Allow me to start by thanking you for convening the session today, in accordance with the rules of procedure, and assure you of our full support.
On Tuesday, Ukraine called for a special session of the Conference in order that we could discuss the unprovoked invasion by a nuclear armed state of its non-nuclear armed neighbour. A situation that is highly relevant to the work of this Conference. Disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control diplomacy does not happen in a vacuum. The Chinese presidency of this Conference asked us to comment on the global security situation at the beginning of this session. That commentary is in urgent need of an update. Unfortunately, consensus on a special session was broken with no reason offered. We must therefore take the opportunity now to address the unfolding events.
Norway condemns in the strongest terms possible the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation. We also condemn Belarus for facilitating the attack.
Russia’s brutal armed attack is in clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders. Its actions gravely violate international law, including human rights law and international humanitarian law. It shreds the Budapest Memorandum to pieces, threatening to undermine the entire disarmament and non-proliferation architecture.
We are struck with a profound sense of injustice and a sympathy with the Ukrainian people who are fighting for their country, their cities, their homes, their families, their lives.
The latest developments show no sign that president Putin intends to back down. On the contrary, he is scaling up. We fear increased suffering in the time ahead.
Norway is deeply concerned about the consequences of the Russian invasion for the civilians in Ukraine. We already see massive civilian losses and suffering. We are providing substantial support to the humanitarian response in and around Ukraine.
We are shocked by the reported use of cluster munitions by Russian forces in Ukraine. These are inherently indiscriminate weapons. They spread submunitions over wide areas. Large numbers of unexploded ordnance are often left behind after their use, continuing to kill and injure long after the conflict ends. They prevent people from returning home, going to school, coming back to work and rebuilding their communities.
We deplore the use of heavy explosive weapons in urban areas. Critical civilian infrastructure is being damaged and destroyed and people are forced to flee. The number of civilian casualties is rising rapidly. This must stop. Now.
We are deeply concerned about how the destruction causes cumulative, long-term harm to civilians, including children. We call on Russia to fulfil their obligation under IHL to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.
Norway is also deeply concerned by Russia’s irresponsible and dangerous rhetoric on nuclear weapons. We recall the joint statement of the P5 only weeks ago, reaffirming that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The Russian Federation must heed its own call.
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine challenges and attempts to undermine the rules-based international order as we know it. We will not let that happen. This is why we have joined a coordinated package of swift and concrete countermeasures. We would like to stress that our countermeasures are directed towards the Russian authorities, not the Russian people.
We demand the unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine.
We demand that Russia respect the charter of the United Nations and international law and prevent further civilian suffering.
Russia’s blatant disregard for the rules-based order and lack of good faith cast a dark shadow over the work of this Conference. It nevertheless underscores the importance that we succeed in our work. Successful arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation are key to peace and stability. We must take the opportunity offered by the programme of work to make substantive progress. We stand ready to engage actively and substantively in the work of the Conference in the time to come.