OUTER SPACE ARMS RACE, DEPLETED URANIUM, LANDMINES, CHEMICAL WEAPONS ADDRESSED IN DRAFT TEXTS INTRODUCED IN FIRST COMMITTEE

24 October 2001
GA/DIS/3209

OUTER SPACE ARMS RACE, DEPLETED URANIUM, LANDMINES, CHEMICAL WEAPONS ADDRESSED IN DRAFT TEXTS INTRODUCED IN FIRST COMMITTEE

24/10/2001
Press Release
GA/DIS/3209


Fifty-sixth General Assembly

First committee

14th Meeting (AM)


OUTER SPACE ARMS RACE, DEPLETED URANIUM, LANDMINES, CHEMICAL WEAPONS


ADDRESSED IN DRAFT TEXTS INTRODUCED IN FIRST COMMITTEE


A draft resolution urging the prevention of an arms race in outer space was introduced in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) this morning by the representative of Sri Lanka, who said it would be a great human folly if outer space became the next frontier for conflict.


The draft text, one of four introduced this morning, would have the Assembly call upon all States, in particular those with major space capabilities, to contribute actively to the objective of the peaceful use of outer space and the prevention of an arms race there, and to refrain from actions contrary to that objective.


Draft texts were also introduced on:  the effects of depleted uranium; chemical weapons; and the landmines ban.  Thematic discussions today focused on other weapons of mass destruction and the disarmament aspects of outer space.


A new text introduced by Iraq on the effects of the use of depleted uranium in armaments would request the Secretary-General to seek the views of States and relevant organizations on all aspects of such effects and submit a report thereon to the Assembly at its next session.


The draft resolution introduced by the representative of Canada on the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and On Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention) would have the Assembly stress the vital importance of full and effective implementation of and compliance with all its provisions.  Canada’s representative said consensus adoption of the text would reflect the world's commitment to the comprehensive banning of those abhorrent weapons, especially pertinent in today's context of enhanced concern about terrorism.


The Assembly would urge all States that had signed but not ratified the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Ottawa Convention) to ratify it without delay, according to a draft text introduced by the representative of Nicaragua.


First Committee                     - 1a -            Press Release GA/DIS/3209 

14th Meeting (AM)                                      24 October 2001 


In its continuing discussion this morning on nuclear and other weapons of

mass destruction, the representative of Mexico, speaking on behalf of the "New Agenda Initiative", called for urgent action to further reduce non-strategic nuclear weapons, based on unilateral initiatives and as an integral part of the nuclear arms reduction and disarmament process.  The Initiative also issued a call for, among other things, concrete agreed measures to further reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons systems.


[The New Agenda Initiative comprises Mexico, Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden.]


Additional statements were made by the representatives of Uruguay, on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) countries, China, Norway, and Belgium.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 25 October, to continue the second phase of its work.


Background


The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its second phase of work, namely thematic discussions on all disarmament and security items and the introduction and consideration of related draft resolutions and decisions. 


Introductions of draft texts on the following topics were expected:  the effects of depleted uranium; chemical weapons; the weaponization of outer space; and the landmines ban.


A new draft resolution submitted by Iraq on the effects of the use of depleted uranium in armaments (document A/C.1/56/L.8) would request the Secretary-General to seek the views of States and relevant organizations on all aspects of the effects of the use of depleted uranium in weapons and to submit a report thereon to the Assembly at its next session.  It would have the Assembly decide to include the item in the provisional agenda of that session.


According to a text on the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Ottawa Convention) (document A/C.1/56/L.34), the Assembly would urge all States that had signed but not ratified the Convention to ratify it without delay.  It would urge all States parties to provide the Secretary-General with complete and timely information on article 7 of the Convention, concerning, among other things, national measures, in order to promote transparency and compliance with the Convention. 


The Assembly would renew its call upon States and other relevant parties to work together to promote, support and advance the care, rehabilitation and social and economic integration of mine victims, mine awareness programmes, and the removal of anti-personnel mines placed throughout the world and the assurance of their destruction.


The draft resolution is sponsored by Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Fiji, France, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti and Honduras.


Also, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mozambique, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Moldova, Romania, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela and Yugoslavia.


