ASSEMBLY ADOPTS RESOLUTION TO FURTHER COOPERATION WITH COUNCIL OF EUROPE
ASSEMBLY ADOPTS RESOLUTION TO FURTHER COOPERATION WITH COUNCIL OF EUROPE
Fifty-fifth General Assembly
38th Meeting (AM)
ASSEMBLY ADOPTS RESOLUTION TO FURTHER COOPERATION WITH COUNCIL OF EUROPE
Also Takes up Cooperation
With Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
The fifty-fifth regular session of the General Assembly this morning adopted, without a vote, a resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe and ended its debate on that issue. It also commenced its consideration of cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
In the resolution adopted, the Assembly asked the Secretary-General to continue exploring, with the chairman of the Committee of Ministers and the secretary-general of the Council of Europe, possibilities for further cooperation, information exchange and coordination between the United Nations and the Council of Europe.
Introducing the resolution, the representative of Italy said the Council of Europe was in a position to make a substantial contribution to the United Nations in meeting its rising challenges. The Council’s capabilities in conflict prevention lay in a combination of standard-setting, cooperation and monitoring, at both legal and political levels. Since both the United Nations and the Council placed human dignity at the centre of their missions and mandates, stronger working links between them could only aid in the achievement of their noble cause.
Walter Schwimmer, secretary-general of the Council of Europe, said that today’s debate on cooperation marked a breakthrough in relations between the two institutions. The Council of Europe represented the Europe of shared values -- the shared commitment of 800 million Europeans to human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Formal recognition of the Council as a regional organization would serve as a political acknowledgement of the contribution the organization had made to conflict prevention and peace-building in Europe.
When the Assembly turned its attention to the second item on today’s agenda, the representative of The Netherlands, as the host country of the OPCW, drew attention to the 17 October signing of a Relationship Agreement between the United Nations and the Organization. That constituted a further milestone in the history of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and the Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, he said. The OPCW had made significant progress towards the abolition of a whole category of weapons of mass destruction, the destruction of existing stocks and the elimination of facilities for the production of chemical weapons. The example set by the OPCW would continue to inspire States currently negotiating a similar regime to eliminate threats of biological weapons.
José M. Bustani, Director-General of the OPCW, said the degree of global trust and confidence in the organization and its related Convention was best illustrated by the continuing increase in its membership. It had grown from 87 States parties in 1997 to 139 today. The raison d’être of the organization was the worldwide elimination of existing stockpiles of chemical weapons and the prevention of their re-emergence anywhere. That objective would be realized only when all chemical weapons currently in existence had been verified as destroyed and when all countries had joined the Convention.
The representatives of France (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Croatia, Mexico, Sweden, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Monaco, Denmark, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Austria, United Kingdom, Armenia, Egypt, Syria, United States, Iran, China, Canada, Brazil, India and Argentina also spoke.
The representatives of Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Israel and Libya exercised rights of reply.
The fifty-fifth regular session of the General Assembly will meet again on a date to be announced in the United Nations Journal.
The tenth resumed emergency special session of the Assembly will meet this afternoon at 3 p.m. to discuss illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory.
Assembly Work Programme
The fifty-fifth regular session of the General Assembly convened this morning to take up two items: Cooperation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe; and Cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Before the Assembly was a draft resolution on Cooperation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe (document A/55/L.8). By the terms of the draft, the Assembly would note with appreciation the further improvement of cooperation and coordination between the United Nations and its agencies and the Council of Europe, both at the level of Headquarters and in the field.
By the same terms, it would request the Secretary-General to continue exploring, with the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers and the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, possibilities for further enhancement of cooperation, information exchange and coordination between the United Nations and the Council of Europe.
The Assembly, by the draft, would decide to include in the provisional agenda of its fifty-sixth session the item entitled "Cooperation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe".
The draft is sponsored by Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
Cooperation between United Nations and Council of Europe
SERGIO VENTO (Italy) introduced the draft resolution (document A/55/L.8). He said that the item was inserted in the agenda on the recommendation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council, which stressed the need to enhance cooperation between the two organizations, in view of the contribution that the Council of Europe had made to the United Nations over the past 50 years, particularly in promoting the rule of law and the protection of human rights and democratic values. The draft resolution being presented cited many recent examples of that cooperation. At the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly on “Women in 2000”, the Council of Europe contributed to the fight against trafficking in women and the promotion of gender mainstreaming.
The Council had supported United Nations efforts to restore peace in Kosovo by establishing close working relations with the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and focusing on legislative reforms in line with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Council had also organized a successful pan-European conference on “Racism and Intolerance” to prepare for the 2001 United Nations World Conference in South Africa. The Council currently consisted of 41 States, representing more than 800 million people. Within the organization, a reflection had begun on the possibility of granting a special cooperative status to countries interested in participating in its works, particularly in the field of democratization and modernization of the judiciary.
