League of Arab States – German Federal Foreign Office: Workshop on SALW control and CSBMs. Opening Speech by Ambassador Nikel, Federal Commissioner for Disarmament and Arms Control: Cooperation between the Arab League and Germany: Small Arms and Light Weapons control and Confidence Building Measures

13.05.2013 - Speech

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Ambassador Al-Assad,
Dear Colleagues,
ladies and gentlemen

Thank you for organizing this conference. It is my great pleasure to address this conference today.

Germany has a long standing tradition of cooperation with the Arab League. From earlye on, this cooperation included issues of arms control and disarmament.

It was in 2003 that Germany assisted the Arab League in establishing a point of contact for regional coordination of small arms control. The same year, the League established its Berlin liaison office. This was followed by the support of workshops for the national points of contact for small arms control of all member states of the League.

I would like to express my gratitude to you, Ambassador Al-Assad, for hosting this workshop here at the headquarters of the League of Arab States. It has been a pleasure working with your staff in preparing this seminar. Let me also thank all speakers who have agreed to provide us with valuable food for thought over these next two days.

And let me express my appreciation to you personally for initiating to broaden and further enhance our cooperation this year. It fits well into the framework of our intention to intensify bilateral cooperation - be it on matters of regional security, including Syria, the energy sector, or capacity building.

Arab League staff is invited to participate in courses of the German Diplomatic Academy – this is a standing invitation which I would like to renew here. We are also about to upgrade the status of the Arab League’s mission in Berlin.

We believe that cooperation on Small Arms and Light Weapons serves everybody’s interest: By sharing experience and know-how, we hope to strengthen the arms control capabilities of the Arab League which in turn may help us to reach Arab member states. As geographic neighbors, Europe and the Arab world have a common interest in mutual security, peace and stability.

Lasting peace and security can only be achieved through cooperation among neighbors. Cooperation requires dialogue andcan breed trust.

This is where confidence and security building measures – CSBMs in short, the second big topic of this workshop – come into the picture. This seminar will set a new precedent for cooperation on CSBMs.I would like to commend the Arab League especially for this effort.

Since not all of us in this room are arms control experts, let melbriefly dwell on the question: What exactly are CSBMs? What do they mean in practice?

The ultimate objective of CSBMs is to promote international peace and security through building trust and confidence among States at bilateral, regional and global levels. The goal is to enhance transparency, dialogue and military restraint. CSBMs are meant to contribute to reduceecauses of conflict such as mistrust, fear, misunderstanding and miscalculation.There are grosso modo three groups of typical CSBMs:

First, transparency and information exchange measures: The UN global instrument on reporting on military expenditures for example is such a transparent measure. States voluntarily disclose their military expenditures, thus enhancing transparency and reducing the risk of speculation and miscalculation.

Second, observation and verification measures. They allow participating States to monitor each other’s military facilities and activities. Participating States are invited to send observers to monitor major military exercises and to evaluate on site the information provided by a Government on their weapons.

Inspections under the OSCE Vienna Document regime – about which you will hear more on day two of this workshop – are a typical example of such observation and verification measures.

Third, military restraintre measures: They involve restraint with respect to the number and scope of major military exercises. The OSCE Participating States have committed themselves to such provisions constraining exercises in the Vienna Document.

Europe, by overcoming the divisions of the Cold War, has accumulated a lot of experience in the field of trust and confidence building among former foes. CSBMs in Europe have been a success story that contributed to the fall of the Berlin wall and the reunification of Germany and provided a stable framework for the discussions on some of the problems connected with them

The OSCE is dedicated to cooperative security. We are happy to share lessons learnt from more than 20 years of practice regarding information exchanges, verification and security cooperation.

CSBMs are highly topical in addressing new security challenges such as cyber security. Egypt is - like Germany - one of 15 countries in the UN Group of Governmental Experts tasked to make recommendations on CSBMs and on norms of responsible State behavior in cyber space. I am convinced that confidence building measures couldbenefit this part of the world as well.

Let me be frank: Confidence among States is a rare commodity many parts of the world. So confidence building measures could play a significant role in enhancing peace and security in the Middle East and the Arab region.

In the 1990ies, in the framework of the Madrid Peace Process, the Middle East Multilateral Arms Control and Regional Security Working Group – ACRS- Working Group for short –worked on CSBMs for the Middle East. It actually got quite far: It elaborated and agreed upon a first set of CSBMs. This process in itself could be called a confidence building measure.

Unfortunately, the process ended before the agreed CSBMs could ever be implemented. But the time may have come to take a fresh look at CSBMs for the Middle East. It might be worthwhile exploring whether existing UN instruments e.g. on transparency in military spending might be a possible starting point for implementation of regional CSBMs in the Middle East.

Regional organizations such as the League of Arab States can play an important role in enhancing the value of such global instruments. We couldlook and see how to make better use of the existing cooperation, both between the League of Arab States with OSCE as well as between OSCE and OSCE partners for cooperation in the Arab world.

And it might be of interest to take a look at specific experiences and documents in the OSCE framework and see if the principles enshrined therein might be of value for the States of the League of Arab States as well. I am thinking, for example, of the OSCE Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security.

