Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference: Speech by the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the Conference on Disarmament


Mister President

Speaking, especially under an Argentinian president, I remember Jorge Luis Borges’s injunction to speak only if you can improve the silence. I cannot promise to do so, but I will at least be brief.

We have finally reached the culmination of a seven-year review cycle. Throughout your almost three years as President-elect, and during the last four weeks of sometimes trying negotiations, you have guided us with great competence, professionalism, transparency and good humor, and I thank you very sincerely. I know that you have been supported in this task by a superb team, including the chairpersons of the main committees and subsidiary bodies, by the Secretariat, led brilliantly by Mr Tudor, and by your own Argentinian team. Many others facilitated and brokered discussions among delegations on various issues to prepare the ground for the outcome document you produced. You and they all do honor to your services and to your countries.

Mister President

The fact that a single delegation prevented us from adopting a substantive consensus outcome document does not negate the four weeks of intensive discussions we had on all aspects of our Treaty. I recognize that many delegations were disappointed by what was in your text — or perhaps rather by what was not. But it was an honest attempt – on your part and on the part of all of us – to identify areas of agreement, which my delegation was ready to support. I deeply regret that he was unable to achieve consensus.

The fact that we have come so close to consensus is not only a testament to how hard you and most delegations here have worked over the past four weeks, but also a testament to the fact that there is more unite rather than divide us.

But we cannot escape the fact that there are deep divisions, in this treaty and in the world. They are only exacerbated by Russia’s illegal war against Ukraine. In addition to flouting the values ​​and Charter that underpin the United Nations, jeopardizing international peace and security and plunging the world into a food crisis, Russia’s aggression also poses serious challenges to the regime nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Many of us have repeatedly underscored these challenges throughout this Review Conference, and they were reaffirmed with admirable clarity in the statement delivered earlier by the distinguished Representative of France, to which my delegation fully associates. Perhaps it was inevitable that Russia would not allow this Conference to adopt a document laying out these challenges to the world, even as indirectly as the one you have presented to us. But they have been exposed throughout these four weeks. Just like they did tonight, they try to blame everyone but themselves for their actions. But while Russia can block passage of a document or obstruct an international conference, it cannot hide from the world’s revulsion at its actions.

Mister President

Even if there is no common agreement on the way forward, our obligations under the NPT remain. Our previous commitments, from 1995, 2000 and 2010, remain valid. We must continue to progress in this direction, even if we have not been able to update the roadmap.

The UK will do its part. In particular, we look forward to advancing, with Norway, the initiative to clarify and apply the principle of irreversibility; to contribute to the working group on strengthening the review process that we agreed to this evening; and to establish, with the United States and 30 other partners who have joined to date, the sustained dialogue on expanding access to the peaceful uses of nuclear technologies. We also remain committed to working internationally to reduce the risk of nuclear conflict and to build mutual trust and security, a task that is increasingly urgent.

Final document or not, the NPT remains and will remain the cornerstone of the international nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation architecture and makes a vital and integral contribution to international peace and security. The UK takes its obligations, commitments and responsibilities seriously. My country will continue to play its part in building a safer world for all and in achieving the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.

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