TERRORIST THREATS DEMAND NEW DEFINITION OF SECURITY, DISARMAMENT COMMITTEE TOLD

5 October 2004
GA/DIS/3273

TERRORIST THREATS DEMAND NEW DEFINITION OF SECURITY, DISARMAMENT COMMITTEE TOLD

05/10/2004
Press ReleaseGA/DIS/3273

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Committee

3rd Meeting (AM)

Terrorist threats demand new definition of security, disarmament committee told

Peaceful Use of Outer Space, Nuclear-Weapon-Free

Middle East among Other Issues in Continuing General Debate

From New York to North Ossetia, “the alarm bell of terrorist threats has tolled loud time and again”, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) was told this morning, as it continued its general debate.

In the face of such challenges, the representative of China said, no country could afford to stand alone or remain aloof.  Rather, a new definition of security -- based on equality, trust, mutual benefits and cooperation –- was required.  In that regard, multilateral efforts in the fields of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation were indispensable.

Regarding outer space, he said that ensuring its peaceful use was in the common interest of all mankind.  Nevertheless, the current situation was troubling and, therefore, required urgent action.  In that context, he urged the Conference on Disarmament to start substantive work on that theme as soon as possible, with a view to negotiating a relevant international legal instrument.

Echoing China’s views on outer space, the speaker from the Russian Federation noted that his country, together with China, had presented a paper to the Conference on Disarmament, suggesting several elements that could form part of a comprehensive agreement.  Those elements included pledges to refrain from placing any weapon-carrying object in orbit around the planet, and from installing weapons on celestial bodies.  Declaring that his country would never be the first to place weapons in outer space, he called on all other nations to follow suit.

He also touched upon nuclear disarmament, saying that his country had consistently met its obligations, as laid out by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).  However, nuclear disarmament efforts could not take place in a vacuum.  Rather, his country had to consider political developments in the world, particularly the evolution and enlargement of military-political alliances in Europe, as well as the state of other types of weapons throughout the globe, when proceeding with its policies.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates said his region would never attain stability and peace so long as some countries continued to carry out nuclear tests.  Such actions only served to create military and strategic imbalances.  What was needed instead was a common approach to settling conflicts, one that respected sovereignty, territorial integrity, and non-intervention in other States’ internal affairs.  Calling for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, he asked the international community to compel Israel to dismantle its “dangerous nuclear facilities”.

Statements in the general debate were also made by the representatives of Chile, Argentina, Turkey, Belarus, Eritrea, Switzerland and Guatemala.  In addition, Movses Abelian, Secretary of the Fifth Committee, and Dennis Thatchaichawalit, Officer-in-Charge of the Secretariat’s Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts, made brief statements on programme planning and budgetary matters.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m.Thursday, 7 October.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its general debate on the whole range of arms limitation and security arrangements.  (For background, see Press Release GA/DIS/3271 and 3272.)

Statements

ALFREDO LABBE (Chile) said that The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation was completing its second year of formal activity and that, through the ongoing effort of the subscribing States, it had increased its membership to 115 States.  The subscribing States included countries from all regional and political groups.  The Code was a political undertaking intended to contribute positively to international security and to strengthen all disarmament and arms control treaties and mechanisms.  It was open to all United Nations Members States.

The States subscribing to The Code were convinced about the risk posed by the indiscriminate proliferation of ballistic missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction, he continued.  The Code, therefore, strove for global security through politically binding measures, such as restraint in the development, testing and deployment of such missiles.  It was also doing so by means of transparency and confidence-building measures, including annual reports and pre-launch notifications.  While recognizing that every State had the right to participate in the benefits of space for peaceful purposes, The Code expressed the belief that, in the process of reaping such benefits, they should not contribute to the proliferation of ballistic missiles.  To achieve those goals, subscribing States had progressed in refining their tools and methods.

The presidency of The Code was carrying out consultations to introduce a draft resolution at the First Committee this year, with the aim of formalizing a functional link with the United Nations, he continued.  Later this month, Chile, in cooperation with Italy and Canada, would also host a regional outreach seminar in Santiago at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences to promote The Code’s universalization within the region that heralded the idea of nuclear-weapon-free zones.

HU XIAODI (China) said violence brought on by traditional causes -- such as ethnic, religious and territorial disputes –- was being exacerbated by new non-traditional threats, like terrorism.  Lamenting that terrorist activities spanned the globe, from New York to North Ossetia, he said that “the alarm bell of terrorist threats has tolled loud time and again”.  In the face of such challenges, no country could afford to stand alone or remain aloof.  Rather, a new definition of security -- based on equality, trust, mutual benefits and cooperation –- was required.  In that regard, multilateral efforts in the fields of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation were indispensable.

Currently, non-proliferation efforts were both succeeding and encountering challenges.  On the positive side, Libya had renounced its weapons of mass destruction programme.  Also, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran were on the path to reaching political solutions with the international community.  On the other hand, current export control mechanisms were not stringent enough, especially considering recent examples of covert nuclear proliferation.  In that context, he stressed that non-proliferation efforts could not simply focus on States anymore, because the risk of terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction was very real.

