Speech by Foreign Minister Westerwelle on the Annual Disarmament Report 2010

Apr 12, 2011

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, 

this past year was a good year for disarmament. The conference on nuclear non-proliferation in New York produced an agreement, unlike the conference five years ago. The Convention on Cluster Munitions has come into force. NATO has made the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons part of its new strategy. The START Treaty between the United States and Russia on reducing strategic nuclear weapons was ratified. In sum, after ten years of stagnation in disarmament, there has been a good, solid start to a decade of disarming and we all want to work together for this.

Of course these successes are no occasion to slack off, rather they are a spur to continue with all our might. The German Government has done much in the past year to reinvigorate international disarmament policy. We will make use of this momentum also for the other tasks that lie ahead of us.

Starting a discussion within NATO about substrategic nuclear weapons was the right thing for us to have done. In this we emphasize close coordination within the alliance, but at the same time we want to lead the debate.

Our initiative to reduce substrategic nuclear weapons is showing results. At the Munich Security Conference this year, American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced talks with Russia also on substrategic nuclear weapons. Russia also has  that must be clear to everyone an obligation to act. That becomes clear when we look at the numerical superiority in this segment alone.

Next week in Berlin at the NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting we will talk with Russia about all areas of disarmament, including conventional weapons, because one thing is clear: nuclear disarmament must not make it easier to wage conventional wars.

Last September in New York, together with Japan and Australia, we founded a cross-regional group to support nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The foreign ministers from five continents will meet here in Berlin at the end of April. The fact that both the NATO Foreign Ministers and the group to support nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are meeting in Berlin for informal consultations this month is not only an honour for our country, but also shows that we are at the heart of the talks and negotiations. Germany plays an important role in the area of disarmament. We are pleased about this. I think that the German Government can point to this with pride.

Prohibiting the production of weapons-grade fissile material and destroying what has already been produced are our most important goals. If the Geneva Conference on Disarmament cannot make any progress, then we want to bring up the topic in New York at the General Assembly of the United Nations.

We cannot allow any further blockade in this question of humanity’s survival. We cannot allow nuclear fissile material to fall into the hands of tyrants or terrorists. Preventing that is an extremely important task that we must pursue internationally.

For that reason, the debate about Iran’s nuclear programme is also part of the debate about this disarmament report. It is completely clear to us that this topic is a challenge again this year. In January at the meeting of E3+3 countries in Istanbul, Iran was not prepared to negotiate on the central issues. Neither has it made use of the last weeks and months. I caution against mistaking the efforts of the global community for weakness. The European Union has even gone further with sanctions than the Security Council in its Resolution 1929.

Our hand remains outstretched. However, the leaders in Tehran must know that negotiations without preconditions must be started. Nuclear inspection is also a topic that expressly applies to North Korea. In light of the debates being held by our immediate neighbours, this is not necessarily getting enough attention. But I think that we are in agreement that the international community must keep an eye on this, too.

Ladies and gentlemen, disarmament will succeed if international law is strong. We promote accession to the comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. We want to integrate countries such as India into the international systems of control even if the road will be long and difficult.

At the United Nations we advocate a robust arms trade agreement, so arms cannot be supplied to regimes that trample on human rights and to countries in the midst of civil war. I think that we all see clearly that the importance of the topic of disarmament transcends party lines. There is nothing naïve about disarmament. Disarmament does not endanger our security  it increases our security. It allows for greater global security and more stable peace around the world. The matter is fragile enough as it is.

Even if the debate on the annual disarmament report is not being followed by a large number of our colleagues, I still want to say expressly: I believe that disarmament is as important a task for humanity as the topic of climate change, for example. One does not like to imagine what could happen if through nuclear proliferation terrorists or autocratic regimes get their hands on nuclear weapons. That is the problem. We must prevent nuclear weapons from being closer to hand. That is the main concern.

Even if it does not seem that way early in the morning, I think that efforts towards disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation are not only supported by but of interest to a large number of the Members here in the Bundestag.

Thank you for your attention

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