The international envoy who currently presides over a key U.N. disarmament body said consensus on the forum's 2014 agenda remains elusive.
As current rotating president of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Israel's Eviatar Manor polled delegations to the 65-nation conference to see if there was unanimous agreement on a work program for the new year. Finding no consensus "due to the divergence of views among the member states," Manor proposed extending the mandate for the rest of the year of an informal work group to assist in reaching agreement on a work plan, according to a Tuesday U.N. press release.
For more than 15 years, the Geneva-based conference has been deadlocked over opening international negotiations on any of a variety of new arms control proposals. The United States and others favor beginning talks on an accord that would ban the production of new fissile material, but Pakistan is calling for any such negotiations to take into account global existing stocks of weapon-grade material.
Manor, Israel's permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, said he found strong support from member states for continuing the activities of the less formal working group. It was established last year with the task of developing an agenda for carrying out new arms control talks.
In a Tuesday speech to the conference, Rose Gottemoeller, acting U.S. undersecretary of State for arms control and international security, reaffirmed the Obama administration's policy that negotiations on a fissile-material cutoff treaty should happen before any other disarmament objective.
"It has been frustrating to watch the [Conference on Disarmament] remain deadlocked over this issue, but negotiation of an FMCT is an essential prerequisite for global nuclear disarmament," she said.
Other nations, including Pakistan, would prefer that any talks on a fissile-material ban happen simultaneously with other arms control matters, including providing security assurances to non-nuclear weapon states.
Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by acclamation on Tuesday approved Gottemoeller's nomination to take over permanently in the key arms control position at State. Also approved by the committee was the nomination of Frank Rose, deputy assistant secretary of State for space and defense policy, to succeed Gottemoeller as the State Department's point person on arms control treaty verification and compliance.