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Five countries speak before Conference on Disarmament

Egypt Calls for Fair Application of Disarmament Resolutions throughout Middle East

(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 20 March (UN Information Service) - Five countries addressed the Conference on Disarmament this morning, variously announcing or praising national steps to support disarmament treaties and, in the case of Egypt, calling for an end to "double standards" whereby Security Council disarmament resolutions related to Iraq led to action while those related to Israel did not.

A Representative of Turkey announced the adoption eight days ago by the Turkish Parliament of the Ottawa Convention on the elimination of anti-personnel landmines, and a Representative of Belgium applauded the step and called for all governments that had not done so to ratify the Convention.

A Representative of Bulgaria announced national ratification of an amendment to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons extending its scope of application to non-international armed conflicts.

A Representative of Japan announced a workshop titled "Promoting Verification in Multilateral Arms Control Treaties -- Future Verification Regime, FMCT in Particular" to be held on 28 March in the Council Chamber. The acronym "FMCT" refers to a proposed fissile-material cut-off treaty.

The Egyptian Representative said the country regretted that responses to the situation in Iraq were no longer taking place under United Nations auspices and noted that as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek had said, verification of Iraq's nuclear capacity was an integral part of efforts under way to create a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, including Israel, in accordance with Security Council resolution 687 (1991). It was a matter of concern, the Representative said, that Security Council resolutions on Middle East disarmament had not been put into practice except in the case of Iraq. That led to questions of double standards, she said.

Incoming Conference President Mary Whelan of Ireland, in an opening address, reviewed the status of negotiations aimed at ending the Conference's years-long inability to reach agreement on a programme of work. She urged national delegations to raise issues that might be discussed by the Conference that respected the unique mandate of the Conference, were in accord with its agenda and were of interest to all the delegations.

The next Conference plenary is scheduled for Thursday, 27 March, 2003.


MARY WHELAN (Ireland), incoming President of the Conference, said that it was a privilege and responsibility to be the first Irish chair of the Conference. She looked forward to working with all the delegations and counted on the support that would be extended to her by the Secretariat of the Conference. It would give her great satisfaction to contribute to the resolution of the Conference's inability to reach agreement on its work programme. Warning that the Conference's relevance today must be seriously questioned if it continued to act as if it had no role in advancing action on multilateral disarmament issues, she highlighted the importance of finding specific solutions to the problems affecting the Conference.

Reflecting on previous attempts to set the work programme of the Conference, Ms. Whelan said that following intense consultations, the Group of Five Ambassadors had put forward a work programme of already-agreed items on the agenda. Over 40 delegations had had favorable reactions to the proposal and no delegation had rejected it. Yet it would be helpful if the Group of Five could report back to Conference after the break on their consultations and the prospects for their proposals. She also encouraged delegations that had problems with the proposal to give real consideration to what types of proposals would meet with greater success in allowing the Conference to begin its substantive work.

During its presidency, India had urged delegations to think outside the box, Ms. Whelan said, and several delegations had made suggestions as to new areas in which the Conference could undertake work. While this approach should be promoted, the issues raised should respect the unique mandate of the Conference, accord with its agenda and be of interest to all the delegations. Delegations should put their ideas in writing so their capitals could be effectively lobbied. Also, delegations should start thinking about those issues that could be put on the table and supported by all.

MURAT ESENLI (Turkey) said that in view of the human suffering and casualties caused by anti-personnel landmines, the international community had long endeavoured to take effective measures to prevent their use, an effort that had been strengthened by the entry into force, on 1 March 1999, of the Ottawa Convention. While her security situation had precluded Turkey from signing the Convention at the time of its entry into force, Turkey had acted in conformity with most of its Articles as an expression of her commitment to the humanitarian objectives of the Convention. Thus Turkey had, among others actions, already cleared all the mines along her border with Bulgaria as well as 10,875 mines along her other borders.

Turkey, as an observer at the first meeting of States parties to the Convention in Maputo in May 1999, announced her intention to become a party to the Convention during the first decade of the new Millennium. He was happy to report that on 12 March 2003, the Turkish Parliament had unanimously adopted Law No 4824, which contained the Ottawa Convention.

