22 October 2009
General Assembly

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

First Committee

17th Meeting (AM)

Robust Regional Action, Combined with Strict Compliance with Arms Control Accords,

Contains Arms Races, First Committee Told during Debate on Regional Disarmament

Outmoded Treaties, Vague Promises Hamper Compliance, While Transparency,

Risk Reduction Set Stage for Concrete Arms Control, Members Hear, As Eight Texts Tabled

Peace and security could only be achieved with strong regional action and strict compliance with existing arms agreements, otherwise the present arms races would erect stumbling blocks along the road to stability around the world, the Disarmament Committee heard today, concluding its thematic debate on regional disarmament and security, with the introduction of eight related draft resolutions, and opening its discussion on the disarmament machinery.

Many delegates shared the view that the arms build-ups stemming from regional and subregional instability stymied efforts to promote arms control and disarmament, and that compliance with existing agreements was critical to their smooth functioning.  Several representatives introduced draft resolutions to shore up commitments, and recognized the significance of regional approaches to arms control, disarmament and confidence building for international peace and stability, as well as the complementarity between regional and global approaches.

The Russian Federation’s representative worried that outdated treaties and vague promises impeded achievement of compliance on the ground.  He asked how it was possible to continue talks about a system of security based on the long-defunct Warsaw Treaty and on an expanded North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), citing those as examples.  The time had come to reach agreement on clear-cut effective rules of the game, as Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) had also become outdated.  Questions of security were complex and not only confined to disarmament measures; trust must be fostered in order to strengthen stability. 

A one-size-fits all approach did not work, asserted Pakistan’s speaker, who highlighted the need for security-related confidence-building measures, fitted to each region.  Simple arrangements on transparency, openness and risk reduction could be used to set the stage for concrete arms control and disarmament measures.  In his region, Pakistan believed the time was ripe for risk reduction measures to lead to restraint and avoidance of an arms race. Accordingly, the country had proposed a strategic restraint regime for South Asia, comprising conflict resolution, nuclear and missile restraint and conventional balance.

He said his country had re-tabled draft resolutions on regional disarmament (document A/C.1/64/L.28), conventional arms control at the regional and subregional levels (document A/C.1/64/L.29), and confidence building measures in the regional and subregional context (document A/C.1/64/L.30).

Keeping a keen eye on the regional political nuances, Nepal’s representative said that regional initiatives and instruments on disarmament and non-proliferation were the linchpins for the broader framework of global disarmament and non-proliferation.  Those instruments would foster understanding and a sense of confidence in the region.  In fact, regional dialogue, engagement and confidence-building measures were among the building blocks needed to create an environment conducive to international disarmament and non-proliferation efforts, he said, introducing a draft resolution on the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (document A/C.1/64/L.45). 

The representative of Egypt introduced two traditional draft resolutions, on the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East (document A/C.1/64/L.4) and the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East (document A/C.1/64/L.3).  The representative of Algeria introduced a draft resolution on strengthening peace and security in the Mediterranean (document A/C.1/64/L.49).  Gabon’s representative introduced a draft text on regional-confidence building measures and the activities of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on security questions in Africa (document A/C.1/64/L.27).

During its meeting, the Committee held an informal panel discussion on disarmament machinery as well as hosted a presentation ceremony of the 2009 United Nations Disarmament Fellowship.

Statements in the thematic debate on regional disarmament and international security were also made by the representatives of Malta, Peru, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Armenia, Cuba, Azerbaijan and Venezuela. 

The representative of the Regional Center on Small Arms and Light Weapons also made a statement on the topic.

Representatives of Georgia and the Russian Federation exercised their right of reply.

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Friday, 23 October, to continue its thematic debate on disarmament machinery.


The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its thematic debate on regional disarmament and international security and to begin its thematic discussion on disarmament machinery.  It was also expected to hear the introduction of related draft resolutions.

CLAUDE BONELLO ( Malta) said that, motivated by its conviction that there could be no peace and security in Europe unless there was peace and security in the Mediterranean, his country had supported and often been one of the driving forces of the various European and Mediterranean initiatives aimed at creating a more stable Mediterranean basin. Malta had continued to build on the achievements made so far by enhancing dialogue between countries in the Mediterranean.  It would continue to further the strengthening of various Mediterranean and Euro-Mediterranean forums, both intergovernmental and parliamentary.  On 14 October, the European Union-League of Arab States Liaison Office was officially inaugurated in Malta.  As a result of the pivotal role played by the country in bringing to fruition the February 2008 EU-League of Arab States Ministerial Conference held in Malta, that office would serve as a platform for inter-regional engagement and dialogue on strategic issues of interest to both organizations.