The Council of Europe, as the sole pan-European organization, was in a position to make a substantial contribution to the United Nations in meeting its rising challenges, he said. The most important concept inspiring the actions of the Council concerned democratic stability, which, in turn, depended upon the interdependence of human rights, democracy, good governance and the rule of law, as well as conflict prevention, peace-building and stability. The Council’s capabilities in conflict prevention lay in a combination of standard-setting, cooperation and monitoring at both legal and political levels. Since both organizations placed human dignity at the centre of their missions and mandates, stronger working links between them could only aid in the achievement of their noble cause.
PHILLIPPE BOSSIERE (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union and Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta and Turkey, said that the draft resolution constituted a first in the relationship between the two organizations. It should, over time, reinforce major facets of their cooperation, such as the defence of democracy, founded on the pre-eminence of the rule of law and the respect of human rights, and the contribution of the Council of Europe to regional security.
The Council of Europe had undertaken exemplary work for the defence of democracy based on the rule of law and respect for human rights -- the first area for cooperation, he said. There was unique machinery in Europe for jurisdictional control and for respect for all on the basis of human rights. Cooperation between the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Law Commission could also be cited. The European Union could not fail to encourage the Council of Europe to continue its active role. The European Union also welcomed the contribution of the Council to the World Conference on Racism, to be held in 2001. In this connection, it welcomed progress made at the regional conference for Europe, which was held last week in Strasbourg.
The participation of the Council of Europe in regional security was a second important factor. This participation should be judged by facts, for example, its cooperation with UNMIK and the establishment of an observer mission for 28 October elections in Kosovo. We should also add to its credit tasks that were entrusted to it in regard to peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina in protecting human rights and reform of the judiciary system. The third contribution was helping preserve the stability pact of South-Eastern Europe. He had three suggestions to further foster relations between the organizations: increased exchanges in information; enhanced bilateral relations at the highest level; and improving expert capacity.
IVAN SIMONOVIC (Croatia) welcomed that initiative, which would put cooperation between the Organization and the Council of Europe in its rightful place. The strengthening of that cooperation was intrinsic to the achievement of both organizations’ ultimate goals. Organizations such as the Council of Europe had an important role to play in promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The Council remained the leading regional organization in the field of promotion and protection of human rights, in both standard setting and implementation.
The European Convention on Human Rights provided for the possibility of recourse to the European Court of Human Rights, whose judgements were of a legally binding character, he said. Furthermore, the Council represented a rare breed of international organization, incorporating, beside the governmental structure, a parliamentary dimension. Mention should be made of the close cooperation already established under the framework of UNMIK, where, upon the invitation of the United Nations, the Council seconded to the Mission its experts who were working in the area of judicial reform, local and regional democracy, property rights and population census administration.
Croatia had witnessed excellent cooperation established between the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES) and the Council in the field of the development of education curricula for minorities, he said. The cooperation and its results had been highly praised by the international community. Cooperation between the two organizations could be enhanced with better flow of information. One of the key elements in rethinking the role of regional organizations in the changing world remained the possible timely division of activities between the United Nations and relevant regional organizations. Streamlining of activities was needed to make better use of available resources and avoid duplication of activities.
MANUEL TELLO (Mexico) said, in diversifying its foreign policy, Mexico had strengthened its relations with Europe States and European institutions on bilateral, bi-regional and multilateral levels. Mexico had become an observer at the Council of Europe in 1999, which had led to a fruitful dialogue and active participation in all areas of common interest with the 41 member States. His Government had decided to establish a permanent office in Strasbourg.
Cooperation between the United Nations and the Council had contributed to successful developments of the organizations’ missions in Europe, he said. He expressed his conviction that strengthening cooperation would yield real benefits for both organizations and hoped that the Assembly would adopt the draft resolution, which Mexico co-sponsored, without a vote.
JAN BERGQVIST (Sweden), said that, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Council of Europe was faced with new important challenges. Membership had nearly doubled in the last decade. Today, more than one fifth of United Nations Member States were also active members of the Council of Europe. The inclusion of new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe was considered a major factor in promoting peace and preventing conflict in Europe.
The Council of Europe was now developing its activities in the field, he said. In the framework of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe, for example, the Council of Europe led activities on issues such as creating ombudsman institutions, inter-ethnic reconciliation and gender issues. When developing activities in the field, particular emphasis should be placed on cooperation between international organizations. That was why Sweden welcomed the draft resolution. Such cooperation could be enhanced through extensive use of regular contacts.
Civilian crisis management and conflict prevention were areas now under rapid development in various international organizations, he said. This made cooperation essential. It was gratifying to note that the Brahimi Report put emphasis on the need to make peacekeepers and peace-builders inseparable partners. As stated in the Brahimi Report, peace-building missions should include international judicial experts, penal experts and human rights specialists in sufficient numbers to strengthen the rule of law institutions.
CLAUDIA FRITSCHE (Liechtenstein) said that strengthening and further enhancement of the cooperation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe was long overdue, considering the magnitude of changes that had occurred since the relationship began in 1951. The Council's experience would be useful to the United Nations and its Member States in the areas of post-conflict peace-building, confidence-building measures, human rights, social development, the fight against racism and crime prevention.
