Germany pledges to revitalize nuke disarmament

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Germany pledges to revitalize nuke disarmament

THE Geneva UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) has been turned into a talking shop because of the vested interests of a few mighty states without whose consent no genuine nuclear disarmament, including abolition of nuclear weapons, would ever be within the realm of possibility.
This formed the backdrop to an impassioned appeal by Ambassador Hellmut Hoffmann of Germany to representatives of 64 countries, including all nuclear weapon states, to avail of the potential of this United Nations body to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Germany took over from France the CD presidency on August 20.
The German Ambassador hit the nail on the head when he stressed that it was far from rewarding to engage in debates – as has become customary – about whether the CD was the only standing multilateral forum mandated to negotiate new agreements on disarmament and non-proliferation.
“But this is the point where I have to say that I would feel even more honored presiding over our work if the Conference on Disarmament were actually in a state where it makes active use of this potential that is where it fulfils its own mandate. Unfortunately, as we are all aware, for many reasons this has not been the case for well over a decade,” Ambassador Hoffmann told UN Radio.
Back in Berlin, the Foreign Office said, Germany will use the four weeks of its Presidency, “To breathe new life into the work of the Geneva Conference on Disarmament and in particular to sound out possibilities for rapidly starting negotiations on a treaty banning the production and transfer of fissile material (FMCT).”
FMCT is a proposed international treaty, to ban the further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices. The treaty has not been negotiated and its terms remain to be defined.
It is not surprising, that in recent years, the Geneva Conference on Disarmament has failed to launch any new treaty negotiations. One reason for this is that the Conference’s decisions are not taken by majority, but by consensus. Due to individual member states’ veto power, the Conference’s efforts have been hampered since 1996.
Subsequently, no major progress has so far been achieved on the four core issues: FMCT, prevention of an arms race in outer space, nuclear disarmament and negative security assurances for non-nuclear weapon states.
The Geneva Conference on Disarmament was established in 1979. CD is the world’s single permanent, multilateral negotiating forum for disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation. Germany has assumed CD’s Presidency after ten years. It will conclude the meetings in 2012.
German Foreign Office sources said: “The German Government is energetically pressing for disarmament and arms control. Together with its partners it has repeatedly developed initiatives to overcome the dead end in Geneva. Most recently, Germany and the Netherlands jointly organized a series of events dealing with the technical preparations for an FMCT.
“Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has repeatedly pointed out the necessity of nuclear disarmament and advocated negotiations on a ban on the production of fissile material. In this respect, the Geneva negotiations play a key role.
“The Group of Friends of Disarmament and Non Proliferation, whose ten members include Germany, has time and again called for a revitalizing of the Geneva Conference on Disarmament and for the start of negotiations on a ban on the production of fissile material. However, to date these efforts have failed because of the obstructionist stance of some Conference members.”
The issue was first presented to the UN General Assembly in 1969 by Malta, and the Conference on Disarmament was consequently tasked with considering the implications of possible military applications of laser technology.
In 1975 the then Soviet Union tabled a draft international agreement in the General Assembly on the prohibition of the development and manufacture of new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons.
However Western States, while supporting efforts to ban particular weapons of mass destruction, objected to the conclusion of a comprehensive convention banning unspecified future weapons. Views differ on whether nuclear disarmament could be conceived without parallel disarmament progress taking place in other areas such as radiological, biological and chemical weapons, with some States saying it should not be conditional on negotiations in other areas.
According to the Conference documents, some States have outlined in the on-going session the catastrophic danger that transfers of weapons of mass destruction to non-State actors and terrorists could entail, while one unnamed State highlighted new types of information and communication technologies which were capable of undermining stability and security just as much as weapons of mass destruction.
France argues that general and complete disarmament under effective international control is the ultimate goal of the Conference, and an agenda item frequently used by the General Assembly. The French representative at the on-going CD session said, nuclear disarmament could not be conceived without parallel disarmament progress taking place in other areas such as radiological, biological and chemical weapons, nor overall independence of the strategic context.
He added: “For over 30 years France had made efforts toward humanitarian disarmament – treaties which aimed to prevent or disrupt production of weapons which caused certain harm to humans – and was very attached to those, and called for its universalization. France also called for the universalization of The Hague’s Code of Conduct against the proliferation of ballistic missiles and stressed the importance of that instrument to promote transparency of ballistic missiles.”

The article was written for InDepth News.
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