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Statement by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus V.Rybakov at the round-table discussion Time to finish what we started 20 years ago. The CTBT as a tool for trust in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament (April 19, 2017, Minsk)

Dear Dr Zerbo, Mrs Kane,
Dear colleagues,

Good morning!

I am glad to be here today and to share views on the entry into force of Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the current state and prospects of nuclear disarmament. We highly value our interaction with the expert community of Belarus and the members of the diplomatic corps on the issues of ensuring international security.

It has already been the 20th anniversary since the CTBT — a tremendously important instrument for limiting nuclear arsenals and preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons — was open for signing. We have no doubt that its entry into force will be a huge step forward in the process of achieving a nuclear-weapons-free world.

Belarus ratified the CTBT in 2000 and remains committed to its obligations under the Treaty.

We welcome a wide international consensus that is developing in favor of the CTBT and commend the ratification of the Treaty by Angola, Myanmar and Swaziland in the last two years.

Belarus regrets, however, that the Treaty is yet to come into effect. Its future depends largely on the genuine willingness of the eight remaining ‘Annex II’ States to advance towards the goal of freeing our planet of nuclear weapons.

We believe that the dialogue based on mutual respect and dignity is the only possible way to get those eight states to the table and break the gridlock that we are facing today.

As I have stated earlier, Belarus highly appreciates the potential of the CTBT. Its unique verification mechanism – the International Monitoring System – has proved to be a changer in the paradigm of thinking about the disarmament. The IMS is a reliable and robust system that does not only serve its original mandate – to detect and locate nuclear explosions, but also contributes to intentional peace and security by detecting a whole range of natural cataclysms, as well as disasters of anthropogenic nature. With this unique mechanism at hand, the CTBTO acquires the first-hand data that can be a real life-saver.

The civil and scientific applications of the IMS serve as a proof that disarmament is closely related to the sustainable development. We can only welcome the fact that understanding of the importance of the interrelationship of most topical international issues is gaining momentum.

In an attempt to contribute to this understanding, in January this year Belarus and Kazakhstan initiated an informal event in the United Nations on “Responsible governance on disarmament and non-proliferation for progress and sustainable development”. This discussion proved that collectively we need to revive the idea of a relationship between disarmament and development. Belarus invites all parties to participate in such discussions that, in our view, can push forward the global disarmament process and help to find new horizons in the process of attainment of a nuclear-free world.

As far as the nuclear disarmament is concerned, I can not but mention that recently we commemorated a 20th anniversary of the complete and unconditional withdrawal of nuclear weapons from the territory of Belarus.

Gaining a nuclear-free status was proclaimed as a top priority of Belarus at the very dawn of its sovereign statehood – Belarus declared the intention to make its territory nuclear-free in 1990 in the Declaration on State Sovereignty.

As a result of this strategic decision, on 27th of November 1996, a small village of Jatsuki (Western part of Belarus) was the center of attention of the entire disarmament community. That was where the last “Topol” intercontinental ballistic missile left the Belarusian territory, turning the latter into the nuclear weapons free zone.

Dear colleagues,

Twenty years ago we made our choice. Without any kind of preconditions or reservations, Belarus renounced its military nuclear capability, signaling its commitment to peace and security and, indeed, setting the tone for subsequent nuclear disarmament processes in the post-Soviet space. The process entailed political and economic consequences and required huge financial and human resources. Nonetheless, Belarus demonstrated its resolve and firm commitment to the objectives of nuclear disarmament.

I can assure you that we will remain a consistent adherent to and participant in the processes of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. This is our conscious contribution to fostering political will of the countries whose ratification is still missing and creating more suitable environment for the CTBT’s entry into force.

Unfortunately, the current state of the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime makes us think that there still remains much to work on.

It is not without regret that I have to state that over the last 20 years since Belarus voluntarily gave up its nuclear weaponry, the situation in the world has not become less tense. We sincerely regret that the process of nuclear weapons renunciation, so cherished by international community in early 90’s of 20th century, has not received its continuation in the new millennium.

At least one state continues its efforts to develop military nuclear program outside the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty and regularly conducts nuclear tests. Belarus consistently condemns such activities that put the international peace and security in jeopardy.

As a result, we see the situation where the exceptions to the common rules in the field tend to become tacit norms of conduct. We must put an end to such misconceptions before it is too late.

Moreover, it is our firm belief that all attempts to achieve a nuclear-weapons-free world are doomed to failure as long as there is no solid and understandable system of guarantees for non-nuclear-weapons states. The guarantees provided to the states that voluntarily renounced the possession of the nuclear weaponry should serve as a golden standard in this regard.

The assurances that nuclear arms would not be used against non-nuclear-weapon states are an important matter of the NPT-related agenda. The provision of such unambiguous security assurances is an important prerequisite of trust and predictability in international relations and can contribute to strengthening the existing NPT-based nuclear non-proliferation regime. Belarus intends to maintain efforts aimed at obtaining legally binding assurances that could take form of a separate international document.

It is our deep conviction that — in particular — the renunciation of nuclear weapons should not weaken but strengthen sovereignty, territorial integrity, but expand opportunities for sustainable development and economic growth.

In that regard, I would also like to mention the nuclear-weapon-free zones that have proved to be extremely effective instruments for some regions. We find it rather comforting that such initiatives are still relevant for the global community. The establishment of the most recent nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia offers proof of that. Right after having renounced its nuclear-armed status, the Republic of Belarus came up with an initiative for the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Eastern Europe that, however, hasn’t earned the support of all parties concerned.

One might argue that nuclear-weapon-free zone in Eastern Europe, should it be established, could have become an effective deterrence against possible opposition of military blocs resulting in conflicts and tensions in the region. Security assurances linked with the “nuclear-weapons-free status” could, in our view, also bring positive spillovers and restrain the confrontation in the wide range of defense-related topics ranging from deployment of anti-missile defense programs to build-up of conventional arms arsenals.

Dear colleagues,
Belarus remains and will always remain a net donor of European and international security not only in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, but also in wider arms control domain.

Giving a very recent example, just a few weeks ago, we concluded the destruction of anti-personnel landmines stockpiles in accordance with the Ottawa Convention. Strong and firm intention to completely fulfil our international obligations under the Landmine Convention guided us through the realization of this project.

Strong and firm political will can make the CTBT’s entry into force a reality and foster the process of nuclear disarmament.

I would like to use this opportunity to appeal, once again, to each and every state that has not signed or ratified the Treaty yet. The time has come. The time to finish what we started two decades ago.

I thank you, dear colleagues, for your attention. I hope our discussion will be both informative and fruitful.

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