The Council of Europe, she said, continued to play an important role in promoting a stable and democratic South-Eastern Europe. It was actively involved in United Nations conferences and special sessions. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance was established following a Council-related summit. Finally, the presence of officials of the Council, including its secretary-general, Walter Schwimmer, underlined its commitment to build a closer relationship with the United Nations. The resolution on the issue contained all the necessary elements to create a basis for increased cooperation. Liechtenstein would support all efforts towards that end.
GIAN NICOLA FILIPPI BALESTRA (San Marino) said he welcomed the inclusion of this item on the agenda of the General Assembly. He had co-sponsored the resolution and emphasized the integral part cooperation played in the pursuit of peace. The efforts made by the Secretary-General, the General Assembly and the Security Council to maintain peace and the rule of law were ineffective without the support of other entities and regional organizations. The United Nations and the Council of Europe were complementary organizations, which should be linked by intensive cooperation. It was also important to avoid overlapping when they had their own specific roles to play.
This was a unique opportunity for the Council of Europe and the United Nations to cooperate in the field of human rights, he said. The Council had made a tremendous impact on international human rights through the European Court of Human Rights. There were many examples of current cooperation, particularly in the field of human rights, culture and education. The Council of Europe had played an active role in the United Nations Special Session on Women 2000, in social development, and through its constant presence in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) of the General Assembly.
The Council of Europe had observer status in the United Nations, however, a stronger presence in New York was to be encouraged, he said. The Council was in the position to contribute tremendously to the spread of democratic stability and he hoped that the Secretary-General would continue to explore different possibilities for cooperation.
JACQUES L. BOISSON (Monaco) said that Monaco was aspiring to become a member of the Council of Europe and was honoured to speak on cooperation between that organization and the United Nations. The Council of Europe had given the European continent a soul and a moral reference point. The common values between the Council and the United Nations could not be disregarded. Their respective missions could clearly be seen in the Council’s statute and the United Nations Charter. Whether speaking of the promotion of human rights or any other issue, the goals of the two organizations converged to show that cooperation in common undertakings was a good idea. The Council of Europe had shown that regional cooperation, if based on shared principles and values, could make a tremendous contribution to peace and stability.
He said that Monaco had a long history of similar goals to those of the Council of Europe. Whether it be individual or civil rights, Monaco gave both nationals and foreigners effective enjoyment and the safeguard of all the public freedoms within its modern democracy. Monaco had seven centuries experience as a liberal democracy working for the interest of the people, first through direct and then representative democracy. This could be seen in its balanced economic and social development.
The draft resolution was greatly appreciated and received Monaco’s full support, he said. It showed the quality of cooperation that had been ongoing between the Council and the United Nations, and highlighted the need to continue and expand that cooperation. He noted that, increasingly, major roles were played alongside the United Nations by regional organizations. The Council could offer much assistance through its expertise in peace-building, the establishment of the rule of law, democracy and the promotion of human rights.
JORGEN BOJER (Denmark) said Denmark was a founding member of the United Nations in 1945, and in 1949 had joined forces with eight other European countries to establish the Council of Europe. Since then, it had considered its membership of both organizations to be not only a privilege but, indeed, an obligation.
The Council of Europe, like the United Nations, had come into being as a result of the forceful words “Never again”, he said. Never again should States suffer from the scourge of war. Never again should the peoples of the world see their human rights repressed, violated and obliterated. That was the obligation and the very thrust of both organizations. In the early years, the Council and its member States had looked to the United Nations for inspiration and advice. Today, the United Nations could look to the Council of Europe for assistance and support to approach the challenges it faced.
He said the present draft resolution duly acknowledged that the council of Europe was promoting the prevention of conflict and long-term post-conflict peace-building through political and institutional reform. Indeed, it stressed that the principles and standards of the council of Europe contributed to the solution of conflicts throughout Europe.
GEDIMINAS SERKSNYS (Lithuania) said that, despite some ongoing cooperation, the Council of Europe and its work had not received enough attention within the United Nations. Lithuania had always actively supported close cooperation between the Council of Europe and the United Nations. The Council was in a position to make a significant contribution to the work of the United Nations, in particular, in strengthening democratic security and in those fields where its expertise was well recognized: the rule of law, human rights, and social and economic rights.
Since the establishment of the Council, the organization and scope of its work had undergone major changes, he said. The arrival of Central and Eastern European countries in the nineties meant that the institution had become fully pan-European. Due to new global challenges, the Council had been obliged to adapt to a new environment -– one that was more diverse and complex. New priorities had emerged, such as migration, social exclusion, minorities and corruption, as well as environment protection, AIDS, drugs and organized crime. Most of the issues dealt with by the Council were the same as those facing the United Nations. Therefore, he saw ample opportunities for constructive and mutually beneficial cooperation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe.
