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Speech by Minister Coveney 31st meeting of Missile Technology Control Regime

Diplomatic Relations, Disarmament, International Relations, Tánaiste Simon Coveney, Speech, Global, 2017

Speech by Minister Coveney

31st meeting of Missile Technology Control Regime

Royal Hospital Kilmainham


Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is my pleasure to welcome you all to Dublin and to the historic Royal Hospital Kilmainham for the 31st meeting of the Missile Technology Control Regime.  I hope you will all get the opportunity to explore the city of Dublin at some point during your stay. I realise, however, that this may prove to be something of a challenge, as I understand that your agenda is very full and that you have many important issues on which to exchange information and views.


Ireland is very proud to assume the role of Co-Chair of the MTCR with our Icelandic partners for the 2017-18 Session.


This will be the second time that the MTCR has been led by a co-chairing arrangement. Our colleagues from the Netherlands and Luxembourg successfully co-chaired the MTCR from 2015 to 2016 and set a very high standard, one which we hope to emulate during our co-tenure with Iceland. And we figure if we co-chair together, maybe we can have success in other areas together too – such as our Irish soccer team following the success of our Icelandic friends in qualifying for next summer’s World Cup!


Before going any further, I would like to register sincere thanks to the outgoing Chair, Director General Ham from the Republic of Korea, for his hard-working, committed and able leadership of the MTCR for the last 12 months.

Ireland has shown a profound commitment to disarmament and non-proliferation over the course of our history. The commitment started with the very first resolutions which we instigated at the United Nations in the 1950’s and which ultimately led to the successful negotiation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And our commitment has continued up until more recent times, with the adoption here in Dublin of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008.  Again today, together with our Icelandic partners, we are showing ourselves ready to meet our obligations to promote non-proliferation by co-chairing the MTCR.


This is the first time that Ireland has assumed the chair of an export control regime. The partnership with Iceland is a natural one because of the many common traits we share. We are small countries, and perhaps because of that, we believe we have a responsibility to fully engage on the international stage. A strong multilateral system is vital today, and small countries such as ours seek to play a positive role in fostering peace and security. We are both island states located on the periphery of Europe and we both have a strong tradition and commitment to disarmament and non-proliferation. We regularly participate side by side at export control regimes and at international conventions and treaties to which we are both party. But while Ireland and Iceland have much in common, I think both of us share similar aspirations with all of the delegates in this room today.


In today’s interconnected world, we have instant access to information and can travel to far-flung destinations in a matter of hours. But alongside the positive aspects of being closely connected, we also have to face threats which not too long ago would have seemed remote.

The threats which we face from weapons of mass destruction, whether nuclear, biological or chemical, know no borders, and none of us is immune to their devastating impacts. This is why export control regimes such as the MTCR and the Hague Code of Conduct assume critical importance. We, as members, no matter how big or small, have a vital role to play in ensuring that our controls are as effective as possible to counter the proliferation of WMDs and their means of delivery.


This week’s Plenary is taking place against a backdrop of unprecedented tensions caused by actual or threatened proliferation of weapons. Much has changed in the 12 months since members of the MTCR last met in a plenary setting, and by this I mean the drastic deterioration in the conditions of peace and security on the Korean peninsula.


The North Korean regime has escalated the development of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes at massive risk to its neighbours in Asia and further afield and, moreover, at a devastating cost to its own people.  This is unacceptable and Ireland and the EU unreservedly condemn such actions. We urge the North Korean regime to abandon its programmes to develop ballistic missiles, nuclear capabilities and weapons of mass destruction; and to disarm in a manner that is complete, verifiable and irreversible. Ireland, along with our EU partners, is committed to the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula through diplomatic means.


I believe that diplomacy, coupled with determination, has proved effective in addressing what often seem to be the most intractable of challenges. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), which was negotiated with the aim of addressing the Iranian nuclear programme, shows us that this is possible. Ireland fully supports this agreement and urges all parties to demonstrate their support for its full implementation. I join with the EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini in calling on the US Congress to maintain its commitment to the agreement as a key pillar of the non-proliferation architecture. We also call on Iran to demonstrate its commitment to the JCPOA by ceasing all activities related to ballistic missiles which are not in keeping with the spirit of the agreement.


At this critical juncture, the MTCR Plenary provides us with the opportunity to engage on these issues and to work together to limit significantly the ability of proliferators to acquire the technology, information and means to develop WMD missile delivery systems. The MTCR has always been highly regarded and could be said to represent a benchmark for control standards, a fact recognised by the UN Security Council.


In the 30 years since its formation, the MTCR has proved its worth. It has now expanded to encompass 35 partners - partners who are united in a common purpose. The spirit of cooperation has always been a feature of this regime, and it is needed now more than ever if we are to continue to lead the way in terms of missile non-proliferation. I encourage everyone to renew the spirit of cooperation this week, and I hope that it guides us towards a successful outcome of this Plenary meeting in Dublin.

I would like now to hand over to the representative of Iceland, the Permanent Secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Reykjavik, Mr Sturla Sigurjonsson. In doing so I would like to wish you every success in your deliberations and assure you of the full support of the Government of Ireland.