He said that Malta continued to play its role in strengthening people-to-people dialogue in the Mediterranean region through the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, established in 2006 with 25 Mediterranean countries.  Since its establishment, Mediterranean parliamentarians had been able to fully engage in the search for common approaches and solutions to priority issues facing the region, such as the Middle East Process, energy and related issues, organised crime, terrorism, maritime trade, environment and climate change, disaster management, gender and equality, dialogue on cultures and religion, and migration, among other topics.

Two issues with a dilapidating effect on the political and social development in the region were the situation in the Middle East and the phenomenon of irregular migration, he added.  In support of the Middle East peace process efforts, Malta reiterated its vision of a two-State solution, which had been his country’s vision for decades.  The large influx of illegal migrants into Malta and other Mediterranean countries was another priority concern.  Given the large number of people risking their lives by crossing the Mediterranean, with grave consequences, that issue required urgent regional and international attention. Last year, a record 2,775 irregular migrants had been rescued by the Armed Forces of Malta, or had landed in the country.  This year, 1,475 had so far been recorded.  In view of Malta’s limited size, capacity and resources, those numbers presented a burden. As the Prime Minister had requested in his address to the General Assembly, the United Nations should address the issue of illegal immigration in a holistic way, so as to find solutions to that humanitarian problem, which was challenging Malta and others, especially in the Mediterranean.

ALEXIS AQUINO ( Peru) said regional efforts were the stepping stones on the path to achieving international peace and security.  That included adherence of States to their commitments to possessing armaments within the levels agreed in international instruments.  Confidence-building was an important tool, reducing uncertainty and mistaken ideas among States.  Heightening transparency would also promote understanding.  Latin America was a pioneer in advancing those issues, with the 2002 declaration of the region as a peace zone, based on promoting confidence, cooperation and transparency. 

He said that the peace zone declaration, however, did not prevent the ballooning military spending in the region.  Peru had made efforts towards the adoption of measures to limit defence expenditures, with the goal of making more spending available to Peruvians for social programme.  Those efforts were also aimed at the full participation of Peru in the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and other instruments.  He supported the Register’s maintenance, adding that transparency in arms was critical.  He highlighted the symbiotic relationship between disarmament and development, stressing that confidence-building measures and security were key to promoting development.

MOHAMMED BELAOURA ( Algeria) introduced a draft resolution on strengthening peace and security in the Mediterranean (document A/C.1/64/L.49).  He said it reflected the common view of the sponsors and included a new paragraph recognizing the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Pelindaba Treaty).  The draft also noted the efforts made by countries of the region towards promoting peace and security.

He said that the draft resolution also encouraged countries of the region to take confidence-building measures to promote transparency.  Countries were also called upon to fight transnational crime and terrorism in the region.  The co-sponsors were confident of the Committee’s support for the draft.

AMRIT BAHADUR RAI ( Nepal) introduced, on behalf of its co-sponsors, a draft resolution on the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (document A/C.1/64/L.45).  Besides factual and technical updates, the draft included some proposed changes, with a view to making it more contextual.  As the host country of the Centre, Nepal reiterated its commitment to providing full support for the Centre’s role to consolidate the Kathmandu Process, and thanked Member States for their continued support.

He said that regional dialogue, engagement and confidence-building measures were some of the essential elements for creating a conducive environment for disarmament and non-proliferation.  The United Nations would play a significant role towards that goal by providing Member States with a permanent platform for dialogue.  Regional initiatives and instruments on disarmament and non-proliferation were the linchpins for the broader framework of global disarmament and non-proliferation.  With the sensitivity of regional political nuances, those instruments would create a higher level of understanding and a sense of confidence within the region.

KHALIFA ABDULRAHMAN ALMARZOUQI ( United Arab Emirates) condemned Israel for unilaterally seeking to acquire nuclear weapons in the Middle East, and called on the international community to adopt firm measures to address that situation. Doing so would discourage others from trying to acquire those weapons.  The United Arab Emirates reiterated its support for the various international resolutions that had been adopted in that context and called for diplomatic, political and economic pressure to be mounted against Israel to get it to adhere, without delay, to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and to require it to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by submitting all its nuclear activities and installations to the Agency’s inspections.  Israel should also stop the stockpiling of fissile material and equipment used in the production of weapons of mass destruction.

He urged that all countries must keep to their international obligations and not offer financial and technical assistance, which could help Israel to develop its arsenal. Iran should also cooperate with IAEA and with the international community, by continuing to respect the rules of international law, with a view to dispelling any doubts about its nuclear programmes. That would help to contribute to the enhancement of regional and international peace and security.