One of the main areas of that cooperation was exchange of information and experience between two organizations in the sphere of protection of human rights and freedoms. The Council played an important role in implementing the principles enshrined in the universal human rights instruments among European countries. He welcomed the contribution the Council made to the work of the United Nations by making available its expertise in strengthening human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In 2001, Lithuanian assumed the presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council. Among other priorities, an emphasis would be placed on consolidation of the Council’s efforts to foster human rights, civil society and democratic stability throughout the whole continent.
ELDAR KOULIEV (Azerbaijan) said that there was no doubt that, with the adoption of this draft resolution, cooperation between the two organizations would be given a new momentum. The Council of Europe was the first European political institution to be established. Its goal was greater unity amongst its member States on the basis of a unified value system. The entry of Azerbaijan into the Council was a historical and strategic necessity. Azerbaijan wanted to establish European values and standards. It had achieved a lot, for example, strengthened political and economic stability, free activity of the mass media and the introduction of market reforms. In the past four years, progress had been achieved in the building of a democratic society, and Azerbaijan had already entered into the implementation of its commitments. It was the first country in the region to abolish the death penalty and press censorship. It had also established a three-part judicial system, with a high court, an appeals court and a constitutional court.
Azerbaijan was taking all necessary steps to hold free and fair elections, he said. The central election commission had allowed most parties -- including the opposition -- to take part in the elections, and observer missions had been invited from the Council of Europe to supplement the permanent representation of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Azerbaijan was going through a difficult period. Its sovereignty was being violated by a neighbouring State. Twenty percent of its territory was under occupation by Armenian forces. This conflict was hindering stability in the entire region. In 1993, the Security Council had adopted resolutions demanding the withdrawal of Armenian forces, but unfortunately, they had not yet been implemented. Despite the tense situation, Azerbaijan was adhering to the ceasefire and looking to promote a settlement. The strengthening of reforms in Azerbaijan was being carried out in close cooperation with the Council of Europe. His country regarded entry into the Council not as a goal in itself, but as the beginning of a long-term partnership.
CONSTANTINE MOUSHOUTAS (Cyprus) said Cyprus was a member of both organizations and was well aware of the lofty principles and high ideals they both served. He noted this was the first time the item had been debated in the General Assembly and he expressed appreciation to the Italian delegation for undertaking the initiative for the inscription, allocation and presentation of the item in the plenary. The two organizations shared many common goals, and, therefore, closer cooperation and coordination between them would render both more vital players on crucial issues such as human rights and basic freedoms.
The fields of cooperation between the two were too numerous to list, he said. The draft resolution, of which Cyprus was a co-sponsor, made reference to the most striking examples of cooperation such as that on issues of international law, development, women’s rights, racism and intolerance, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and refugees. There was no doubt in his mind that both organizations would benefit from this cooperation, especially in areas of common endeavours, with mankind the ultimate main beneficiary. He, therefore, wholeheartedly supported this cooperation.
Cyprus, over the years of its membership in the Council of Europe, had witnessed the constructive contribution of that organization to the development of human rights and international law. In the case of the problem of Cyprus, the role of the Council had been very constructive, and he took the opportunity to express through Mr. Schwimmer, the secretary-general of the Council who was present today, his country’s deep appreciation.
GERHARD PFANZELTER (Austria) welcomed the discussion on cooperation between the two organizations. Austria was deeply committed to global and regional organizations. There was ample opportunity for a division of labour between the United Nations and the Council in the field of conflict prevention and settlement.
Austria was pleased to note the meeting between the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the secretary-general of the Council had taken place in Strasbourg. The Council was the central focus of protection of human rights in Europe. Considering the goals of both organizations, fields for cooperation abounded, such as in the areas of human rights, education and gender equality -- to name but a few. He emphasized the role of the Council as United Nations partner of UNMIK, where it had demonstrated its capacity to be a partner in solving a major conflict. A liaison office in New York would permit a continuous dialogue between the organizations, he said.
DAVID ATKINSON (United Kingdom) said he would welcome the passage of today’s resolution. The Council was the largest and oldest of the European institutions. He had found, to his horror, that the organization was neither recognized by the United Nations as a regional organization, nor accorded a regular cooperation debate in the Assembly. That was a matter of concern because of the valuable contributions the Council made to the work of the United Nations.
The Brahimi rapport had launched a new debate on the prevention of conflict, he noted. The best means of prevention of conflict was the promotion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Here, the Council could make a major contribution. He offered four more examples of contributions by the Council to the United Nations: its important work on the North-South centre cooperation in Europe; its efforts towards a solution to the final status issues to be resolved in the Middle East process, namely, that concerning Palestinian refugees; its contributions to UNMIK; and its cooperation over Bosnia and Herzegovina. He also mentioned the Council’s forthcoming contribution to next year’s commemoration is the Year of the Volunteer.
He drew attention to the European parliamentary assembly, composed of national delegations of national parliaments, which had contributed to the relative peace and democracy in Europe over the last 40 years. That parliamentary dimension should be introduced into the work of the United Nations. Practical politicians could find new solutions when governments had reached deadlock, he said.