A draft resolution on prevention of an arms race in outer space (document A/C.1/56/L.7), recognizing that prevention of an outer space arms race would avert a grave danger for international peace and security, would have the Assembly call upon all States, in particular those with major space capabilities, to contribute actively to the objective of the peaceful use of outer space and the prevention of an arms race there and to refrain from actions contrary to that objective and to the relevant existing treaties in the interest of maintaining international peace and security and promoting international cooperation.


By a further term of the text, the Assembly would urge States conducting activities in outer space, as well as States interested in conducting such activities, to keep the Conference on Disarmament informed of the progress of bilateral and multilateral negotiations on the matter, if any, so as to facilitate its work.


At the same time, it would reaffirm the importance and urgency of preventing such an arms race and the readiness of all States to contribute to that common objective, in conformity with the provisions of the 1966 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. 


It would also reaffirm its recognition that:  the legal regime applicable to outer space, by itself, does not guarantee the prevention of an arms race; the legal regime plays a significant role in the prevention of an arms race in that environment; there is a need to consolidate and reinforce that regime and enhance its effectiveness; and it is important to comply strictly with existing agreements, both bilateral and multilateral.  In that connection, the Assembly would emphasize the necessity of further verification measures to prevent an outer space arms race. 


The draft resolution is sponsored by Algeria, Benin, Chile, China, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Egypt, Fiji, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Sri Lanka and Sudan.


A draft resolution sponsored by Canada, Poland and Uruguay on implementing the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and use of Chemical Weapons and On Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention) (document A/C.1/56/L.32), noting with satisfaction three additional ratifications or accessions to the Convention, would have the Assembly emphasize the necessity of universal adherence to the Convention and call upon all States to become States parties to the Convention without delay. 


In a related provision, the Assembly would stress the vital importance of full and effective implementation of and compliance with all its provisions.  It would also stress the importance of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in verifying compliance with the provisions of the Convention, as well as in promoting the timely and efficient accomplishment of all its objectives.  It would urge all States parties to meet in full and on time their obligations under the Convention and to support the OPCW in its implementation activities.


Introduction of texts


MARIO CASTELLON DUARTE (Nicaragua) introduced a draft resolution on implementation of the Convention on the prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and their Destruction (Ottawa Convention) (document A/C.1/56/L.34).  He said that the importance ascribed to the provisions of the Convention had been demonstrated again this year by the support given to them by the international community.  Among the chief goals of the humanitarian convention, which was an irreversible step forward, were preventing more people from becoming victims and aiding those already victimized by anti-personnel mines.


A multilateral process to mobilize resources had begun with a meeting in Maputo in 1999 and continued in Geneva in 2000, then Managua in 2000, he said.  One major feature of the Managua meeting was broad participation -- 96 Member States and many non-governmental organizations had taken part.  That meeting took place one week after the barbarous attacks on the United States, which had hardened the resolve of the international community to eliminate the scourge of anti-personnel mines.  One hundred and twenty-two States had now officially accepted the Ottawa Convention.


In the operative part of the resolution, the Secretary-General has been requested to take steps to convene a meeting of States Parties to the Ottawa Convention in Geneva in September 2002, he said.  Another paragraph ensured continuity by asking General Assembly to consider issues of anti-personnel mines at its Fifty-seventh session.  He hoped the resolution would be adopted without a vote. 


PRASAD KARIYAWASAM (Sri Lanka) introduced the draft resolution on the prevention of an arms race in outer space (document A/C.1/56/L.7).  Outer space, as the last frontier of humankind, should remain peaceful for all time, he said.  The age old widely held perception that celestial bodies and outer space were heavenly objects should act as an inspiration.  It would be a sad spectacle if outer space became the next frontier for an arms race.  Precious resources and energy were needed for more noble purposes, especially given the ever widening gap between rich and poor.


He said that the recent acts of terrorism had amply demonstrated that a security regime based only on exotic weapons might not be the best solution towards achieving human security.  The prevailing sense of strategic stability among major Powers could be in grave danger if outer space became an arena for an arms race.  In that context, the co-sponsors had introduced the draft text.  They hoped the stalled negotiations on the issue in the Conference on Disarmament would recommence at the earliest and an ad hoc committee on preventing an outer space arms race would be established.  The co-sponsors had wanted to further strengthen the text, but had not done so, mindful that it should enjoy universal support.


