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14 October 2011 - General Assembly - 1st Committee - Nuclear weapons - Statement by Mr. Eric Danon, Permanent Representative of France to the Conference on Disarmament

Mrs Chairperson,

Dear Colleagues,


As it is my good fortune to take the floor today, I would first like to underline my pleasure, as that of others, in seeing the nomination of a facilitator as well as the designation of the host country for the organization, in 2012, of a conference on a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East. This is an important step for all involved countries of the region and it is also, of course, an important step in the implementation of the roadmap that lies in the Action plan of the NPT Review Conference.


The past year was marked by positive advances in the nuclear field, notably with the entry into force of the new START agreement and the start of the consultations that now take place on a regular basis between the P5 countries aimed at fulfilling their commitments made within the framework of the NPT Action Plan. But particularly dangerous and destabilizing new steps aggravating nuclear proliferation were also made in this period. Furthermore, the general debate that came to an end three days ago once again testified to the growing frustration as a result of the deadlocks of multilateralism.


I would like, here, to reaffirm the way in which my country addresses these issues.


In the field of nuclear disarmament, no one can doubt France’s determination. We are one of the rare States that have taken irreversible disarmament measures. We have, in nearly 15 years, eliminated half of our nuclear warheads and, in the interest of transparency, we have made public the ceiling (300 warheads) of our entire arsenal. We have completely dismantled our ground-to-ground system; we have reduced by 30% our airborne and sea-based components. We ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty 12 years ago already and dismantled our test sites. We ceased the production of plutonium and uranium for nuclear weapons and dismantled the corresponding facilities. Our doctrine, which is strictly defensive, severely limits the use of nuclear weapons, restricting their use to extreme circumstances of self-defence.


Our determination to work with the other nuclear States is also perfectly clear. I want to reaffirm that in this respect, as you know, we invited our P5 partners to Paris in July for the first follow-up meeting to the 2010 Review Conference. The success of this meeting was firstly due to the obvious determination of the nuclear States to continue implementing concrete actions in order fully uphold their commitments with respect to the Treaty. We started to examine how we can be ready for 2015 with respect to the three pillars of the Treaty.


Furthermore, we initiated a series of consultations with other countries in order to encourage the swift commencement of the negotiation on an FMCT at the Conference on Disarmament.


We also made, in two rounds of discussions in Geneva and in New York, considerable progress with the ASEAN countries toward establishing a protocol to the Bangkok Treaty establishing a nuclear weapon-free zone in Southeast Asia.


France will be ready by 2014 to report on the results of its actions and the progress achieved within the framework of these commitments, notably those linked to actions 5 and 21 of the Action Plan.


But I want to stress one thing: the success of the Action Plan is the issue of all.


Our joint success will come from the fulfilment by each State Party to fulfil of its share in the implementation of the adopted measures; we will then have made progress, together, toward a safer world.


In saying this, I’m not evading the special responsibility of the nuclear States, particularly in the field of nuclear disarmament. France assumes its responsibility through concrete actions as I recalled. I simply want to point out that improving the strategic context, in which we all have a role to play, always precedes any new step aimed at reducing nuclear arsenals. Thus, for example, the significant reduction in the number of nuclear warheads in the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom and France over the last 20 years was made possible by the ending of the Cold War and the construction of a Europe that was finally re-united.


In the same way, only a sustained effort to reduce the serious tensions affecting - in different but always extremely dangerous ways - the Middle East as well as the Indian subcontinent and the Korean Peninsula will allow us to make decisive progress on disarmament in these regions of the world.


We must therefore work simultaneously on targeted strategies to resolve these tensions and to strengthen the mechanisms of collective security. It is through this course of action, both narrow and realistic, that we shall achieve tangible progress towards genuine disarmament and make the elimination of nuclear weapons eventually achievable.


Mrs Chairperson,


I reaffirmed, in my speech at the general debate, that the greatest threat to international security now was nuclear proliferation. The past year does not inspire optimism. In all forums - including the G8, the presidency of which we held this year, - France places particular emphasis on reducing this threat; strengthening the non-proliferation regime is for us an absolute priority.