MOVSES ABELIAN (Armenia) said that the end of the cold war had given the countries of Central and Eastern Europe a historical opportunity to re-adhere to European values and ideals. Most of these countries did not miss that opportunity, and Armenia was among those countries. Armenia had not undertaken its own democratization simply in order to join the Council of Europe, but recognized that in order to consolidate achievements, it needed to integrate itself into the institutional framework that was the Council. It had attempted, over the past few years, to maintain a sturdy course in preparation for membership.
In 1996, Armenia had applied to join the Council of Europe. Earlier this year, on June 29, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council recommended Armenia’s full membership to the Committee of the Ministers, stating that Armenia was moving towards a democratic pluralist society, in which human rights and the rule of law were respected, and that, in accordance with Article 4 of the Statue of the Council of Europe, it was able and willing to pursue democratic reforms. The final decision was to be taken by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers in one of its upcoming meetings.
There was, he said, a common view held by members of the Council that it should invite Armenia and Azerbaijan to join the Council at the same time. However, some member States had concerns and reservations with regard to Azerbaijan’s accession to the Council prior to its parliamentary elections. Given Armenia’s past disappointing experience on this matter, he had serious concerns about further delays in Armenia’s full membership. He urged member States to
de-link the two countries membership issue and judge each country’s qualifications for membership on its merits.
WALTER SCHWIMMER, secretary-general of the Council of Europe, said that today’s debate on cooperation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe marked a breakthrough in the relations between the two institutions. He explained that the Council of Europe, first and foremost, represented the Europe of shared values. The organization embodied the shared commitment of 800 million Europeans to human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Since the end of the cold war, the Council of Europe had become a truly pan-European organization, with achievements including over 170 multilateral conventions, several of which were also open to non-member States.
The increase in membership had been accompanied by a growing emphasis on cooperation and assistance programmes, to strengthen democratic stability, he said. The Council was making a major contribution to long-term conflict prevention in Europe. Together with the United Nations, it was actively engaged in fighting racism, xenophobia and intolerance. It closely cooperated with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). A clear expression of the Council’s sharing of the United Nations concern for democracy and human rights was its North-South centre in Lisbon, which sought to raise public awareness in Europe on global interdependence issues and to promote human rights, pluralist democracy and social cohesion in other parts of the world.
Recognition of the Council of Europe as a regional organization within the meaning of Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter would be an important step forward, he said. This would be a political acknowledgement of the contribution the organization made to conflict prevention and peace-building in Europe. It would, furthermore, enhance the Council of Europe’s role as a model in the fields of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Finally, it would add increased relevance to what he hoped would be an annual discussion in the General Assembly about the Council’s contribution to the work of the United Nations.
Action on Draft Resolution
The President of the Assembly, HARRI HOLKERI (Finland), announced that Azerbaijan, Canada, Japan, Monaco and the United States had become co-sponsors of the draft resolution on Cooperation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe.
The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, that draft resolution.
Cooperation between United Nations and Organization
For Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
MR. BOSSIERE (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union and Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Turkey and Iceland, said that European Union attached great importance to the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. It represented one of the most outstanding steps taken by the international community towards non-proliferation and disarmament. That there were 140 States party to the Convention and many ratifications was proof of continued support for this instrument and was an encouraging sign for disarmament. The European Union took this opportunity to call upon those States who had not yet done so to sign and ratify the Convention.
Strengthening the authority of that instrument was dependent on respect for States party’s obligations. All States party had submitted their initial declarations, and an inspections system had been set up. That allowed for an increase in transparency. The European Union, he said, would also like to recall the importance it attached to the destruction by States of their chemical weapons stocks as soon as possible. The European Union did not underestimate the difficulty encountered by some States in finding the resources for that. Indeed, it had allocated 5.9 million euros for a chemical weapons destruction unit in Russia. Yet, responsibility, especially financial, was solely the responsibility of those States that had such stocks. The European Union also hoped that the success of the international cooperation against the use of chemical weapons would help to stimulate negotiations under way in Geneva on an effective protocol for strengthening the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological Weapons.
AHMED DARWISH (Egypt), on a point of order, said document A/55/495 concerning the issue (in which the Netherlands requested consideration of this agenda item today) had been distributed on 18 October and the decision to waive the seven-day rule on this document was only taken on 19 October. Delegations had not had time to consider the matter. That consideration so soon after the release of the document should not be seen as a precedent, he said.
FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria), repeating Egypt’s objections, said he had received document A/55/495, distributed yesterday, only this morning. He wondered about the reasons for the waiving the seven-day rule and the 24-hour rule, as the issue did not constitute an urgent matter impacting peace. He hoped it would not constitute any precedent.
CHRIS C. SANDERS (Netherlands) thanked Member States for allowing an oral debate to take place on cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and aligned himself with France’s statement.
He said, as the host country of the OPCW, the Netherlands felt it had a duty to propose that the Assembly be given the opportunity to react to an important event that had occurred on 17 October, namely, the signing of the Relationship Agreement between the United Nations and the OPCW -- a further milestone in the short history of the implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and the Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction which had entered into force in 1997. The organization had made significant progress towards the abolition of a whole category of weapons of mass destruction, the destruction of existing stocks and the elimination of facilities for the production of chemical weapons.
