, is now also receiving wide international attention. And more and more people are now working to build a global consensus on monitoring and controlling illicit arms transfers. I, therefore, welcome the decision taken by the General Assembly, in its current session, to convene an international conference here in Geneva on all aspects of the illicit arms trade, not later than the year after next.

But all these positive developments, important as they are, should not blind us to the fact that the global disarmament agenda is very far from complete.

The underground nuclear tests conducted last year by India and Pakistan were a highly disturbing development and a source of concern for the world community. I immediately urged those States to refrain from further nuclear

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testing, to adhere to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, to refrain from deploying nuclear weapons, and to freeze their weapons development programmes, as well as the development of missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

I, therefore, warmly welcomed the declarations of intent to adhere to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which the Prime Ministers of both countries made in the General Assembly last September. And I very much hope that both Governments will be able to act on those declarations in the course of this year.

Meanwhile, there are difficulties in the preparatory process leading up to next year's Review Conference of the States Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Taken together, these developments remind us all just how fragile the nuclear non-proliferation regime is, unless and until it is buttressed by more determined efforts to reduce existing nuclear arsenals, with a view to their ultimate elimination.

Such efforts would undoubtedly benefit from the early ratification of START II by the Russian Federation, and its entry into force as soon as possible.

The international community has rightly identified nuclear disarmament as a high priority. Your Conference has before it a number of proposals for mechanisms to deal with this issue. I trust that during this session you will reach consensus on the ways in which the Conference can best contribute.

One concept which is now widely shared is that of maintaining outer space as a weapons-free environment. Currently, over 30 countries are engaged in space-related activities, and more are moving in that direction.

Technology, too, continues to evolve rapidly, especially in the area of ballistic missiles.

Of course, technology can also help. Space-based remote sensing makes an important contribution to the monitoring and verification of multilateral disarmament agreements. But that in no way diminishes the importance of your efforts to codify principles which can ensure that outer space remains weapons-free.

The history of successive multilateral disarmament forums shows that they were able to evolve over the years, in response to changed political realities. This evolution affected all aspects of disarmament negotiating bodies: their composition, their agenda, and their working methods.

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The Conference on Disarmament is no exception in this respect. You have a record of endeavour and of lasting achievement, of flexibility and expertise. You must live up to that record by continuing to play a leading role in the work of building a world which no longer relies on weapons for its security.

Once again, I pledge that your efforts will have the full cooperation of the United Nations Secretariat; and I wish you a productive and successful session.

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