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UK Mission to the United Nations

New York

London 10:40, 07 Mar 2012
New York 05:40, 07 Mar 2012
Last updated at 23:21 (UK time) 28 Jul 2011

The UK remains firmly committed to the long term goal of a world without nuclear weapons

27 July 2011

UK Statement by Ambassador Michael Tatham of the UK Mission to the UN, at the General Assembly High Level Meeting on Disarmament
UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

Mr President – thank you for convening this important discussion. The United Kingdom welcomes your personal commitment and the leadership you have shown on disarmament and non-proliferation.  We are very pleased to have this opportunity to take stock since the High-Level Meeting in September last year on revitalising the work of the Conference on Disarmament and taking forward multilateral disarmament negotiations.


The Government of the United Kingdom remains firmly committed to the long term goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and to making progress on multilateral disarmament. We take seriously our international disarmament obligations and have made concrete progress in the last year. In our Strategic Defence and Security Review in October 2010 we announced a number of disarmament measures around reducing the number of nuclear warheads and missiles on our submarines. We also gave a new, stronger assurance to non-nuclear weapon states.

There has been good progress on the international disarmament agenda in 2011. In February the New START Treaty entered into force, and a few weeks ago the five NPT-recognised nuclear weapon states took part in the P5 Conference in Paris. This was only the second time such a meeting has taken place, following the UK-hosted P5 meeting in 2009. We were delighted with the confidence-building discussions that took place, and the opportunity to look in detail at our disarmament obligations. The outcomes from the Conference – which my French colleague has already outlined on behalf of the P5 - clearly demonstrate our collective determination to work together to implement the commitments made in the 2010 NPT RevCon Action Plan. This includes practical steps taken by the UK, US, and Russia as depositaries of the NPT in our commitment towards the implementation of the 1995 NPT resolution on a Middle East free of Weapons of Mass Destruction and their means of delivery.

We look forward to making progress on the disarmament and confidence-building initiatives agreed at the Conference. As part of this follow-up work, the UK will host an expert-level meeting with our P5 partners on lessons learned from our pioneering work with Norway on the verification of warhead dismantlement.

Our work with Norway has demonstrated that nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states alike are able to make an active contribution to their NPT obligations through research into the verification of nuclear disarmament, while still complying with their non-proliferation obligations. Indeed, the cooperation of Non Nuclear Weapon States in nuclear disarmament verification research is necessary in order to achieve effective and mutually trusted technical and procedural solutions to support verifiable multilateral nuclear disarmament.

Mr Secretary General, despite positive progress and momentum elsewhere, the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva has so far failed to produce any substantive work since the High-Level Meeting last September. There is overwhelming support for the principle of a Treaty which will end the future production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons. Starting Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament would constitute a significant achievement and necessary building block for our ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, as we all know, one country continues to block this step. It is for this reason, as opposed to any other, that we are here today – and have made no tangible progress on FMCT since the High Level Meeting last September. If we want to move forward, we must focus our collective efforts on persuading all members to agree again to set the Conference on Disarmament back to work and start negotiating an FMCT. The side events organised by our Australian and Japanese colleagues constituted a welcome and informative initiative towards this end.

If it is to strengthen the global disarmament and non-proliferation framework in a meaningful way, a future FMCT must prohibit the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons and other explosive devices by all states.

For this reason, the UK wishes to re-emphasise its strong commitment to starting negotiations on an FMCT within the Conference on Disarmament. The Conference on Disarmament represents the best option we have for negotiations, with all the relevant states as members. It is an institution which, through its rules of procedure, shows respect for everyone's security.

And we still have a Programme of Work ready to go – agreed by all except one. 1864 provides for negotiations on an FMCT, as well as substantive discussions on the other agenda items on which the Conference on Disarmament has also failed to make progress in the last two years.

We must continue to reassure all members that the Conference on Disarmament’s well-established rules offer protection for all countries’ security interests - both during negotiations and in the eventual signature and ratification phase. It is to be expected that some countries will have concerns about what an FMCT might mean for them. There will be plenty of opportunities to discuss all of the issues and concerns at the negotiating table.

Mr President, the public statement from the Paris P5 Conference reiterated the strong support of the P5 for the immediate start of FMCT negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament. The P5 made a commitment to renew efforts with relevant partners to promote such negotiations prior to the next UNGA. We intend to pursue further detailed discussions on the main Treaty issues with other relevant partners, building on the side-events that have already taken place.

As these discussions progress, momentum towards negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament will continue to build. We appeal to all States to sustain this momentum, and on the last remaining State to join the consensus and end its block on allowing the Conference on Disarmament to conduct its work, as soon as possible.

This block has been damaging for multilateralism inside the UN and has encouraged some to consider bypassing traditional institutions in order to try to make quick progress on an FMCT.  The Conference on Disarmament urgently needs to show that it is still relevant and that it can prove its potential as the best means of finding sustainable solutions for the challenges of global arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation in the 21st Century.

Thank you Mr President

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