19 March 1996

Press Release


19960319 ADVANCE TEXT Following is the text of the address, translated from French, by Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to the Conference on Disarmament at Geneva on 19 March:

I should like, first, to express my sincere gratitude to you for organizing this special meeting of the Conference which allows me to be here with you today.

I fully realize that, given the ongoing negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty, your Conference has a very busy schedule. That is precisely why I decided to come and visit you. For I want to tell you with the utmost solemnity how much importance I attach to the success of your negotiations.

In my message to you at the start of your annual session, I emphasized that nothing should divert you from your goal, and that it was imperative to come up with a comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty in 1996.

The first part of your annual session will conclude at the end of this month. My message has not changed. It has even acquired renewed urgency. It is essential that you get beyond certain differences of opinion, however great they may be. For we must seize this opportunity to bring to a conclusion more than 30 years of efforts directed at ensuring that all further nuclear testing will henceforth be banned by international law.

The Conference on Disarmament has demonstrated in the past that it could grapple determinedly with the political dimensions and technical aspects of negotiating a treaty of international significance. It demonstrated this again quite recently with the negotiation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. On that occasion it clearly affirmed that it was equal to its task as sole negotiating body in the field of disarmament.

I am certain that you will be able, today, to continue on that road.

For the first time since consideration of the banning of nuclear tests began in 1962, all the major protagonists -- including the five major nuclear

Powers -- are participating actively in the negotiations. And everyone is convinced that the Conference is the only forum within which such negotiations can be conducted. Indeed, the political and geographical balance of its membership, and the special arrangements which have been made to allow more than 50 non-Member States to participate in it, make the Conference a forum for negotiation that is unique of its kind and guarantees that all viewpoints will be heard. But everyone must be flexible and must demonstrate that they are determined to find a compromise. That is my exhortation to you today. For there is no time to be lost.

Today we know that the opportunity is there and that we absolutely must seize it. For the first 50 years of its existence, the United Nations was primarily calling on the nuclear Powers to stop trying to outdo one another in their frantic efforts to produce ever more powerful and ever more sophisticated nuclear weapons and to start reducing their immense arsenals instead of seeking to increase them. At the same time, great efforts were being made to prevent those weapons from proliferating throughout the planet.

Today, with the end of the cold war, great progress has been made in the field of nuclear disarmament. Henceforth, the two major nuclear States are no longer aiming strategic missiles at each other. The Russian Federation and the United States, responding to the urgings of all peoples, have embarked on a veritable process of nuclear disarmament. From now on the world no longer lives in atomic fear.

For the first time since the dawn of the nuclear age, a real discussion can be held on the question of how many nuclear weapons are necessary to the balance of security. And the point is no longer to have more and more weapons but to reduce them as much as possible. Furthermore, today, most nuclear Powers have ended their tests.

The comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty would therefore be an additional means of making the end of the cold war somehow part of positive international law. It would give new impetus to nuclear disarmament and would make an invaluable contribution to the non-proliferation regime. It would also constitute an impediment to all qualitative development of nuclear weapons, because perfecting new nuclear weapons presupposes the carrying out of nuclear tests. Without a test, a State could not produce a new type of weapon.

Today, the international community clearly recognizes that nuclear disarmament and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons are in the interests of all States, whether or not they have such weapons. This was affirmed by the 175 States parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons when they took the major decision to make the Treaty not only a permanent expression of their commitment to non-proliferation, but also proof

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of their desire for the "determined pursuit" of nuclear disarmament measures and to conclude a comprehensive test-ban treaty "no later than 1996".

That decision gave rise to great hopes that a comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty would be rapidly concluded. Last December, the General Assembly of the United Nations reaffirmed that it considered this a priority, and requested your Conference to complete its work during the course of 1996.

I have followed your work closely, and I am happy to see that the Conference has re-established the ad hoc committee on a nuclear test-ban. That has made it possible to extend the areas upon which consensus has been reached, to include new group proposals in the negotiations and give impetus and a new focus to your work.

It is not for me to go into the details of your negotiations, but I wish to insist on one matter which appears to me to be essential, and which concerns the field of application of the future treaty. The considerable political progress made last year on this issue must be consolidated. A broad consensus has already emerged on the proposal that all explosions, however small, must be banned. There can therefore be no acceptable threshold. This is a completely satisfactory development and the international community expected nothing less. Everyone is aware of the special responsibility which the nuclear Powers have in this area. I therefore urge them in particular to ensure that the treaty really deserves its name, that is to say that it provides for a truly "comprehensive" ban on nuclear tests.

Today you have begun a race against time. The conclusion of the treaty cannot be deferred any longer. It must be concluded this year. Otherwise, a severe blow will be dealt to the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and thereby to peace and security as a whole. Once again, I ask you all, whether you represent a large State or a small one, to show flexibility, open-mindedness, a spirit of compromise and the will to succeed.

As for myself, I can assure you I will do everything in my power to help you. As soon as the treaty is concluded, I will submit it to the General Assembly for signature. I shall also make sure that the United Nations helps prospective signatories of the treaty to prepare for its implementation. My duty today is therefore to urge you to succeed. Your negotiations are taking place before the eyes of the world. The whole international community is waiting for you to conclude this treaty. I am confident that you will not wish to disappoint it. I thank you for the historic work you are in the process of completing.

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For information media. Not an official record.