MAGED ABDELAZIZ (Egypt) introduced two draft resolutions on the establishment of a nuclear weapon-free zone in Middle East (document A/C.1/64/L.3) and on the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East (document A/C.1/64/L.4), saying that the Middle East remained a region where ambiguous nuclear activities and threats continued to undermine peace and stability.

He said that the draft resolution on the establishment of a nuclear weapon-free zone in Middle East maintained the exact substantive content as the General Assembly resolution adopted last year by consensus, with only technical updates. The text addressed one of the most important impediments to lasting peace in the Middle East and embodied the vision of a Middle East where nuclear weapons had no role.  The vision for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East required solid international resolve, in order to materialise; that would be a true contribution to international peace.  Egypt looked forward to the adoption of that draft resolution by consensus, in order to bring security and prosperity to all.

The draft resolution on the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East represented the same substantive text as the text adopted previously by the General Assembly, with only technically updates, he said.  It was being presented by Egypt and sponsored by the League of Arab States.  It called for Israel to accede to the NPT and to place all its nuclear activities and materials under the full-scope IAEA safeguards.  Doing that would address the imbalance in the region.  When Israel joined the NPT, that Treaty would achieve universality in the Middle East.  The sponsors looked forward to continued international support for the text.

JWAN TAWFIQ KHIOKA ( Iraq) said that her country participated fully in nuclear disarmament.  The establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones could reduce tension as well as the threat of the use of nuclear force.  The signing of treaties to create nuclear-weapon-free zones or areas free of weapons of mass destruction provided lessons learned, which should be taken into account by various regions. Such lessons should be published to make others be aware of them.

She said that the Middle East was a strategic region of important economic interest. Any tension in there had long-term consequences beyond the region, which had been the setting for one of the longest-running conflicts, the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Iraq, therefore, stressed the need for the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region.  The country had stated its commitment to that goal by supporting General Assembly resolutions on that matter.  That region was not free of nuclear weapons since it has been impossible to verify Israeli nuclear activities.  All other countries in the region had allowed the IAEA to inspect their activities.  Iraq believed that any attempt to create a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East should be preceded by a series of measures, particularly the nuclear disarmament of Israel and that country’s adherence to the NPT.

The 2009 Security Council summit on disarmament and the efforts of the United States and the Russian Federation to negotiate a successor treaty to the START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) were strong political measures that could help to achieve the noble objective of worldwide security and stability.  Security and stability in the Middle East required the removal of weapons of mass destruction there and adherence to Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, as well as conformity with the decisions taken at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, as well as the 2000 Second Review Conference.  The Doha Declaration had also called on the world to work towards an area free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

GAREN NAZARIAN ( Armenia) attached great importance to disarmament and the United Nations’ critical role in measures to move towards global peace and security.  The strengthening of existing agreements and verification systems should be a priority.  Armenia supported the United Nations and regional efforts to stop the uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons, as well as the implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, which could reduce regional threats and instability.

He highlighted the existing exchange system between the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations regarding armaments and military expenditures, adding that arms control on regional and subregional levels was crucial to maintaining stability and peace.  Unfortunately, the ceilings for conventional weapons established for the region had been flouted, a move that jeopardized peace and stability in the south Caucasus.  Armenia drew attention to violations by Azerbaijan of CFE (Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty) quotas, which contradicted various agreements on arms reduction agreements and transparency.  Azerbaijan’s actions threatened stability in the region.

Armenia was committed to international obligations to arms control and disarmament and compliance with United Nations instruments, which could bring the world closer to the goal of peace and stability, he said. 

VICTOR L. VASILIEV ( Russian Federation) highlighted a noteworthy trend of the regionalization of global politics.  Unfortunately, principles were being violated or marked by double standards.  In August last year, Russia on its very border encountered a situation involving Georgia in the Abkhazia-South Ossetia area.  There was a policy of connivance and an uncontrolled arms situation, which had been possible because existing mechanisms for regional security were disregarded or could not be utilized.

He said that the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) had become outdated.  How was it possible to continue to talk about a system of security based on the long-defunct Warsaw Treaty and on an expanded North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)?  There was a need to restore arms control, and he welcomed dialogue with key countries involved in the CFE treaty.  Vague promises were worthless, and concrete commitment was essential.  Questions of security were complex in nature, and not only confined to disarmament measures.  Trust must be established and fostered in order to strengthen stability.  Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev had proposed a treaty on security throughout the Euro-Atlantic area.  It was time to come to an agreement on clear-cut effective rules. 