GUSTAVO ALBIN (Mexico) said his statement had the full support of Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden, members of the "New Agenda Initiative".  He welcomed the landmark outcome of the 2000 NPT Review Conference, in particular, the unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament.  He remained committed to fulfillment of the practical steps for the systematic and progressive efforts to implement article VI of the Treaty, which were agreed at that Conference.


He also recalled the agreement at that Conference on the further reduction of non-strategic nuclear weapons based on unilateral initiatives and as an integral part of the nuclear arms reduction and disarmament process.  The progress achieved in strategic nuclear weapon reductions made unilaterally, or bilaterally under the Strategic Arms Limitation and Reduction Treaty (START) process, was an important step towards nuclear disarmament.  Although he acknowledged that progress had been achieved in that regard based on various unilateral declarations of both the United States and the Russian Federation, he remained deeply concerned that the total number of nuclear weapons deployed and in stockpiles was still in the thousands.


Continuing, he called for urgent action to achieve the following: further reduction of non-strategic nuclear weapons, based on unilateral initiatives and as an integral part of the nuclear arms reduction and disarmament process; further confidence-building and transparency measures to reduce the threats posed by non-strategic nuclear weapons; and concrete agreed measures to further reduce the operational status of nuclear weapon systems.  As countries committed to nuclear disarmament, the Initiative urged the United States and the Russian Federation to proceed with the reductions of non-strategic nuclear weapons in a transparent and irreversible manner and to include reduction and elimination of those weapons in the overall arms reduction negotiations.  Presently, strengthened dialogue and a sense of convergence provided a unique opportunity to move forward.


CHRISTOPHER WESTDAL (Canada) presented the draft resolution on the Chemical Weapons Convention (document A/C.1/56/L.32).  The text recognized the vital contribution of that Convention to achieving the shared objectives of non-proliferation and disarmament.  The landmark Convention outlawed chemical warfare and all weapons designed for that purpose.  It required possessor States parties to destroy, within prescribed time frames and under rigorous international verification, all chemical weapons and eliminate their production facilities.  It also established a broad non-proliferation regime.


He said that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) performed a central role in the Convention's implementation, through its processing of national declarations, its conduct of on-site inspections and its technical and other assistance to States parties in meeting their obligations.  It was indeed encouraging that since the Convention's entry into force less than five years ago, considerable success had been achieved in making the world safer and more secure.  That instrument had demonstrated the effective functioning of verification activities, and that had led to the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles.


Much remained to be done, however, as States parties must be fully committed to implementing the Convention and meeting their obligations, he said.  A shared objective was achieving universality.   Today, there were 143 States parties, but it had become more important than ever to strongly encourage adherence by all States to the Convention.  He hoped the present draft resolution would be adopted without a vote, as an expression of the commitment of the global community to the comprehensive banning of such abhorrent weapons.  Such a commitment was especially pertinent in today's context of enhanced concern about terrorist activities.


FELIPE PAOLILLO (Uruguay) spoke on behalf of the Southern Common Market (Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and its associated States on the draft text of the Chemical Weapons Convention.  He said that the objective of the Convention was to establish a model for the non-discriminatory balance between non-proliferation and disarmament, on the one hand, and international cooperation and peaceful uses on the other.  He was pleased with the progress that had been made in implementing such an important instrument of disarmament and non-proliferation.  The Convention had already been ratified or acceded to by nearly 140 States.


Efforts must be made to ensure that both the Convention and the OPCW were made universal in scope and nature, he continued.  All MERCOSUR countries had ratified the Convention and some had taken steps to deal with the issue prior to the Convention’s existence.  In 1998, they had declared the territories of MERCOSUR States a zone free of weapons of mass destruction.  Many Southern Cone countries had incorporated the provisions of the Convention into their domestic law.


The destruction of chemical weapons must be the goal of the international community, he said.  Those weapons must never be used by anyone, whether by States or terrorists.  He exhorted all States to give credibility to the enforcement measures of the Convention, because not doing so would jeopardize all past efforts.  Latin American countries already benefited from a high degree of cooperation on the issue.  The Convention and the OPCW were adequate tools for dealing with the threat posed by chemical weapons.  The MERCOSUR States would lend the proposed draft their fullest support.


