[Disarmament] Conference on Disarmament/Nuclear disarmament
12 February 2009
Mr. President, At the outset, allow me to thank you for the admirable manner in which you have been conducting your chairmanship in the critical phase at the beginning of this year’s session. We extend our gratitude also to the coordinators for their efforts in steering our informal debates. Whilst fully subscribing to the statements just delivered by the Czech Presidency of the European Union, Austria would like to address several issues pertaining to the three agenda items that have been discussed in an informal setting this week.
With regard to the prevention of an arms race in outer space, my delegation is of the opinion that code of conducts significantly contribute to enhancing security of outer space activities or to curbing proliferation risks. In her role as Immediate Central Contact and Executive Secretariat of the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, Austria notes with satisfaction that more than two thirds of the UN membership have already subscribed to the Code. We call upon all Subscribing States to respect their obligations under the Code especially with a view to submitting pre-launch notifications and encourage those states not having yet subscribed to the Code to take such a step in the near future.
As regards nuclear disarmament, let me mention our efforts in support of the CTBT: The entry into force of the CTBT is long overdue. As an expression of its commitment to that treaty, Austria has assumed last year together with Costa Rica the Presidency of the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT, the so-called Art XIV Conference. In this capacity we have sponsored outreach activities in many parts of the world in order to speed up the ratification process. We also co-organized the CTBT Ministerial Meeting in New York on 24 September 2008, at which high-level representatives from more than ninety states, as well as the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, former US Defence Secretary William Perry and UN Peace Ambassador Michael Douglas participated.
The meeting raised the wider public’s awareness about the significance of nuclear disarmament for world security and clearly underlined that civil society needs to play a stronger role in our common disarmament efforts. We note with satisfaction that a considerable number of states, among them Annex II-State Colombia, have ratified the Treaty during our tenure, raising the total number of ratifying states to 148. There is, undoubtedly, a global momentum towards entry into force of this Treaty. We are hopeful that the new US administration’s positive attitude towards the CTBT will act as further boost to accelerate the entry into force of the Treaty. In the remaining time of her Chairmanship Austria will do its utmost to encourage all Annex II-States who have not yet done so to ratify the CTBT as soon as possible.
In the context of the NPT and the IAEA framework Austria actively contributes to the debate on the multilateralization of the nuclear fuel cycle. We believe that it is time to design a framework suited to the nuclear realities of the 21st century which restricts the most dangerous technologies, enrichment and reprocessing, exclusively to facilities under multilateral control. One of the most tangible projects so far is the establishment of a nuclear fuel reserve under the control of the IAEA. Initially proposed by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, this project is fully endorsed by the Austrian government and the European Union. From the Austrian point of view, however, fuel reserve mechanisms can only be a first step in a long journey. When the IAEA Director General reinvigorated efforts on multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle in 2004, he argued that the ultimate goal should be the multilateralization of all new and existing enrichment and reprocessing capabilities. This is an ambitious goal and it is necessary to begin our work now, so as to be able to identify the most opportune avenues for getting to a full scope multilateralization as soon as possible.
Efforts towards the multilateralisation of the nuclear fuel cycle are closely interrelated with those towards banning the production of weapons-grade fissile material. In this regard, a fissile-material cut-off treaty must be the next step towards complete nuclear disarmament. From our perspective, a comprehensive ban on the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes is indispensable to stop the nuclear arms race.
It goes without saying that such a treaty can and must be verified. Effective verification should comprise any enrichment and reprocessing facilities. Furthermore, mechanisms need to be established also to detect undeclared or clandestine enrichment or reprocessing activities.
As to the question of existing stockpiles of fissile material, an eventual FMCT could include provisions enhancing transparency and confidence. Firstly, any fissile material for civil purposes should be placed under the auspices of the IAEA. Such a provision would also be in accordance with our aforementioned proposal on the multilateralisation of the nuclear fuel cycle. Secondly, all nuclear weapons powers, regardless if they are State Parties to the NPT or not, should be obliged to apply the highest security standards to curb the proliferation risk and to enhance confidence through higher transparency on their military stockpiles.
An FMCT should not only entail the cessation of a nuclear arms race by capping the amount of weapons-grade fissile material, but also increase confidence through an effective verification regime and enhanced transparency. This would pave the way for the negotiation of a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control as called for in Art VI of the NPT.
Austria strongly believes that the international community needs to pursue a determined approach on our way towards a world without nuclear weapons. The Conference on Disarmament should play a central role in this regard. Many delegations have stated that time is ripe for negotiations of an FMCT. From our perspective, such a treaty is long overdue and should be negotiated in the CD in an open and transparent manner giving all delegations the opportunity to pronounce their respective priorities. For us, extended discussions on a programme of work are only a pretext for an unwillingness to engage in substantive negotiations. In this regard, we are looking forward to achieving considerable progress on substance in the course of this year’s session.