U.N. Chief Acknowledges Staff Doubts About Disarmament Forum

Global Security Newswire Staff
Jan. 22, 2014, 9:09 a.m.

U.N. Sec­ret­ary Gen­er­al Ban Ki-moon on Tues­day ac­know­ledged his staff’s pess­im­ism about land­ing a break­through in a long-dead­locked dis­arm­a­ment for­um.

“When I con­sidered ad­dress­ing you once again today, some of our seni­or ad­visers counseled against it. They said there are little pro­spects for pro­gress this year,” the U.N. chief said in open­ing re­marks to this year’s first gath­er­ing of the Con­fer­ence on Dis­arm­a­ment in Switzer­land.

Ban said, though, that he re­mains con­vinced the Geneva ven­ue could achieve new strides.

“I de­cided to come and meet you. Why?” he said. “Be­cause I am a strong be­liev­er in mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism.

“I want you to know that I have not giv­en up hope for this noble body,” the U.N. head said. “I want to en­cour­age you to live up to the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity’s ex­pect­a­tions.”

The 65-na­tion con­fer­ence was es­tab­lished as the primary glob­al for­um for ne­go­ti­ation of arms con­trol ac­cords. However, a pro­pos­al for an in­ter­na­tion­al pro­hib­i­tion on new nuc­le­ar-weapon fuel pro­duc­tion has held the con­sensus-driv­en body at a stand­still for more than 15 years.

The Con­fer­ence on Dis­arm­a­ment and its pre­de­cessors have pro­duced some key arms-con­trol agree­ments in the past, in­clud­ing the Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty, the Bio­lo­gic­al Weapons Con­ven­tion, and the Com­pre­hens­ive Nuc­le­ar Test-Ban Treaty.

Ban re­ferred, as well, to its crit­ic­al role in craft­ing the treaty un­der which Syr­ia is now work­ing to dis­mantle its chem­ic­al ar­sen­al.

“The Chem­ic­al Weapons Con­ven­tion is your leg­acy. The CD brought it to life,” Ban said. “The present­a­tion of the No­bel Peace Prize to the [Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons] is a re­cog­ni­tion of the im­port­ance of dis­arm­a­ment and non­pro­lif­er­a­tion for world peace. I hope you will be in­spired by this.”

States’ del­eg­ates voiced dif­fer­ing ideas on how to pur­sue sub­stant­ive move­ment in the con­fer­ence.

The United States noted that it was open to re-es­tab­lish­ing an in­form­al work­ing group to sup­port dis­cus­sions on mov­ing for­ward, but said it would do so only if an agreed agenda re­mains “elu­sive” over the course of 2014.

Ger­many, though, said the mech­an­ism should be re-launched “without fur­ther delay.”

“A sub­stant­ive sched­ule of activ­it­ies should be agreed upon for 2014,” Ger­man Am­bas­sad­or Mi­chael Biontino said in a pre­pared state­ment. “We be­lieve that the ap­proach de­veloped in the in­form­al work­ing group [last year] provides a val­id basis.”

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