Conference on Disarmament: Limited Progress Reported on Chemical Weapons Ban

UN Chronicle, December 1989 | Go to article overview

Conference on Disarmament: Limited Progress Reported on Chemical Weapons Ban


The Conference on Disarmament concluded its two-part 1989 session (Geneva, 7 February-27 April, 13 June-31 August) reporting only a limited progress on a chemical weapons ban.

Pierre Morel of France, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Chemical Weapons, told the conference that the text of the draft convention on the prohibition of development, production, and stockpiling of chemical weapons and on their destruction had been "markedly improved".

However, there was a general feeling of disappointment, as expressed by a representative of Austria, who said that "the long-awaited breakthrough" towards a global convention on the ban "still seems beyond reach".

Despite intensive consultations throughout the session, no agreement was reached on a mandate for a subsidiary body on a nuclear test ban. However, El Ghali Benhima of Morocco, Conference President for August,, said that consultations on this "high priority issue" had not been in vain, since they had made it possible to narrow areas of disagreement. Many delegations supported further consultations until agreement is reached.

The Conference, the world's single forum for multilateral disarmament negotiations, holds a two-part session each year.

The 40-member body includes the five nuclear-weapon StatesChina, France, USSR, United Kingdom and United States-other militarily significant States, as well as some neutral and non-aligned countries, known as the "Group of 21".

During 1989, the Conference reestablished five ad hoc committees to continue work on a chemical weapons convention, a radiological weapons ban, prevention of an arms race in outer space, a comprehensive programme of disarmament, and security assurances for non-nuclear-weapon States. Conference members were unable to agree on mandates for subsidiary bodies on the cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament, and the prevention of nuclear war.

Luvsandorjiin Bayart of Mongolia, Conference President for July, said that a number of delegations, while stressing the pivotal role" of the Conference, had expressed their concern regarding "its credibility" in view of the gap between the declared objectives and the results achieved.

New Soviet-US accord

In August, the United States and the USSR reported to the Conference on the latest developments regarding their bilateral nuclear and space talks. The two countries also transmitted to the body the text of their agreement on the prevention of dangerous military activities, signed in Moscow on 12 june.

Under the accord, the parties are to take necessary measures to prevent such activities and to ensure peaceful resolution of any incident which may arise as a result of an unintentional entry by personnel, ship, aircraft or ground hardware of the armed forces of one country into the national territory of the other country.

The agreement specifically seeks to reduce the risk of unintended military confrontation in regions such as the Persian Gulf where Soviet and United States forces have often operated close to each other.

Chemical weapons

Committee Chairman Pierre Morel reported that work had been advanced on provisions related to the protection of confidential information; guidelines for the international inspectorate; institutional issues; assistance and protection against chemical weapons; and economic and technological developments. The Committee had tackled one of the most sensitive subjects of the future convention-challenge inspections-and the important question of sanctions had been considered. …

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Conference on Disarmament: Limited Progress Reported on Chemical Weapons Ban
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