Disarmament Conference Launches 1985 Session at Time of 'Hopeful Developments' on Arms Control

Article excerpt

The Conference on Disarmament began its 1985 meetings on 5 February in Geneva "at a time of hopeful developments" regarding arms control and disarmament, said Conference President for February, Donald Lowitz (United States).

Resumption of bilateral negotiations on nuclear and space arms by the Soviet Union and United States had been noted with satisfaction by all, who also hoped for their success, he said. That optimism extended to prospects for the work facing the Conference.

Milijan Komatina, new Secretary-General of the 40-member Conference, read a message from Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, in which he stressed the futility of the nuclear arms race.

"All of us live under the nuclear threat", he said, "as none of us could escape from the catastrophic consequences of a nuclear war on this delicately balanced planet. If we fail to recognize this terrifying fact, we may threaten to sever our cultural heritage, and deny a future to generations to come. Such mutual suicide is a far cry from the values of human worth and understanding implanted in the United Nations Charter."

He also welcomed the resumption of bilateral talks, stating that the Conference in 1985 would "provide yet another opportunity for renewed and determined efforts towards the goal of disarmament."

"You have here the possibility of breaking the long impasse in disarmament negotiations just as the two major Powers have in their forthcoming negotiations. Here, a contribution can be made to the process of rebuilding mutual trust and confidence and thus respond to the public's persistent longing--and, indeed, its entitlement--for peace and security", he said.

The 1985 Conference agenda covers: nuclear test ban; cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament; prevention of nuclear war, including all related matters; chemical weapons; prevention of an arms race in outer space; effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons; new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons; radiological weapons; and a comprehensive programme of disarmament.

Subsidiary bodies

On 7 February, the Conference re-established its Ad Hoc Committee on Chemical Weapons, which was to continue elaborating a convention to ban development, production and stock-piling of such weapons, and on their destruction. (In 1984, the Committee had established three working groups; on scope, elimination and compliance. At a resumed session (14 January-1 February 1935, Geneva), topics reviewed included permitted activities and verification on challenge.

During the debate in February, a number of countries made clear they favoured re-establishing a subsidiary body to negotiate a nuclear test ban. Some wanted an expanded mandate for such a body, which in 1982 and 1983 concentrated on verification and compliance issues. Last year, because of lack of agreement on a mandate, the body was not re-established.

New Ad Hoc Committees to consider items on cessation of the nuclear arms race, prevention of nuclear war, including all related matters and prevention of an arms race in outer space were also proposed last year, but not established because of a lack of consensus. The Group of 21 non-aligned or neutral countries and the group of socialist countries favour creation of these groups.

President Lowitz on 28 February said he was optimistic that consensus would be reached to create one or more of these bodies "within the not-too-distant future". There was a "detectable-trend" towards that objective, he said.

The Conference includes the five major nuclear-weapon States--China, France, USSR, United Kingdom, United States--and 35 other States. Other nations may ask to be invited to present their views on certain issues. The Conference presidency rotates monthly among member countries on an alphabetical basis. …