GENEVA - The United States walked out of the U.N. Conference on Disarmament to protest Venezuela assuming the one-month rotating presidency of the body. The U.S. ambassador said his delegation will boycott the conference for the duration of the period.
U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood says he will stay away from the deliberations of the U.N. body for as long as Venezuela holds the presidency.
Wood said he does not want to lend credibility and legitimacy to the government of President Nicolas Maduro, which he calls morally bankrupt, economically incompetent, profoundly corrupt, and inhumane.
Wood told VOA the Maduro government was planning to use the presidency for propaganda purposes over the next four weeks. He said Venezuela will try to paint its presidency of the conference as being as normal as that of any other presidency. He added the U.S. cannot tolerate that.
"We do not think being in the room is a good way to make clear how illegitimate we see that regime,” Wood said. “ … We think we are sending a very powerful message, not just to CD representatives in the room, but also to the Venezuelan people that we are standing with them and we are not going to give any credibility or legitimacy to this regime as it occupies the CD presidency."
Wood said the U.S. has received support for its stance from the so-called Lima Group of countries from Latin America. He said the group has decided it too would boycott the entirety of Venezuela's presidency. He said some other countries have decided to downgrade their representation.
Venezuelan Ambassador Jorge Valero earlier said it was an honor for his country to hold the rotating presidency of the Conference on Disarmament. He said Venezuela would conduct its presidency in accordance with the rules of procedure and make every effort to ensure a constructive and inclusive approach in the forum.
A number of countries welcomed Valero when he assumed the presidency and banged the gavel to call the meeting to order.
Pakistan, North Korea, Myanmar, Cuba, Iran, Syria and Russia were among those which lent their support to Venezuela and expressed confidence in its ability to preside over a successful session. Many objected to what they termed the unnecessary and artificial politicization of the conference by some member states.