Iran remains one of our main concerns since its military, nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions constitute a growing threat for international security and the stability of the region.


For many years, Iran has continued, in violation of UN Security Council and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors resolutions, to pursue a fait accompli policy. The danger signals are building up: announcement of the tripling of 20% enriched uranium production capacities without credible purpose, installation of the first centrifuges in the Qom plant, constructed under cover and dissimulated to the international community until 2009.


In this context, the most recent IAEA report circulated on September 2 has shown the aggravation of the situation on the ground. The Agency underlines the continuing very insufficient cooperation of Iran on all these matters of concern, insufficiency which disables Iran from guaranteeing the exclusively civilian purpose of its nuclear programme. The Agency expresses, in this regard, its growing concern in light of the "possible existence in Iran of secret past or current activities" - I repeat "current" -, linked to the possible military dimensions of the Iranian program, with respect to the development of a nuclear warhead for a ballistic missile. The IAEA adds that it holds detailed, exhaustive, consistent and credible information on this issue.


The grave and serious evidence of work relating to the design and manufacture of nuclear weapons by Iran is a major cause of concern for the international community. This evidence is on top of the continuation by Iran to pursue a ballistic and space program carried out in violation of international law. France continues to work with its partners of the E3 + 3 format to durably solve this major crisis. E3 + 3 remain open to dialogue and have recalled so in the margins of the latest United Nations General Assembly, through a declaration published on their behalf by the European Union High Representative. They are ready, however, given Iran’s real lack of willingness to negotiate in a concrete and serious manner on its nuclear programme, to continue to reinforce pressure on Tehran.


Iran is unfortunately not the only country that is a cause of concern for the international community. In North Korea, it is the revelation of a secret enrichment program, in violation of resolutions 1718 and 1874. In Syria, it is the violation of the safeguard agreement with the IAEA established by the latter in June and which resulted in the Syrian issue being referred to the Security Council by the Agency.


In short, last year wasn’t marked by the resolution of the persistent proliferation crises - far from it. We can’t simply bemoan this fact. France is, more than ever, determined to take action with its partners to combat these particularly grave threats.


Mrs Chairperson, Dear Colleagues,


I now come to the issue that has been addressed here on many occasions and which gives rise to shared frustrations year after year: the stalled multilateral negotiations on disarmament.


The general debate underscored once again - if there were any need to do so - that the suspension of the work of the CD stems from political antagonisms and that procedural improvements will not be enough to break the deadlock in this forum. Pakistan, in its speech, confirmed that it did not want to participate in the next step, which is however deemed necessary by the entire international community in order to move collectively toward reducing the arsenals, i.e. to stop the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. This pertains to its responsibility. But with respect to the work of the CD, its security concerns prompt it to propose that the international community should change the order of its priorities set by itself. This is not acceptable.


The resolutions submitted this year - today being the deadline for submissions - are important in that they try to contribute as concretely as possible, and in a realistic way, to restarting the cut-off treaty negotiation. The resolution on the negotiation of a future treaty, submitted by Canada - to which my delegation expresses its sincere appreciation - goes beyond urging the CD - as in previous years - to adopt a work program. It proposes a mechanism aimed at making real progress even if the CD would, in the year to come, reveal itself once again incapable of adopting such a programme. We hope that these efforts shall at last enable this body, which remains to us the only appropriate one to negotiate the cut off Treaty, to recover the active role that it should have.


That being said, I also believe it important that other resolutions relating to the nuclear field, like the one submitted by the NAC, do not try to reopen compromises reached with great difficulty, for example within the framework of the NPT Review Conference. The current preparation of certain resolutions tends in so doing to modify and amplify certain commitments contracted within the framework of the Action Plan adopted by consensus in May 2010. That doesn’t seem to be very productive to us. We’ve collectively worked on achieving a consensus that will allow us to make progress toward greater security for everyone. Let’s now try to preserve the spirit that allowed us to strengthen multilateralism and to focus on the effective implementation of the 2010 Action Plan.


Lastly, Mrs Chairperson, please be assured that you can count on my delegation’s full cooperation in order to ensure that the work of our Committee is as successful as possible.


Thank you.



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