With the creation of an effective verification regime, the Convention had set an important precedent in confidence-building and disarmament. He was convinced that the example given by the OPCW would continue to inspire States currently negotiating a similar regime to eliminate threats of biological weapons. To give a new Organization for the Prohibition of Biological Weapons a head start, he would make sure that it would benefit fully from the experience gained by the sister organization, the OPCW.
JAY SNYDER (United States) applauded the conclusion of the Relationship Agreement between the United Nations and the OPCW. This agreement marked the beginning of a closer working relationship between these two important organizations. He was pleased to note that the relationship agreement also had important practical benefits. One such benefit was the further facilitation of the work and travel of the OPCW inspectors. This would assist the OPCW in carrying out its inspections expeditiously and efficiently. Finally, he expressed his appreciation to the legal offices of both the United Nations Secretariat and the OPCW technical secretariat for their hard work in helping to bring this agreement to completion.
HADI NEJAD HOSSEINIAN (Iran) said the chemical weapons convention was a unique multilateral disarmament treaty aimed at eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction, which entered into force in 1997. Now, with 140 States party on board, it enjoyed a great deal of international support, legitimacy and relevance. He said that since its establishment, the OPCW had conducted its activities to verify compliance with the obligation of States party in an efficient manner and, as an international forum, had facilitated consultation and cooperation among the States party. Iran, with its long-standing commitment to the realization of the convention on the and as the last victim of this horrific weapon, spared no effort in supporting the convention and the implementation activities of the OPCW.
The signing of the Relationship Agreement between the two organizations was, in his view, a major step to facilitate the implementation of the Convention. The common objective of the two organizations to achieve effective progress towards general and complete disarmament would be advanced through consolidation of their relationship. In this regard, securing universality as one of the basic pillars upon which the Convention was founded was a must, particularly in the Middle East region, where much remained to be done to secure universality of the Convention.
HU XIAODU (China) welcomed the inclusion of this item in the agenda. Since the Convention had taken effect, progress had been made in the prohibition and destruction of chemical weapons. The universality of the Convention had been strengthened as 139 States had signed. Countries in possession of chemical weapons had destroyed large quantities of those weapons under supervision of the OPCW. Other work also had been accomplished in good order. He congratulated the OPCW for its accomplishments.
The OPCW, as an international organization in charge of the prohibition and destruction chemical weapons, had played a great role in maintaining peace and international security. Cooperation between the two organizations would enable the OPCW to play an even more significant role in promoting peace and disarmament. China had faithfully implemented its obligations under the Convention.
Even though progress had been made, there were still issues regarding implementation, he said. Some important countries had not ratified the Convention and nor adopted national legislation. Many issues were still open after the adoption of the Convention. The cooperation between countries in the trade of chemicals should be comprehensively implemented. He appealed to those countries who had not done so to sign the Convention.
CHRISTOPHER WESTDAL (Canada) said that the Convention would soon have the backing of 140 States, yet important gaps in accession remained, for example, in the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. Canada had worked hard in Latin America and the Caribbean to promote universality. The Convention included detailed provisions for verification. Compliance with these provisions was now excellent. Industry was indirectly involved with the Convention and had become an essential partner in fulfilling the international community’s determination that chemicals be used only for positive peaceful purposes.
Destruction of stockpiles was very important, he said. Canada urged all States party to meet the deadlines. He was very supportive of the work of the OPCW, but recognized that several key issues affecting the organization itself were yet to be resolved. Canada remained committed to achievement of consensus solutions. Those discussions, he said, had come at a particularly pertinent time due to the welcome Relationship Agreement between the OPCW and the United Nations.
CELINA ASSUMPCAO-PEREIRA (Brazil) highlighted progress made in implementing the Convention. Recent positive developments had bolstered the Convention and the OPCW’s breadth and universality. Brazil had played an active part in finalizing the Relationship Agreement, and she was gratified by the signing of that document. The Agreement would have an invaluable impact on coordination and the harmonization of the two organizations for the benefit of the international community. The OPCW now had a distinct character, acting as a branch of the United Nations system and being recognized as an impartial and efficient body with a growing legitimacy, making headway in this field.
There was a lot of promise in increased cooperation, particularly in the use of scientific and technical knowledge used for peaceful purposes, she said. It was clear that much remained to be done if the target of achieving the end of all chemical weapons arsenals across the world was to be met. She also suggested that more focus be put on advocating and building the machinery required to promote the legitimacy of international controls. She was convinced that the signing of the Relationship Agreement would allow headway to be made in this direction.
RAKESH SOOD (India) welcomed the Relationship Agreement between the organizations; an agreement that would further facilitate the implementation of the Convention. That Convention was a unique disarmament agreement because it was a multilateral, disarmament agreement comprehensive in scope, and backed by an international verification system, -- the first of its kind in detail and complexity. The Convention had taken many years to negotiate. India had participated actively in the negotiations, had been a participant in the preparatory committee, was one of the original signatories and had been the chairman of the executive council after the Convention had taken effect.
