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Transcript of Press Roundtable with Ambassador Kennedy
January 21, 2011


January 20, 2011

Press Roundtable

Opening Statement by

U.S. Ambassador Laura E. Kennedy
Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament


Special Representative on Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention Issues

Geneva, Switzerland

Last year was really a dizzying year on the nuclear arms control front. We were pleased to host the Nuclear Security Summit; the New START, which as you know was negotiated here in Geneva; the Nuclear Posture Review for the United States; the NPT Review Conference which we were delighted to see came out with a robust action plan.

We still have a very ambitious “to do” list. In terms of the Geneva perspective, at the top of that list, of course, would be FMCT. No surprise, of course, to any of you all. We see this as very much part and parcel of President Obama’s Prague agenda. We see this as the next logical step in nuclear disarmament. It is a necessary step forward if we are going to get to that world without nuclear weapons which President Obama articulated so eloquently in Prague. It is also a step that has been endorsed by the overwhelming majority of the international community, most certainly at the NPT Review Conference I mentioned earlier. We believe that this is long overdue, it’s a priority. This sense of urgency is not, again, simply one of the United States’, but is widely shared. The Secretary General himself has given significant attention to this. He hosted a high level meeting that you all will recall in New York in September, and leaders from around the world shared and articulated that sense of urgency, as well as in New York, having led our delegation to the First Committee in New York, another forum where the same sense that this is a key element in the nuclear disarmament agenda.

Where does that leave us at the beginning of the year? A sense of commitment, a sense of urgency shared by the international community. It’s not secret, of course, that one nation who happens to be a longstanding ally and friend of the United States does not share that commitment to begin negotiations of an FMCT. We continue a dialogue with all of our partners. But in terms of Geneva and what lies ahead we will support efforts to get to an agreed program of work and agenda to start off the year. We’ll work with the new president, Canadian Ambassador Grinius, to achieve that. But we also believe that we should have a robust discussion pending adoption of a program of work. We’re realistic about the way ahead, but committed.

In terms of the importance we attach to this agenda, I’m delighted to note that Assistant Secretary Rose Gottemoeller, whom many of you all will recall from her long efforts here in Geneva, will be joining me here at the beginning of the session next week. Also, you know that the Secretary General is coming to speak to the conference next week. We very much applaud his call to action to the CD and we, as I said, know this is broadly shared among the community. We hope that all will, again, exhibit the same spirit and encourage all members to get down to work, if not with the formal beginning of negotiations, at least with robust discussions that, again, are useful in terms of identifying issues for the way ahead.

Let me turn, if I may, to the BWC. As I said, this is an important year. We just had at the end of last year the BWC annual meeting, which I think was a positive meeting. Certainly it aired viewpoints from all the member states. But it was a productive and a constructive meeting and I think set a good tone for the Review Conference at the end of this year.

David [Mission PAO] mentioned that I had been asked to fill a newly created position as the U.S. Special Representative for BWC Issues. Creating this post was another indication of the importance that the U.S. attaches to the BWC. The strategy that the administration set out on BWC issues in 2009 was the second document, decision document that President Obama signed off on at the beginning of his administration. Again, I think [that is] another fact illustrating the importance that he has attached in his administration to this issue.

I also might mention that we have a special role to play as one of the three depositary states for the BWC, so we certainly look forward to in that role showing our support for the aims of the BWC and working with all of our partners in the international community to have a successful Review Conference.

Among our goals is enhancing universalization. This treaty is only — I should check my numbers, but I think we’re at 143 [members]. Contrast that with the NPT which has 189; the CWC, roughly the same. So we want to get to full universalization or at least make as much progress forward as we can.

We want to promote compliance in the BWC as the norm. It is one of the three pillars of the international community’s efforts against weapons of mass destruction proliferation along with the NPT and CWC. All of which, incidentally, negotiated here in Geneva.

This brings me back to the CD again. Geneva has been the forum for multilateral arms control and we want to continue and build on that legacy again, recognizing that many years have gone by without concrete accomplishments in terms of producing new negotiated agreements.

Let me just say a few words about the broader agenda. We were all delighted to see New START ratified at the end of the year. We are following of course the proceedings in Russia and their ratification procedure. Assuming ratification by both states, of course the next step will be to exchange instruments, exchange data, and the Bilateral Consultative Commission will begin its work and the very important verification work specified under the treaty will resume.

I mentioned our “to do” list. That very much includes CTBT. The administration is fully committed, as ever, to ratification. We’re still doing the homework to set the stage, but indeed I could just say as somebody who served in Vienna earlier, we have been extremely active in terms of our support for the work of the CTBT organization in Vienna. Again, another sign that we’re looking towards ratification and laying the ground work for that.

I also would note that in terms of nuclear weapons free zones, which are negative security assurances, being one of the agenda items for the Conference on Disarmament, that we also are preparing to submit as we announced at the NPT Review Conference, I might add, the protocols for two of the regional nuclear weapons free zones. Pelindaba, which covers Africa; and Rarotonga, which is Pacific Asia.

I also wanted to highlight one other thing. This was touched on in the NPT final action plan, the final report of the NPT Review Conference. There was a reference to the London Conference of what are called the P5, the officially recognized nuclear weapons states. We’re delighted, and I’m happy some French reporters are here today, that Paris has announced it will host a follow-up conference of the P5 members later this year in, of course, coordination with all of the P5 members. We think that’s going to be a very important continuation and we hope expansion of this work that was begun in London in the previous year. We take very seriously our commitments under the NPT Treaty as a nuclear weapons state and look forward to important work to carry forward that work.

Most importantly, again going back to New START, that once it’s ratified we see it as setting the stage for further negotiations on limitations and cuts in the nuclear field — strategic, non-strategic, deployed and non-deployed. But that’s looking further afield. We have lots of homework I’m sure that needs to be done on that front.

Let me just stop here.