Deadlock Continues to Plague CD Through Final 1997 Session

THE DEEPLY DIVIDED UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) concluded its final session of 1997 on September 9, having failed to agree on a work program during the year and—for the first time in its 19 year history—to establish a single ad hoc negotiating committee. Although the CD's 61 members had approved an agenda early in 1997, they were unable throughout the year to narrow their differences over the priorities for the Geneva based forum.

The current impasse has resulted in a split between the "Group of 21" non aligned states, which considers nuclear disarmament the CD's top priority, and a number of Western countries generally aligned with the nuclear weapon states (minus China), which favor the early negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty and possibly an anti personnel landmine accord that complements the ongoing "Ottawa Process." Efforts by the non aligned states during the 1997 conference to establish an ad hoc committee to negotiate a time bound nuclear disarmament framework, which might include a fissile ban component, were repeatedly rejected. Compromise proposals by Japan and New Zealand to appoint a special coordinator or establish a nuclear disarmament committee failed to acheive consensus.

Although the stalemate over nuclear disarmament dominated much of the CD's time this year, the conference was also unable to agree on negotiating mandates for any of the six other arms control related items which appear annually on its agenda. These issues include prevention of nuclear war, prevention of an arms race in outer space, new types of weapons of mass destruction, comprehensive disarmament, negative security assurances and transparency in armaments.

Addressing the CD at the beginning of its third and final session, Ralph Earle, deputy director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, told the conference that a fissile ban would be "an important measure in the overall process of nuclear disarmament," and that without it "the ultimate goal of nuclear disarmament would be decreased significantly." The U.S. delegation also made it clear that the United States would continue to favor bilateral negotiations with Russia as the most expeditious way to ensure continued progress in nuclear disarmament, at least for the foreseeable future.

On the final day of the session, the U.S. representative, Katharine Crittenberger, criticized the "all or nothing approach" that some delegations pursued during the 1997 conference and said there seemed to be a lack of desire and will to achieve substantive results. Days earlier, Munir Akram of Pakistan said some delegations' positions were so rigid that the CD was unable to carry out its responsibilities, and criticized the handful of states that had refused to allow the CD to begin negotiations on nuclear disarmament. However, a British diplomatic source familiar with the debate said the "onus is on the threshold states" of India, Israel and Pakistan.


Landmine Debate

Although anti personnel landmines were not formally included on the CD's 1997 agenda and the "Ottawa Process" overshadowed the talks in Geneva, there was some optimism during the final session that the conference would be able to address landmines in 1998. Ambassador John Campbell of Australia, the CD's special coordinator on landmines appointed during the second session, recommended that the conference postpone further discussions until after the Ottawa treaty is signed in December and the CD can determine how to best complement the Ottawa Process.

On September 9, Campbell told the conference a majority of states favor, or at least do not oppose, addressing the landmine issue when the conference opens its 1998 session in January. He also said the mandate with the greatest support is a step by step approach to eventual elimination that begins by addressing exports, imports and transfers.

During a September 26 ceremony at the United Nations marking the handover of the Ottawa text, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said, "[The] treaty will serve not only as a complement but also as an inspiration for greater and swifter progress" in the CD's work toward a total ban. "Together, the two avenues can truly lead to a worldwide prohibition, including all countries affected by landmines," Annan said.

The CD's three other special coordinators, who were appointed in August to address the effective functioning of the conference, membership expansion and review of the CD agenda, all reported that divergent views of the delegations prevented them from making recommendations. The conference rejected a request to allow the coordinators to hold intercessional consultations before the 1998 conference convenes. The CD's sessions in 1998 are scheduled for January 19 to March 27, May 11 to June 26, and July 27 to September 9.