Several of the nearly 1700 inspections had been conducted in India, he said. The smooth conduct of those inspections were essential in enhancing confidence in the Convention. Implementation of industrial verification had been advancing smoothly, as most countries had now submitted their industrial declarations.
There were, however, some areas of concern, he said. He mentioned the possibility of a greater degree of universality of State Party and the somewhat tardy implementation of article 11 of the Convention. It was absolutely essential that such treaties were implemented fully and completely, so they could serve as a model for dealing effectively with other categories of weapons of mass destruction.
GABRIELLA MARTINIQUE (Argentina) said that her country had been an active participant in the establishment of the Convention, and had long supported the elimination of chemical weapons. For example, in the Mendoza Declaration, adopted in 1991, Argentina, Brazil and Chile had committed themselves to the complete elimination of chemical weapons. Argentina was gratified at the signing of the Agreement, and believed that the international community was moving in the right direction to rid the world of those weapons.
JOSÉ M. BUSTANI, Director-General of the OPCW, said the degree of global trust and confidence in the organization and its related Convention was best illustrated by the continuing increase in its membership. That membership had grown from 87 States party in April 1997 to 139 today. On 1 November, Yemen would become the 104th member. The immediate raison d’être of the OPCW was the worldwide elimination of existing stockpiles of chemical weapons and the prevention of their re-emergence anywhere. That objective would be realized only when all chemical weapons currently in existence had been verified as destroyed, and when all countries had joined the Convention.
He said the biggest challenge to the credibility of the Convention today arose from the difficulties experienced by the Russian Federation in its attempts to destroy its colossal chemical weapons legacy. A significant delay in the destruction of the world’s largest arsenal of chemical weapons might call into question the Convention’s credibility, and could undermine the effort to rid the planet of those horrific weapons. While the magnitude of the problem facing the Russian Federation was immense, that reality highlighted the need for further urgent and carefully coordinated action on the part of its Government. International assistance would be provided in sufficient quantity only in the context of an updated action plan that was yet to be drawn up by the Russian Federation itself.
He said there was an urgent need for the Russian Federation to take fundamental policy decisions about how it intended to destroy its chemical weapons stockpile at minimum cost, and put adequate measures in place to protect its people and its environment. While welcoming steps taken by some States to assist that country, such assistance fell far short of real needs. That highlighted another element which had been absent over the years -- namely, a mechanism for the efficient coordination of international assistance to the Russian Federation. His proposal to establish a steering committee to monitor the progress of destruction, and to identify gaps in Russian resources which could only be filled from the outside, had been accepted by that country, but had yet to be endorsed by donor countries.
He said he was convinced that the proposed steering committee would help to get things moving. It might also provide international oversight, which would allow the major donor –- the United States -– to persuade Congress to restore its funding for the destruction of chemical weapons in the Russian Federation. Destroying chemical weapons, however, was only part of the solution to the problem they posed. The Convention would not ultimately prevail until all States had formally committed themselves to it. A total of 34 signatory States still had to ratify the Convention, while an additional 19 had yet to accede to it. “I keep asking myself the same question –- if the reasons for delaying accession are not bureaucratic in nature, what are they?” he asked. If the reasons were unrelated to chemical weapons, then perhaps there was a need to take fresh look at the whole issue of accession.
He said the situation in the Middle East, where Israel, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq were still outside the Convention, was of the utmost concern. That concern was further reinforced by the spiraling cycle of violence which, once again, threatened the fragile peace process, with dangerous ramifications for stability and security both inside and outside the region. It was in the Middle East that chemical weapons were most recently used against both combatants and civilians. He asked whether the security situation in the Middle East would improve if all the actors were confident that the “sword of Damocles” of the possible use of chemical weapons was no longer hanging over their heads.
He said that by virtue of signing the Convention, Israel had already entered into an obligation, which included not developing, producing or stockpiling chemical weapons. He asked what was preventing Israel from ratifying the instrument and codifying its political commitment in legal terms. Another region of concern was Africa, where a number of countries were either outside the Convention or had yet to ratify it. The fundamental question was what incentive would a small country had to join the Convention when it had neither chemical weapons nor a significant chemical industry. There were many answers to that. While a country might not have chemical weapons, it might, in some regions, be subject to an attack with chemical weapons as long as such weapons existed. The Convention provided for assistance and protection to States party in the event of such attacks.
Right of Reply
Mr. DARWISH (Egypt) said, in exercise of his right of reply, that his delegation had listened to the statement by Mr. Bustani, and wanted to respond to certain statements he had made. Egypt had not acceded to the Convention, but had adhered to its provisions. However, Israel had still not acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), despite the continuous demands by the international community.
The Egyptian position on the issue was clear and had been referred to in many forums, he said, and Mr. Bustani should have reflected that in an appropriate manner. Egypt did not believe in the use of chemical weapons, nor weapons of mass destruction. That had been reflected in President Mubarak’s many statements about creating a region free of all weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, Egypt’s view could be seen in its support for resolutions put forward in the General Assembly’s First Committee. These were factors that Mr. Bustani had not dealt with in his statement.
