Visiting Belarus visa-free

Statement by Mr. Aleksandr Mikhnevich, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, during the round table discussion Twenty years of renunciation of nuclear weapons by Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine: lessons learned and prospects for nuclear disarmament, New York, October 10, 2013

It is a great honour for me to open this round table discussion, commemorating 20 years of renunciation of nuclear weapons by Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
 
I would like to specially welcome here today my distinguished colleagues – Ambassador-at-Large of Kazakhstan and Permanent Representative of Ukraine. 
 
It’s my pleasure also today to welcome Ms. Virginia Gamba — Deputy High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and Director of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA). It is of great importance that UNODA has been doing in New-Work and Geneva to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and strengthen of the disarmament regimes in respect to other weapons of mass destruction and in the area of conventional weapons. 
 
I express my sincere gratitude to Ms.Ray Acheson – Director of Reaching Critical Will – disarmament programme of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). It is not surprisingly we were able to cooperate effectively to make this event happened. Back in March 2010 under Belarus’ presidency in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva for the first time the decision has been taken to provide this oldest women's peace organization in the world with the flour to address the CD directly. Please be assured that Belarus will render firm support to WILPF and its’ disarmament wing – Reaching Critical Will — efforts to promote and facilitate engagement of civil society and non-governmental actors in UN processes related to disarmament.
 
Belarus declared its intention to make its territory nuclear-free in 1990 in the Declaration on State Sovereignty. 
 
By singing the Lisbon Protocol in 1992, Belarus became party to the Strategic Arms Reduction (START) Treaty. This step was inseparably linked to the major political decision to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear-weapon State Party.
 
On 22 July 1993, Belarus formally acceded to the NPT, thus becoming the first country to voluntarily denounce the possibility to possess nuclear weapons inherited from the former Soviet Union. Since, Belarus has been and remains firmly committed to the NPT.
 
Renunciation by Belarus of the most modern nuclear military arsenal was never subject to any conditions or reservations. Welcoming the accession of Belarus to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state Russia, UK and USA provided security assurances to Belarus and signed on 5 December 1994  Budapest Memorandum – the arrangement we have been treating very seriously, unlike some other nuclear weapon states. We have repeatedly stated that without any exclusion all the provisions of Budapest Memorandum should be fully respected by all the guaranteeing states, including one, obliging to refrain from actions of economic pressure on Belarus. Therefore I would like to reiterate that the selective way in which some states interpret their security guarantees extended in the Budapest Memorandum to Belarus in connection with the withdrawal of her nuclear weapons, is a factor negatively affecting our national security. We assume that such precedents provide negative signal both, to the countries that have chosen some time nuclear free option and to those who still consider the possibilities of nuclear disarmament for themselves.
 
The withdrawal of nuclear weapons from the territory of Belarus was completed in November 1996.  
 
Belarus’ records in promoting international security have not been limited by measures of nuclear disarmament. For example, in compliance its commitments to the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE Treaty) Belarus destroyed huge quantities of conventional arms and military equipment from the former USSR legacy – more than 10 percent of all armaments, destroyed by all the CFE countries. It shouldn’t be neglected that all these costly disarmament efforts took place in conjunction with severe economic crisis, caused by the collapse of the USSR, coupled with devastating consequences of radioactive contamination from the Chernobyl disaster.
 
It has thereby become Belarus’ deliberate choice to pursue its’ national security by such means as nuclear renunciation and nuclear disarmament, reduction conventional armaments surpluses and confidence building measures in the OSCE area, adherence to the most important international disarmament treaties and conventions. 
 
It is our deep conviction that in particular the renunciation of nuclear weapons should not weaken but strengthen sovereignty, territorial integrity, and expand opportunities for sustainable development and economic growth.
 
We therefore sincerely regret that the process of nuclear weapons renunciation, so cherished by international community in early 1990’s of 20th century, has not received its continuation in the new millennium.