This Code has been agreed among all 57 OSCE participating States. It lays down principles for the democratic oversight of armed forces..I am glad toreport that Germany and Switzerland, together with the OSCE, recently presented an Arabic version of the Code to make its principles more accessible for interested States in the Arab world.

Last but not least, therecould also be a role for confidence building measures in the Middle East Peace Process. Building confidence is at the very heart of this issue and progress of the peace process is dependent on growing trust and confidence between parties.

Another pertinent example: the Conference on a zone in the Middle East free of Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Means of Delivery, or simply the Helsinki-Conference.

At this moment the deadline of this conference is more intensely debated than its content and format. As far as the deadline is concerned, suffice it to say that we would like this Conference to take place as soon as possible in 2013. And concerning the focus, confidence-building measures could be part of the agenda, also in light of what was already achieved in the nineties. There is common ground on which to build in order to make it a win-win-situation for all participants. If and only if everybody benefits from the Conference, it could be the start of a true dialogue and much more than a one-day-event. From a European perspective, Helsinki is the location of choice, because it reminds us of the fact that the beginnings of the later so successful Helsinki-process back in the nineties were all but easy. So let us do our very best to ensure that this opportunity is not missed!

Mr. Ambassador,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Arms Control is part of preventive security. It helps to avoid conflict and damage. InvestmentI in arms control is therefore money well spent..Given Germany’s history in the first half of the 20th century, arms control is part and parcel of the DNA of German foreign and security policy.

We have renounced to possess, produce or trade nuclear weapons. For us, Global Zero is not only a vision but an objective, and be it long term

In light of the alarming figures of dead people due to conventional weapons, conventional, weapons control is by no means less important than nuclear weapons control. Indeed,arms control, viewed as preventive security and proactive conflict prevention, is even more relevant here.The illicit proliferation of conventional weapons is a source of conflict. Arms control can contribute to stop it

The destabilizing effects of uncontrolled accumulations of weapons have been dramatically demonstrated during and after the civil war in Libya. Flows of illicit weapons across borders have contributed to conflict elsewhere. Mali is a case in point. They continue to pose a threat to the whole Sahel region. They are also a risk to the security of Tunisia, Egypt , and Sudan. There is evidence that weapons from Libya are even traded with Somalia. By being smuggled into Gaza they pose an additional risk to the Middle East Peace Process.

A big challenge regarding conventional weapons is in Libya itself. The Libyan Government has definedsecurity sector reform as priority number one in the post war stabilization process. Germany will support this process by funding a long term capacity building project in the security sector that is being implemented by the German technical assistance agency GIZ.

Right after the end of fighting, Germany has funded, together with the United States, the Libyan Mine Action Center. The newly created agency will take care of de-mining, risk awareness programmes and small arms control. The German Agency for International Coopertion GIZ will support LMAC inin the comingyears.

The EU will contribute to thisproject by funding a componentfor the physical safety and stockpile management of arms and ammunition. The project has a total volume of 8 Mio Euro and is our largest undertaking in the conventional arms control sector. My colleagues and the representative from GIZ, Joachim von Bonin, will speak in more detail about this project later.

Libya’s fate is looming large in Syria. The disastrous civil war is a risk to the stability of the entire region. Moreover, the existence of significant amounts of chemical weapons in Syria multiplies the threat.

In view of the experience from Libya and the even bigger potential of arms proliferation from Syria, cooperation in the region is essential- including the exchange of intelligence, the securing of borders, and forensic analysis.

We are ready to support any peaceful initiative contributing to stabilize the situation – now or after the civil war. We are in a dialogue with the NGO Permanent Peace Movement from Beirut, which is also present here today. In December we funded a seminar in Beirut on small arms control with the Permanent Peace Movement. I am pleased that its President Dr. Fadi Allam will present his view on SALW challenges in the Arab region. We are considering organizing further training measures for representatives from Arab countries including Syria, Libya and Egypt on small arms control.

One important new instrument in regulating the armsarms tradehas been adopted last month: The vote of an overwhelming majority in favor of an Arms Trade Treaty on 3 April was a clear signal in support of this important endeavor.

After the ATT’s adoption it is now important to swiftly ratify the treaty sosi that it can enterinto force as soon as possible. Germanypossible wants to sign and ratify before the summer.

Mr. Ambassador,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have gathered here in a country that measures its history not by centuries but by millennia??. One of the impressions one may have is that against such a backdrop time is an abundant resource.

The first peace treaty known to history was concluded in the region between Pharao Ramses II and the Hittites‘ King Hattusuli III. This treaty was adopted after years of bloody quarrel in 1259 bc. Actually it took more than 15 years after the battle of Qadesh to come to such a conclusion. If we consider the length of peace processes in the region today, even 15 years does not seem to be a shockingly long period of time. However, in view of the dramatic consequences of conflict we are witnessing we must realize that time is not of abundance.

We need more prevention of conflict, we need practical measures to build trust and confidence and we need an arms control policy that helps to avoid war. The Arab League is well disposed to advance these noble goals. Germany is privileged to contribute to this endeavor.

In this spirit, I wish all of you a very fruitful conference.

Thank you.

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