HU XIAODI (China) said that the current developments related to outer space were "very worrisome".  On the one hand, with the advancement of science and technology there had been more and more civilian activities in outer space.  On the other hand, the danger of the “weaponization” of outer space was now imminent.  In pursuit of unilateral military supremacy, and in disregard of the opposition of the international community, a missile defence system was still being developed and, based on the long-term plans for the control of outer space, space weapons were being developed.  Furthermore, an outer space "war game" had been conducted. 


He said that keeping outer space weapon-free and avoiding an arms race therein, while maintaining its peaceful utilization, was an issue that had a direct bearing on world peace and the future of mankind.  Thus, it should be a pressing item on the international disarmament agenda.  For the purpose of the peaceful use of outer space and the prevention of an arms race therein, the international community had concluded some international legal instruments.  But, due to their inherent limitations, they were insufficient for preventing the weaponization of, and an arms race in, outer space in the current century. 


For a long time, China had been pushing for the negotiation of an international legal instrument on keeping outer space weapon-free, he went on.  Towards that goal, it had submitted to the Conference on Disarmament a working paper suggesting ways of addressing that issue, and another on possible elements for preventing the weaponization of outer space.  As the only multilateral disarmament negotiating body, the Conference was the best venue for such negotiations.  In its working paper, the Russian delegation had explicitly stated its position that an ad hoc committee on outer space should be established with a negotiating mandate.  The Chinese delegation fully supported that position. 


For many years, he continued, the General Assembly had passed a resolution on preventing an outer space arms race with an overwhelming majority.  That had reflected the great importance the international community attached to that issue and its just appeal for the negotiation of the relevant instrument.  Here again, he called upon all delegations to support the draft resolution, with a view to pushing for the start of negotiations to prevent the weaponization of, and arms race in, outer space.


KNUT LANGELAND (Norway) commented on the draft text on the Ottawa Convention.  He said that cooperation and partnership had been important parts of the success of the Ottawa Convention, which had been ratified by 122 States.  There had been encouraging progress in the field of anti-personnel mines, such as reduced use of those weapons, a dramatic drop in their production, a nearly complete halt to their transfer and increased funding for humanitarian action for victims.


The Ottawa Convention was becoming an international norm, but mines continued to harm people, he said.  There was still a humanitarian emergency, because anti-personnel mines continued to kill and harm people every day.  Norway, having held the presidency of the second meeting of States party to the Ottawa Convention, attached great importance to it.  He thanked Nicaragua for hosting the third meeting and was pleased they would be leading the next phase of work.


Norway had allocated $120 million for mine action over the next five years, he said.  He was pleased with the decision to establish an implementation support unit within the Geneva Centre for Humanitarian Demining and hoped it would be given sufficient resources.  He firmly supported the draft resolution on the Ottawa Convention and asked all States to adhere to it.


JEAN LINT (Belgium) commented on the draft concerning the Ottawa Convention.  He thanked Nicaragua for hosting the third meeting of States Parties to the Convention in Managua in September.  The draft resolution called upon all States to ratify the Convention if they had not yet done so.  Belgium had sought to ensure the universality of the Convention and there had been encouraging progress in the last year.


In the last year 14 countries had signed onto the Convention and others were moving in that direction.  Yugoslavia, Turkey, and Greece were close to signing.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo was taking measures to ensure accession to the Convention in the near future.  Cameroon was making progress.  Ethiopia was closer to accession, and Eritrea had recently signed.  He stressed that the Convention must be applied effectively.  He encouraged delegations to lend their support to the draft resolution.


MOHAMMED MAHMOUD (Iraq) introduced a new draft resolution on the effects of the use of depleted uranium in armaments (document A/C.1/56/L.8).  He said that the use of those weapons over the past 10 years had multiplied and had some very serious consequences.  The presentation of the text had been based on the final declaration of the tenth special session of the General Assembly on disarmament, taking into account its call for effective measures to avert new types of weapons of mass destruction and the need to ban such new weapons. 


He said that the text had also based itself on General Assembly resolution 54/44 on the prohibition of such new types of weapons, as well as on a report of the Human Rights Commission and the position of the World Health Organization and States and Parliaments, particularly the European parliament.  The draft had flowed from the concern that all Member States should take on the commitment to protect mankind from weapons of mass destruction.  All States should support it.


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For information media. Not an official record.