MICHEL RÉGIS ONANGA M. NDIAYE ( Gabon) introduced the draft text on regional confidence-building measures: activities of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on security questions in Central Africa (document A/C.1/64/L.27), which would bolster stability in the region.  The draft now took into account the twenty-eighth advisory committee meeting, which emphasized the need for, among other things, arms control and confidence-building measures and also welcomed the adoption of the Libreville Declaration.  He thanked the United Nations for its assistance on those issues.

RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan) said that in 1993, the Disarmament Commission recognised that regional and global approaches to disarmament and arms limitation went hand in hand and should be pursued in tandem to promote peace and security. That recognition stemmed from the fact that the arms races ensuing from regional and subregional instability stultified efforts to promote arms control and disarmament.  At the same time, bilateral efforts and confidence building could be hamstrung by one or both parties’ extra-regional concerns. Meaningful weapons of mass destruction-related and conventional disarmament and arms limitation at the global level could remove such impediments. Dispute resolution on a just and equitable basis should be at the heart of those efforts.

He said that a one-size-fits all approach did not work and that security related confidence-building measures at the regional level should be tailored to the particular requirements of different regions. Simple arrangements on transparency, openness and risk reduction could be used to set the stage for concrete arms control and disarmament measures. Nevertheless, regional particularities and specific bilateral approaches notwithstanding, the end result should enhance regional peace and global peace and security.

Confidence building measures were essential for creating favourable atmospherics, but were not an end in themselves, he went on. Such measures had to be accompanied by United Nations Charter-compliant efforts for peaceful settlement of disputes. Those efforts, accompanied by concrete confidence building measures, could mitigate regional tensions, leading to an environment wherein disarmament and arms control agreements could be promoted.

He added that his country had re-tabled draft resolutions on regional disarmament, conventional arms control and confidence building measures at regional and subregional levels. Those drafts recognised the significance of regional approaches to arms control, disarmament and confidence building for international peace and stability, and the complementarity between regional and global approaches. It looked forward to the consensus adoption of those texts by the General Assembly this year.

In its region of South Asia, Pakistan was pursuing a composite dialogue process, which included both nuclear and conventional confidence building measures, he said. Several confidence building measures were already in place, including the establishment of hotlines and agreements on pre-notification of flight testing of ballistic missiles and reducing risk of accidents relating to nuclear weapons. The country, however, believed that the time was high for risk reduction measures to lead to restraint and avoidance of an arms race. Accordingly, it had proposed a strategic restraint regime for South Asia, comprising conflict resolution, nuclear and missile restraint and conventional balance. Resolution of outstanding disputes would greatly facilitate the attainment of the objectives of that regime.

IVONNE SANCHEZ QUINTERO ( Cuba) said that all countries in Latin America had been victimised by political and economic intervention.  For Cuba, the aggressive interest of the United States in building military bases and establishing its fourth fleet in the region was a grave and unjustifiable threat.  Foreign military bases did not contribute to the peace and security of nations.  The historic experience was that they were used to commit acts of harassment and aggression, promoting wars and confrontation between neighbouring countries.  Their establishment was not a global need, but an economic need being imposed on the world.  She regretted that science and technology had been used to develop weapons and that, now, there were not just thousands of nuclear warheads, but drones and other sophisticated weapons in the region.

She said that it had been argued that the foreign military bases in South America were to fight against terrorism and the drug trafficking, and to assist in natural disasters.  However, the presence of so much foreign military power was reason for concern for the people, no matter what Government they had.  Their existence was cause to wonder how much security could be had in today’s world. Such activities went against the independence and sovereignty of the people.  Now that the time for change had come, practical action and political will was needed to stop that military might.  All military bases should be withdrawn from Latin America and the Caribbean, including the military base in Guantanamo, which was there against the will of people.

OGTAY ISMAYIL-ZADA ( Azerbaijan) said that joint efforts should address regional and global issues, particularly in combating terrorism, non-proliferation and ensuring energy security, and he strongly advocated for a region free of weapons of mass destruction.  Unfortunately, unlawful use of force still plagued certain States, and civilian populations were suffering around the world, owing to the failure of individual States to fulfil their most basic responsibilities.  Armed conflicts, military aggression and foreign occupation involving international crimes were only a few consequences of non-compliance by individual States.

He said that the two-decade long unresolved Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was another example that threatened regional and international peace and security.  Armenia’s aggression had led to the occupation of one-fifth of Azerbaijan’s territory, triggering the internal displacement of 1 million people, and of war crimes and genocide.  Armenia had built up its military presence, with data showing a growing number of uncontrolled arms, including 316 tanks, 324 armoured vehicles and 322 artillery systems in the occupied territories, exceeding its maximum levels.  Armenia had used the occupied territories to hide great numbers of unaccounted and uncontrolled treaty-limited equipment from the “CFE” community, endangering the security of Azerbaijan and the stable development of the whole region.

