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Top U.N. Official Urges Conference on Disarmament to Break Impasse
A high-level U.N. official on Tuesday urged the Conference on Disarmament to break the longstanding impasse that has stymied its efforts to negotiate new arms control treaties and resulted in a loss of international confidence in the forum's mission, according to a U.N. press release (see GSN, Feb. 8).
The 65-member conference in 2009 ended a deadlock that had gone on for more than 10 years, agreeing to a work plan that would focus on negotiating a ban on the generation of new fissile material for warheads; prohibiting space-based weapons; nuclear disarmament; and, providing negative security assurances to non-nuclear weapon nations. After initially supporting the work program, Pakistan withdrew and continues to oppose the plan. Decisions at the conference are based on consensus.
It has been almost 16 years since the international body last negotiated a treaty. The latest conference session began in January.
"The level of frustration is approaching a tipping point," conference Secretary General Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said in provided comments. "The time left to produce tangible results during this session is shrinking rapidly."
A number of member states have indicated that failure to break the deadlock year could signal that the time had come to study alternative venues for negotiating multinational disarmament accords.
Islamabad opposes fissile material cutoff talks on the grounds that a ban on new warhead material would benefit its nuclear-armed rival India and upset the strategic balance in South Asia. Tokayev seemed to acknowledge Pakistan's concerns by urging diplomats attending a conference plenary meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, to consider nations' national defense concerns in their deliberations.
"I call on all members to pursue their national security interests by building bridges with others through a process of negotiations," said Tokayev, director general of the United Nations Office at Geneva. "I have also noted that a number of members of the conference have not yet taken a public position with regard to its future. It is important that all those present in this chamber speak up and make their stance known."
"The current situation has created a serious credibility and legitimacy deficit. The future of the conference is at stake. Let us not forget our duty to coming generations: a world at peace. Just like climate change, nuclear weapons present an existential threat to our collective future," Tokayev said. "Disarmament and nonproliferation are absolutely indispensable to realizing our common vision of a better world for all. The time to act is now" (United Nations release, Feb. 14).
Ecuadorian Ambassador Luis Gallegos Chiriboga, who presently holds the conference's rotating presidency, also voiced displeasure with the continued state of affairs in Geneva. He noted that some countries have called for suspending the conference's work while other nations have worried that doing so could undermine disarmament activities, a U.N. release said.
Chiriboga questioned the value of continuing to support the body in the face of its continuing deadlock (United Nations Office at Geneva release, Feb. 14).
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