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GENEVA, March 1. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov proposed on Tuesday to establish within the Conference on Disarmament (CD) four discussion groups - on nuclear disarmament, on the prevention of an arms race in outer space, on negative security assurances and on the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.
"We believe that the negotiations on a new Convention (against acts of chemical terrorism) should be combined with the substantive work on the four key points of the Conference on Disarmament agenda - it’s nuclear disarmament, prevention of an arms race in outer space, negative security assurances and the Treaty banning the production of fissile materials," he said at the Conference on Disarmament.
According to the minister, "working bodies with the discussion mandates could be set up on each of these issues". "The corresponding Russian proposals will be submitted to the Norwegian presidency," Lavrov said.
The minister stressed that Russia is concerned over the lack of progress at talks within the Conference on Disarmament (CD).
"The Conference has to its credit a number of international framework agreements on which international security is based to a considerable extent," Lavrov said. "Its latest major achievements include the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (CCW). Both these agreements date back to the last decade of the past century."
According to the foreign minister, since then the negotiating process has not been resumed, unfortunately, due to serious disagreements over the CD work program.
"We fully share the disappointment and concern of our partners over this long stagnation, as well as the confidence of the need to rectify the situation as soon as possible," the minister said. "In the meantime, we see a way out of the impasse not in transferring the talks to other venues and certainly not in refusal from consensus, but in the meticulous and creative search for the balance of interests."
"Various options for overcoming the impasse have been considered over the past two decades, but none of them has worked," the Russian foreign minister said. "The failure can be explained, in our view, both by objective differences in the states’ priorities and by the difficulties in reaching compromise within the rather strict boundaries of the traditional CD agenda."
"We have apparently tried all the conceivable combinations of its constituent elements, but there is no accord still," Lavrov said.
According to the minister, Russia is proposing elaborating the Convention to fight chemical terrorism acts.
"The Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons solves far from fully the task of countering chemical terrorism," the Russian foreign minister said.
"We also don’t see sufficient grounds for statements on the sufficiency of the existing norms of international common law. These norms fail to solve the task of prohibiting the use of chemical weapons by non-state entities and, all the more so, qualifying these acts as an international crime," the Russian foreign minister said.
"It is quite problematic to remove these gaps by working out amendments to the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons because it stipulates quite a complex and long procedure for the adoption of amendments," Lavrov said.
"A more realistic, reliable and promising method of solving this task is to work out a separate convention on the fight against chemical terrorism acts," Lavrov said.
"It is understandable that there is a whole number of international venues where this issue could be addressed.
But we’re proposing to do this precisely here, at the Disarmament Conference, which has already made invaluable contribution to reducing the chemical threat through the successful coordination of the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons," the Russian foreign minister said.
"Thus, it would be possible to solve a dual goal: to counter chemical terrorism, on the one hand, and unblock the work of the Geneva disarmament forum, on the other hand," Lavrov said.
If practical work is started on such a convention, it will be necessary to organize full interaction with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Russian foreign minister said.
"It should also be ensured that all the member states of the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that are not members of the Disarmament Conference should have a possibility to contribute to developing a new treaty," Lavrov said.
"This can be ensured, in particular, by providing the observer status at the Conference to all the wishing parties as is allowed by the procedural rules," the Russian foreign minister said.
The diplomat pointed out that chemical terrorism is becoming a grim reality of our days.
"The risk of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) falling into the hands of non-state actors is universally recognized. A lot has been done to counter it," Lavrov said. "An important step in this direction was the passing of Resolution 1540 of the UN Security Council in 2004. A year later, at the initiative of Russia, the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism was concluded. However, there are still serious gaps in this area relating in particular to the use of chemicals for terrorist purposes."
The problem is becoming "extremely pressing in the light of emerging evidence confirming the repeated use of not only toxic industrial chemicals but also full-fledged chemical warfare agents by gunmen of the Islamic State (IS terrorist group outlawed in Russia -TASS) and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq." "The risk of similar crimes in Libya and Yemen is increasing," the minister said.
"Such activities of non-state actors in the Middle East and North Africa are becoming more widespread, systematic and transboundary threatening to extend far beyond the region," Lavrov said. "There is information about terrorist groups getting access to scientific and technical documentation for the production of chemical weapons, seizing chemical enterprises with the appropriate equipment and using foreign experts in mastering the synthesis of chemical warfare agents."
According to Russia’s top diplomat, the incidents in Syria’s Marea City in August and September 2015, where Islamic State gunmen used artillery shells stuffed with a full-fledged chemical warfare agent - mustard gas - point to the extreme urgency of the situation. "All this leaves no room for doubt that chemical terrorism is becoming not just an abstract threat but a harsh reality of our days, which can and should be stopped by intensifying serious work on international venues," Lavrov said.
Moscow has also proposed to organize a discussion within the framework of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) on the Russian-Chinese initiative for the prevention of deployment of weapons in outer space.
"As you know, our priority is to promote the Russian-Chinese initiative on preventing the deployment of weapons in outer space," Lavrov said. "We for ourselves have actually made the decision to work for opening negotiations on this issue. However, to promote consensus on a new integrated scheme of organizing further CD work we put forward, we would be prepared within its framework to limit ourselves at this stage to the discussion mandate on outer space."
Moscow expects the partners to show similar flexibility regarding their priorities in order to overcome the Conference’s impasse. "We call on all the Conference participants to carefully consider our proposal. We proceed from the assumption that it can be implemented only by joint efforts of the states represented here through a constructive dialogue, to which we invite all," the minister said. "We hope that this discussion will enable us to break the ‘vicious circle’ and get down to the profound work and negotiations, for which the forum was created."