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Speeches, 5/29/2017

Opening Statement by Foreign Minister Soini at Annual NATO Conference on WMD Arms Control

Opening Statement by Mr. Timo Soini, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland. NATO Annual Conference on Weapons of Mass Destruction Non-Proliferation, Arms Control and Disarmament, Helsinki 29.5.2017.

Let me start by warmly welcoming you to Helsinki.  We are happy and honored to see you here this year when Finland is celebrating her hundred years of independence.

Our history is a reminder of how important it is to stand up for your country, respect the rights of your people and keep striving to peaceful and just solutions in order to ensure the wellbeing of your children. This has not been an easy task. Hard decisions, painful sacrifices and a lot of diplomacy and creative thinking have been needed by many Finnish politicians before me. But as a result we now can live in a democratic and stable country.

Therefore, it is with concern that I have to note that around us the situation is not anymore as stable and secure as we would like it to be. The very fundamentals of European security have been violated by Russia through its illegal annexation of Crimea and interference in Eastern Ukraine.

In this security environment risk reduction and confidence building mechanisms are more important than ever. In order to enhance stability and security, we need to increase transparency and predictability. Arms control is a useful tool in this regard. The role of export controls is also important in preventing the proliferation of arms - smaller, and bigger.

I will briefly elaborate Finnish policies on three issues: our partnership with NATO; nuclear disarmament, and conventional weapons.

First NATO and Finland. We tend to stress our role as security provider in Europe and beyond. This starts with active foreign policy and credible national defence. Membership in the EU, close Nordic cooperation and Enhanced partnership with NATO are other key components.

We highly appreciate our Partnership with the Alliance. This improves our security and defense and increases stability in Europe as well as in the Baltic Sea region. Hosting this Conference is one example of the wide cooperation we have with NATO as an Enhanced Opportunities Partner. This also complements our other arms control activities.

Today the world is increasingly concerned by asymmetric threats, such as hybrid and cyber. To help to counter these threats Finland has recently established a European Hybrid Centre of Excellence in Helsinki. Earlier this year we also signed a Framework Arrangement with NATO concerning cyber security.

Finland is also active in the field of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats and defence and we are ready to contribute and cooperate in international endeavors.

Today we are here to address the growing concerns related to weapons of mass destruction, a topic of utmost importance to us all. Chemical weapons have again been used in Syria, a state party to the Chemical Weapons Convention. The international community needs to condemn such behavior resolutely.  North Korea continues to develop its nuclear program. Its latest missile was launched this morning. This runs contrary to North Korea's international obligations, and constitutes a severe threat to international peace and security. These are extremely worrying developments.

Nuclear weapons remain a serious concern for the international community and our citizens.

Finland considers the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a key component of international security architecture.We stress all three pillars of it. Our approach to nuclear disarmament is pragmatic.  We need a unified and an inclusive approach to reach the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.  If we want to advance, we need the countries possessing nuclear weapons on board.

We welcome the expressed intent of the United States and the Russian Federation to continue discussions about strategic stability.We commend the fact that the implementation of the New Start Treaty is proceeding well. We encourage the Russian Federation and the United States to take further, concrete steps, bilaterally, and at multilateral level. We also need to alleviate tension and find mechanisms to avoid any misunderstandings and miscalculations. Much is at stake.

I would like to make one plea: we need to step up our efforts concerning tactical nuclear weapons. These weapons are not covered by any legally binding, verifiable international agreement, as they should be. There should also be a clear line between these and conventional weapons – in military doctrines and when exercising even their use. Practical confidence building measures are urgently needed in this field as well.

Nuclear disarmament is a gradual process which demands concrete actions, concrete reductions.Increased transparency, enhanced verification, negative security assurances and "a No- first-use policy" can alleviate the threat posed by nuclear weapons. They can also serve as steps to nuclear disarmament.  A Treaty Concerning Fissile Material would further strengthen the non-proliferation regime.

The entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty remains a high priority. The Treaty itself conveys a clear message that the time of nuclear tests must be over. I would also like to point out that the International Monitoring System (IMS) network has provided us essential information in various situations, including in the civilian sector. Finland is contributing to the IMS network and is actively developing the verification system.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iran nuclear program is a good example of what can be achieved with tireless diplomatic efforts and political will. We are encouraged by the implementation of the agreement thus far and call on all parties to implement it in full.

Let me also reiterate our support for continued engagement on the establishment of the zone free of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems in the Middle East.

Weapons of mass destruction are a threat to humanity. But let's not forget that with conventional arms and explosives over half a million people are killed annually in conflicts, terrorist attacks and crime. We need to pay more attention to small arms and other conventional weapons.

In recent years one of the bright spots has been the Arms Trade Treaty. It will step up regulation of international flows of conventional arms. As the current President of the ATT, Finland is promoting the universality of the Treaty and national capacity building.

Finland supports capacity building in regulating conventional arms by almost one million euros per year. Finland is also engaged in humanitarian mine action in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Somalia and Ukraine with 12 million euros over the next three years. The projects in Iraq and Syria are part of our counter-ISIL efforts, and they help in enabling people to return to their homes safely.

Non-state actors and terrorist groups cause havoc and despair in various ways. There is a growing need to address the threats related to weapons of mass destruction and non-state actors. Finland has consistently supported the implementation of the UN Security Council resolution 1540, complemented by resolution 2325. We hosted a plenary meeting of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) in 2015 and have now presented a candidate to serve as the policy coordinator for the initiative.

Let me conclude by welcoming you once more to Finland. I wish you good and constructive discussions in a friendly atmosphere.

This document

Updated 5/29/2017

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