JEAN LINT (Belgium) said he welcomed the unanimous decision of Turkey's parliament to adopt the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel mines and encouraged Turkish authorities to finalize the accession procedure so that the country could rapidly deposit its instrument at the same time as Greece, as had been announced. The simultaneous deposit of these instruments with the Secretary-General of the United Nations should take place before the end of the month. Greece and Turkey would thus be in a position at the Bangkok Conference to join with other new States parties.

Despite the troubled times, Mr. Lint said, he was confident that the States parties would respect their commitments under the Convention, particularly those found under Article 1. He solemnly appealed to all States outside the Convention to respect it and the international standards set by the Convention. They should refrain from using anti-personnel landmines given their disastrous effects on civilians long after the end of hostilities. He urged all States not yet party to the Convention to sign and ratify it as soon as possible.

KUNIKO INOGUCHI (Japan) said she wished to inform the Conference that Japan, Australia and the United Nations Institute of Disarmament Research would co-organize a workshop titled "Promoting Verification in Multilateral Arms Control Treaties -- Future Verification Regime, FMCT in Particular", on 28 March in the Council Chamber. The workshop constituted an important part of Japan's efforts to engage in substantive discussions on the priority issues of disarmament and arms control. All delegations concerned had been issued invitations.

The objective of this workshop would be to learn generic lessons from existing verification regimes in multilateral disarmament conventions and to discuss whether and how those lessons could be drawn upon in the creation of a new verification regime -- inter alia, a fissile-materials cut-off treaty (FMCT).

The morning session would be devoted to discussions on generic lessons; the afternoon session would focus on verification of the FMCT. She hoped all interested delegations would take this opportunity to learn about verification-related issues and to actively participate in these very informal discussions.

DIMITER TZANTCHEV (Bulgaria) said Bulgaria fully shared the feelings of frustration expressed by many delegations at the Conference's continuing inability to launch any substantive work. Bulgaria wanted to add its voice to those delegations that had expressed their full support for the cross-regional group initiative of Ambassadors Dembri, Lint, Reyes, Salander and Vega. They had presented an initiative that was a ready-to-use tool, provided there was sufficient political will to do so. Bulgaria highly appreciated the flexibility of the initiative and its evolving character. It supported the proposal and was ready to begin immediately its implementation.

At the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Second Review Conference in December 2001, the States Parties had taken the important step of amending Article 1 of the Convention, thus extending its scope of application to non-international armed conflicts. Bulgaria welcomed this important step and was pleased to announce that on 22 January 2003, it had ratified the amendment, with the instrument of ratification deposited on 28 February in New York.

NAELA GABR (Egypt) said this meeting was being held during a very difficult period which would have consequences on political and economic international relations for a long time to come. Her delegation supported the view that cooperation needed to be strengthened with civil society; Egypt favoured having civil society work in every area, including disarmament. During times which placed great responsibility upon the United Nations to protect peace and security and international legality, it was important not to resort to force and the use of weapons, which would have harmful effects on international law by increasing instability, causing the deaths of many people and escalating violence. It was necessary to reaffirm the importance of disarmament, which should take place within the framework of the United Nations.

Following the various phases of the mounting crisis over Iraq, Egypt had always insisted that responses must take place under United Nations auspices. Common action had been stressed to deal with the matter in a transparent manner under international law. It was therefore necessary to make use of all possibilities in order to verify the applicable resolutions to force Iraq to respect its commitments. As Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek had said, verification of Iraq's nuclear capacity was an integral part of efforts under way to create a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, including Israel, in accordance with Security Council resolution 687 (1991). But it was regrettable that these resolutions had not been put into practice, except in the case of Iraq. That led to questions of double standards. It was necessary for the issues of the Middle East to be dealt with in a global framework, without stressing one issue over others. Peaceful solutions must be found to all the issues, particularly to that of the Palestinian cause, which had priority and was the first topic of international and Arab concern. Civilians there were dying every day.