Armenia had blamed Azerbaijan for increasing its military budget and for violations of arms limitation norms, but it had failed to mention Azerbaijan’s defence spending, conformed to overall budget increases, he said.  Azerbaijan spent 3.26 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on the army, compared with Armenia’s 3.86 per cent.  Despite being in a state of war, Azerbaijan was continuing to fulfil commitments under the CFE Treaty, reducing and destroying more than 150 treaty-limited armaments and equipment over the last five years, in line with the Tashkent Agreement.  Azerbaijan aimed to liberate all occupied territories, return internally displaced persons to their homes and establish a durable peace and stability in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

LISETH ANCIDEY ( Venezuela) said that the creation of the Rio Group had been a step forward to open a platform for dialogue.  Her region was experiencing revolutionary changes, which were improving people’s lives.  Venezuela was doing its part to open new spaces to promote dialogue, thereby strengthening opportunities for cooperation.  A higher awareness of unity among the region’s people had made it possible to move towards collective goals.

She said that the objectives would be obtained by, among other things, an assessment of security.  It was important that there was no interference in the region.  The presence of foreign military forces in the region must not threaten its sovereignty.  Particular concerns included seven United States military bases, and she supported confidence-building meetings to address those issues.  Venezuela was committed to efforts towards peace and security, for which the United Nations Charter should be the guide.

FRANCIS K. SANG, Executive-Secretary of the Regional Centre on Small Arms and Light Weapons (RECSA), said that arms control and disarmament were indispensable for peace and security.  The Centre was working with in collaboration with the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa to promote disarmament.  It was also working with other bodies to consolidate the gains in small arms and light weapons in the African continent.  It had continued to undertake measures to support efforts to control the number of arms in the wrong hands.  With the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), it was assisting Burundi to implement a project to raise awareness among civilians on the dangers of small arms proliferation.  Through that project, an effort at the surrender of illegal weapons had been marked with success.  In Kenya, the President had issued an order to civilians in possession of illegal arms to surrender them or face prosecution, and in Rwanda, the Centre was working with the Government to disarm returnees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, in an effort to “mop up” the weapons.  The returnees were being encouraged to surrender their weapons and, in exchange, the Government was promoting income-generating activities in recognition that poverty increased the propensity for armed violence.

Rights of Reply

ARCHIL GHEGHECHKORI (Georgia), responding to a statement by the representative of the Russian Federation, said that he agreed with the assessment that the events of August last year in Georgia were definitely an aggression, but that the Russian statement did not correspond to reality.

The aggression was committed by one sovereign State against another and was by the Russian Federation against Georgia, he said.  All the facts indicated that the matter did not start in August 2008, but was only escalated to an armed conflict in August. An attempt to distort the facts had been the reference to the report of the independent fact-finding commission, which had had looked into the matter of accusing Georgia of aggression.  That report did not say any such thing.

The Russian delegation should read that report carefully and draw the necessary conclusions, he said.  All the evidence in the report confirmed the fact of what happened in August 2008 and made clear that the site of the conflict had endured long-term provocations by the Russian Federation.  Russia had been engaged in illegal activities in the period before the conflict.  The report, in its entirety, talked about the invasion of one country against another sovereign neighbour.  Conclusion could also be drawn about the irresponsible, negligent and disproportionate action by the northern neighbour, which had led to casualties and greater consequences.

Regarding the proposals for a new European security architecture, he said that Georgia had participated in that process. Such architecture was definitely needed to improve security, as some countries were failing to abide by earlier obligations and commitments.  The Russian Federation should abandon attempts to distort historical facts and comply with its obligations under international law.

Mr. VASILIEV ( Russian Federation), also in exercise of the right of reply, said that the Committee had finished debate on the subject and gone on to another subject.  He said that it was necessary to respect the by-laws of the Committee more carefully.  Responding to the remarks by the representative of Georgia, he agreed that there had been an aggression and said that to know the reason for it and who had begun it, it was necessary to look at the report of the independent fact-finding Commission.  That report had been the result of a European Union decision and was more than 1,000 pages long.  Readers would be able to reach their own conclusions.  The Russian Federation did not want to respond otherwise to the Georgian statement, but the reader would not have the same opinion as Georgia.  It was necessary to keep the constructive climate that had emerged during the current session of the Committee.

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