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18 October 2013 - General Assembly - First Committee - Statement by Mr Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel, Ambassador and French Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament

“Nuclear weapons”
(Unofficial translation)

Mr Chairman, Dear Colleagues,

I associate myself fully with the speech given on behalf of the European Union.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is the cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the basis for our disarmament efforts. Our priority is its consolidation. The Action Plan adopted by consensus in 2010 is our roadmap. It is important to implement this roadmap and to stick to it, without deviating from the chosen route in order to ensure a successful Review Conference in 2015.

1) I would like to commend the professionalism of our colleague, Ambassador Cornel Feruta from Romania. Under his Presidency, the NPT Preparatory Committee held in-depth and balanced discussions on each of the three pillars of the Action Plan. We were also able to address key issues such as withdrawal from the Treaty and compliance with non-proliferation commitments.

I would equally like to commend Jaakko Laajava for preparing the Conference on the creation of a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, which we regret could not take place in 2012 as planned. The facilitator has our full support.

Mr Chairman,

2) Implementing the roadmap adopted by consensus in 2010 naturally means that nuclear-weapon-States must live up to their commitments.

With our P5 partners, we are working relentlessly with this objective in mind. We meet each year to work on the implementation of the NPT Action Plan and we have created groups of experts. The meeting organized in Geneva by the Russian Federation on 18-19 April enabled very substantive discussions on all issues.

Together, we are working to increase mutual trust and transparency, which are essential in order to make progress on disarmament. The group of experts tasked with preparing a glossary of common definitions are making satisfactory progress, under the supervision of China. Furthermore, we remain aware of the “reporting” deadline of 2014 and we are continuing discussions on the issue.

The P5 remains fully committed to promoting the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and in this regard I welcome the ratifications by Brunei Darussalam, Chad, Guinea-Bissau and Iraq this year; I also welcome the creation by the CTBTO Executive Secretary of a Group of Eminent Persons (GEM) to advance the Treaty’s entry into force. Above all the P5 continues to support the immediate launch of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) at the Conference on Disarmament, in accordance with document CD/1299 and the mandate contained therein.

France has for many years supported the establishment of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones (NWFZ). As part of this regional approach, it has already issued negative security assurances to over 100 States. We are ready to sign the Protocol to the Bangkok Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone as soon as possible. Progress has been made in our dialogue with the five Central Asian States on the Protocol to the Treaty of Semipalatinsk in order to find solutions acceptable for all Parties, and there are encouraging signs of further developments. Lastly, I recall that in September 2012 we signed a parallel declaration with Mongolia on its nuclear-weapon-free status. However, this valuable regional approach should not overshadow the fact that France has also issued binding security assurances in 1995, in order to meet the expectations of the non-nuclear-weapon States.

Mr Chairman,

3) As a nuclear-weapon State, France is aware of its specific responsibilities as regards the implementation of the roadmap of the 2010 NPT Action Plan.

I would first like to recall some of our past actions, some of which are irreversible and unique among the nuclear-weapon States: complete, unilateral and irreversible dismantlement of our nuclear test site, and of our plutonium and uranium production facilities for nuclear weapons; halving of the number of nuclear warheads, complete dismantlement of our land component, reduction by one third of our submarine and, as announced in 2008 and completed in 2010, of our airborne deterrent components. We were, alongside the United Kingdom, the first nuclear-weapon State to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). This record is exemplary and it is a record made up of actions, not words.

France has never participated in any nuclear arms race. It applies the principle of strict sufficiency, i.e. it maintains its arsenal at the lowest possible level, compatible with the strategic context. The French deterrent is strictly defensive. Designed only for extreme circumstances of legitimate defence, the French deterrence is not in contradiction with international law.

Mr Chairman,

4) Implementing the roadmap adopted by consensus is also a shared responsibility.

This roadmap is firstly a shared approach which applies to all States Parties to the NPT, the “step-by-step” approach. It is a sequence for multilateral action, with the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the launch of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). This is a logical sequence.

The time for discussions on the order of priorities for disarmament negotiations is past. This debate has been settled by the NPT Action Plan adopted by consensus in 2010.

The Plan is very clear in this regard. Action 15 calls for negotiation of an FMCT to begin without delay at the Conference on Disarmament (CD), in accordance with document CD/1299 and the mandate contained therein. It is therefore urgent that the Conference on Disarmament adopt a programme of work based on document CD/1864, agreed by consensus in 2009. We are constant in our position to begin these negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament without delay. To this end, we supported Resolution 67/53 to make progress in talks on this Treaty, which should be negotiated at the Conference on Disarmament. We believe that the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE), which will meet in 2014 and 2015, will enable important progress. France calls on all States invited to the GGE to participate.

Questioning the priority accorded to negotiating an FMCT would be to deviate from the route laid out in the 2010 roadmap. It would thus risk wasting more time.

Mr Chairman,

5) Last year, my country strove to warn this General Assembly of the probable consequences of certain initiatives which created parallel forums.

We can only observe that this achieved only, as we feared, the reopening of discussions on the step-by-step approach and the negotiating priority. This debate was settled upon the adoption of the common roadmap represented by the 2010 NPT Action Plan.

Mr Chairman,

6) Disarmament depends above all else on mutual trust between States and on the general perception of security. It cannot be decided upon with disregard for the strategic environment in which we live and the evolution of threats.

Yet proliferation remains the most serious threat to international peace and security. It is an obstacle to the development of civil nuclear cooperation projects, as it undermines trust. It also hinders the progress of nuclear disarmament. France will make every effort to step up the fight against proliferation but it is essential that all Parties are committed to this in order to ensure the regime’s effectiveness and respond to crises.

7) Last February, North Korea conducted another nuclear test, its third since 2006. This test was a serious act and a major threat to international peace and security. It is also, following a long-range missile launch on 12 December 2012, a new, unacceptable violation by North Korea of its international obligations. These acts were condemned in UN Security Council Resolutions 2087 and 2094. Recent information that the plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon is once again in operation is of particular concern.

Pyongyang must end this escalation and its warmongering rhetoric.

8) The Iranian proliferation crisis naturally remains a central concern for us.

The latest report by the Director General of the IAEA once again confirms Iran’s violation of its obligations under the resolutions of the IAEA Board of Governors and the UN Security Council. Its stock of enriched uranium, including uranium enriched to up to 20%, is still growing, and its heavy water-related activities bring it closer to the effective generation capacity for plutonium.

The declarations of Iran’s new President are, we hope, an overture. The French President met him last month, here in New York. He informed him of our willingness to hold dialogue, but also of our firmness on nuclear proliferation and on France’s position that it would be unacceptable that Iran acquire a nuclear weapon. We are awaiting concrete gestures to restore confidence, showing that Iran is truly prepared to fulfil the expectations of the international community.

Discussions in Geneva took place yesterday and the day before to assess the new Iranian authorities’ serious willingness to make progress and to consider implementing measures to be verified by the IAEA. We had, for the first time, detailed and substantial discussions with Iran, in new atmosphere. Although important differences remain between both parties, we hope that these discussions will be the first credible steps towards rebuilding trust. We stand ready for that, while remaining focused on developments in Iran’s nuclear activities on the ground.

9) Lastly, France continues to hope that full light will be shed on Syria’s past and present nuclear activities. We regret that the IAEA has had to indefinitely postpone a verification mission in 2013 and we call upon Syria to allow this inspection mission as soon as possible. Mr Chairman,

10) France is determined to seek a safer world for all and to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons, in accordance with the goals of the NPT, in a manner promoting international stability and which is based on the principle of equal and undiminished security for all.

Thank you.


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