SAEED HASAN (Iraq), exercising the right of reply, said that there was a close relationship between disarmament conventions, especially those dealing with a single category of weapons. Any disregard of this fact was a reflection of selectivity, and would only exacerbate the problem. Iraq would have preferred it if the statement Mr. Bustani made had acknowledged that fact. The international community had given priority to weapons of mass destruction. All the Arab States had acceded to the NPT, while Israel was outside that treaty.
The real ‘sword of Damocles’ was the nuclear weapons possessed by Israel, he said. Israel possessed more than 200 nuclear bombs, as well as an expansionist policy at the expense of the Arab territories. The international community should seek to implement international agreements and resolutions concerning Israel’s accession to the NPT. Resolution 487 of 1981 had demanded that Israel accede to the NPT. Paragraph 14 of resolution 687 of 1991 had repeated that demand. A policy of double standards was futile.
Mr. MEKDAD (Syria) said, in a right of reply, that his delegation had noticed that Mr. Bustani had twisted the facts and ignored the real situation in the Middle East when dealing with disarmament and chemical weapons. He had attacked countries for acceding, and that was not based on the real situation in the region. Israel was armed to the teeth and had the most advanced aircraft and military. Mr. Bustani had misled the Assembly and taken the wrong direction in his statement.
Addressing the General Assembly was a responsibility, and he should not have employed a simplistic analysis of the situation of the Middle East when doing so, he said. Such addresses must be factual. A selective policy had been applied. Thirty-four countries had not ratified the Convention, and 19 had not acceded to it. Mr. Bustani must make additional efforts all over the world, and not only reprimand the States of the Middle East. The one party responsible for the spiral of violence in the Middle East was Israel, and Mr. Bustani had used silk gloves when speaking about Israel, even though it had taken no real steps to accede to the Convention. Mr. Bustani’s positions reflected a total bias towards the Israeli position, and the international community should not be misled. Israel was solely responsible for the arms race in the Middle East. It had not acceded to the NPT, advancing flimsy pretexts. It was the Arabs who needed to be reassured. What would best serve the OPCW was factual content in representations that organization made.
MEIR ITZCHAKI (Israel), exercising the right of reply, thanked the Director-General for his statement. The Convention and its objectives were of very great importance to him. He was surprised that some delegates had raised other issues.
Shimon Perez, Israel’s Minister for Foreign Affairs when signing the Convention, had said that there was no weapon but political determination against weapons of mass destruction. Israel had to protect its citizens in a region where countries were notorious for possessing chemical weapons.
One might suspect that the objections to the inclusion of the item were a reflection of the objectors’ reluctance to sign the Convention. Israel had signed the Convention and was obligated by the moral principle of global chemical disarmament. At the signing of the Convention, Israel had hoped that other countries in the regions would follow suit. The reality was, however, in stark contrast to that hope. He hoped that the environment in the Middle East would change soon in such way as would enable Israel to ratify the Convention.
GIUMA I. AMER (Libya), exercising the right to reply, said that Mr. Bustani had mentioned that Libya was among a number of States that had not yet adhered to the Convention. His country was currently a party to most of the Conventions in the area of disarmament, including the NPT. This was because Libya wished to participate in putting an end to weapons of mass destruction. It had also proclaimed, before all international bodies weapons, why it had not adhered to this Convention, namely, the security imbalance in the Middle East, since Israel possessed hundreds of nuclear warheads and had, thus far, refused to adhere to the NPT. Mr. Bustani mentioned a number of States who had not adhered to the Convention, but did not mention why they did not adhere, although he was very well aware of those reasons.
Mr. MEKDAD (Syria) exercised a second right of reply. Having listened to the Israeli statement, he said it was, indeed, clear that Israel possessed chemical weapons and used them to secure its citizens. If all used this unacceptable logic, no international conventions would ever be concluded.
All countries would use the safety of their citizens as a pretext for avoiding them. Arab States were the ones whose citizens were not safe, as they did not possess nuclear weapons or other categories of weapons capable of countering the power used by Israel when occupying their lands.
The special session of the Assembly was a minimum requirement to deal with the massacres of Palestinian people, and to reaffirm that there could be no peace without Israel committing itself to conventions and withdrawing from all occupied territories, he said. Israel must give up its dreams and illusion that it could dominate the region.
Mr. DARWISH (Egypt), exercising his second right of reply, said Israel had criticized Egypt’s comments about the necessity of abiding by the rules of procedure of the General Assembly. The resumption of the tenth emergency special session had been agreed upon, and would take place this afternoon.
Mr. ITZCHAKI (Israel), exercising his second right of reply, said that after listening to the Syrian delegate, he failed to understand the logic behind his words. Israeli citizens had to be equipped with safety gear to protect themselves from chemical weapons. They were threatened by countries like his own. Syria should not lecture Israel about massacres and should not speak on behalf on the Palestinians, especially considering Syria’s record of massacres.
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