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STATEMENT by the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail ULYANOV at the resumed 54th session of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission 8 October 2020

      Madam Chairperson,

      Dear colleagues,

As early as on 17 September we have requested to convene as soon as possible a plenary meeting of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission. Unfortunately, it is being done only now. As a result, contrary to what we planned, we failed to give the necessary impetus to the work of the Commission on time. The informal consultations that took place during that time did not allow us to achieve a meaningful progress. We hope that we will manage to do that during today's meeting.

One of the reasons for the request to hold the PrepCom session was an absolutely unacceptable failure to comply with the current rules of procedure of the Commission. Let me remind you what I am talking about. The letter inviting for the nomination of candidates, that was proposed for approval under silence procedure in September, did not enjoy support of two States. However, it was signed and sent out to all States Signatories. This is an unprecedented event in the history of multilateral diplomacy. We presume that such a failure occurred unintentionally and will never happen again.

Another no less significant reason to call for a plenary meeting was an extremely unhealthy atmosphere in the Preparatory Commission. Never in the 24-year history of the Organization we have experienced such situation before. The reason for that is the lack of progress on decision with regards to restoration of voting rights for those States that are in arrears of payment to the Organization.

Let us remind you that in July,  in the interest of conducting credible election of the CTBTO Executive Secretary, we jointly invited the States in arrears to submit applications for restoration of their voting rights by 21 August. We promised them to finalize consideration of this issue by 15 September. Today it is already 8 October, but no decision has been taken on any application. Moreover, those countries that are slowing down the process have not yet made an effort to clearly and coherently explain their position. Such a situation, of course, causes significant damage to the reputation of our Commission, as well as the fundamental principle of multilateralism with regard to issues related to the CTBT. Countries that have requested restoration of voting rights undoubtedly deserve more respect. Moreover, the failure to find a solution on this issue calls into question the entire course of the election process. Indeed, as long as one of its phases remains incomplete, then a reasonable question arises whether it is possible to proceed to the next one. It means that the very trust to the election process is undermined. It can affect the Preparatory Commission in the long term regardless of who will eventually assume the position of its Executive Secretary.

We urgently need to correct the current unacceptable situation. In our opinion, it is necessary to return to the draft decision that was prepared by the Chairperson in September. Let me remind you that firstly, it provides the restoration of voting rights for all those States whose arrears do not exceed the amount of assessed contributions for the preceding two years.

A positive decision on these countries would be in full compliance with Article 19 of the UN Charter and our own decisions agreed upon in July. Recently, we had 10 countries in this category. Now, as we understand, the list has become shorter. We would like to request the Secretariat to clarify the actual state of affairs in order to further consider it for the draft decision.

Secondly, the aforementioned draft envisages the restoration of voting rights for five more countries, which, in cooperation with the Secretariat, are negotiating or are already implementing a payment plan. Positive decisions on them would also meet the criteria that we agreed on in July.

Therefore, the advantage of the Chairperson’s draft decision is in its clear, understandable and objective criteria for the consideration of applications received. This is critically important. It goes without saying that it would be inappropriate to make this kind of decision based on someone's sympathy or antipathy. The Preparatory Commission, as a serious, depoliticized structure with a technical mandate, cannot afford this.

In addition, there still remain more than 10 countries that do not fall into either of the abovementioned two categories. It is clear that at least some of them have reason to expect positive consideration of their applications. This is, for example, Yemen, whose representative at the most recent informal consultations reminded us that non-payments to the budget of the Organization were caused by the all-known emergency circumstances. We believe that a number of other countries from this third category could also count on a positive decision. In relation to this group of countries, we are taking a flexible and favorable approach.

      Dear colleagues,

The issue in question is not at all an abstract one in nature and cannot be considered exclusively from a bureaucratic angle. We are talking about the need to ensure normal and positive interaction between the States that are participants of the "CTBT community". Some of them have objective difficulties. This must be taken into account. Refusal to approve their applications is unlikely to contribute to the elimination of arrears or motivate those countries to strengthen cooperation within the Commission. Rather the opposite. It is important that about 30 States in arrears did not respond at all to our invitation to submit applications for restoring voting rights. This may indicate the lack of any interest on their part to the work of the Commission. One should not artificially expand the number of those States.

In practical terms, we propose during today's meeting to focus, first of all, on the draft decision presented by the Chairperson in September. A large group of States then was not ready to support this document, but no explanation was provided by them. It seemed to us that their objections were primarily related not with the list of countries, but with the fact that the draft decision was presented in connection with another document. Today's discussion provides an opportunity to have a substantive discussion on this issue.

As a result, we would request the Chairperson to distribute the revised draft decision for approval under silence procedure, which would expire, say, at the close of business next Wednesday, 14 October. In case the silence procedure is broken, we would request to schedule the next plenary meeting of the Commission for 15 or 16 October. No later than the mentioned dates, we must in one way or another close the issue of restoring the voting rights.

We invite all colleagues to an open and constructive discussion.