Calling for the maintenance of the Treaty for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the strengthening of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he put forth five proposals to address the complex nature of nuclear proliferation.  First, he said the international community should promote security for all countries, so that the motivation for acquiring weapons of mass destruction would dissipate.  Second, he called for proliferation-related issues to be addressed through cooperation, dialogue, and political and diplomatic means.  Third, multilateralism should be promoted and existing international non-proliferation regimes should be strengthened.  Fourth, non-proliferation measures should be characterized by impartiality, rationality and legality.  Fifth, the right to peacefully use science and technology should be guaranteed, as long as non-proliferation norms were respected.

Acknowledging that nuclear disarmament was essential for global security, he said his country had never shied away from its disarmament-related responsibilities and, in fact, supported the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons.  Telling delegates that his country had declared that it would never use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States, he urged fellow nuclear Powers to follow suit and to also conclude an international, legally binding treaty on that theme.  With respect to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), he said he wished to see the Treaty’s entry into force.  That was why his Government was actively promoting ratification in its National People’s Congress, in accordance with due legal procedures.

Turning to outer space, he said ensuring its peaceful use was in the common interest of all mankind.  However, the current situation was troubling and required urgent action.  Urging the Conference on Disarmament to start substantive work on that theme as soon as possible, with a view to negotiating a relevant international legal instrument, he noted that his country, along with the Russian Federation, had tabled several joint working papers detailing their positions.  Regarding a fissile material cut-off treaty, he called for early negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament, “on the basis of a comprehensive and balanced programme of work”, and said his Government was seriously studying proposals to bring about such a treaty without verification.  Before concluding, he urged Japan to start destroying, as soon as possible, chemical weapons it had abandoned on Chinese territory.  Those weapons had led to many casualties.

ALBERTO PEDRO D’ALOTTO (Argentina) said that, in the present millennium, renouncing weapons of mass destruction constituted an utmost priority.  Argentina was concerned about the persistence of the risk of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  The challenge posed by terrorism was a new reality in the international scenario that introduced a new dimension to disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.  That new dimension called for concrete and new actions by the international community that contemplated all situations of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  What was at stake was the full implementation of all disarmament and non-proliferation instruments and their strengthening and universalization.

Argentina planned to introduce a draft resolution on “Information on confidence building measures in the field of conventional arms”, he continued.  It was presenting the draft resolution because it was convinced that dialogue and mutual understanding were the basis for generating the political will that was needed.  Argentina was awaiting with interest the deliberations on the improvement of the effectiveness of the work of the First Committee.

ANDREY DENISOV (Russian Federation) said the United Nations should play “the central role” in coordinating international action to maintain global security and stability.  Highlighting the particular challenges posed by terrorists, he informed delegates that his country had actively participated in the Security Council deliberations that led to the adoption of resolution 1540.  That resolution, which addressed the threat of terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction, needed to be fully implemented by all States.  In addition, he also stressed that all efforts to combat terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction should strictly conform to international law.

Turning to nuclear disarmament, he said his country had consistently met its obligations, as laid out by the NPT.  However, nuclear disarmament efforts could not take place in a vacuum.  Rather, his country had to consider political developments in the world, particularly the evolution and enlargement of military-political alliances in Europe, as well as the state of other types of weapons throughout the globe.  Attaching particular importance to the CTBT, he called on all countries that had not yet done so, especially those whose ratification was required for the Treaty’s entry into force, to sign and ratify it as soon as possible.  Until the Treaty came into force, the moratorium on nuclear test explosions should be maintained, he said.

Regarding outer space, he told delegates of the efforts put forth by his country and China to prevent its weaponization.  In a paper presented to the Conference on Disarmament on that topic, the Russian Federation and China had suggested several elements that could form part of a comprehensive agreement.  Those elements included pledges to refrain from placing any weapon-carrying object in orbit around the planet, and from installing weapons on celestial bodies.  Declaring that his country would never be the first to place weapons in outer space, he called on all other nations to follow suit.  Also concerned by missiles, he expressed regret that the group of governmental experts, which was appointed by the Secretary-General to discuss the issue, had been unable to achieve any progress.

With respect to the Chemical Weapons Convention, he said it should be made universal.  He also supported setting up national mechanisms of implementation.  The Biological Weapons Convention could also stand to be strengthened, he said.  Specifically, a verification mechanism was needed.  Before concluding, he also expressed concern over both the failure of the Conference on Disarmament to launch any substantive work and the stalemate in the Disarmament Commission.  Nevertheless, he was encouraged by productive debates in the Conference on Disarmament and hoped they would lead to more progress.

MEHMET HASLUK ILICAK (Turkey) said that the 11 September attacks demonstrated the tenuousness of the new strategic environment.  Governments and world public opinion realized that terrorism could be devastating to societies if it was equipped with weapons of mass destruction.  The horror of dirty bombs started to haunt governments and that, in turn, increased vigilance over the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.

Turkey favoured global overall disarmament, he continued.  It supported all efforts in the field of sustaining international security through arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament.  Turkey, being close to regions posing a high risk of proliferation, took a firm stance against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.  It was important to maintain, and if need be strengthen, the legal framework and redefine and expand the basic parameters of the international instruments and export control regimes.

Turkey considered the NPT as the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime and the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament, he stated.  Countries which remained outside the Treaty needed to accede to it and those that had lapsed in implementation should fully comply with their Treaty obligations.  In addition, States that had not yet done so should conclude additional protocols with the International Atomic Energy Agency.  Turkey supported all initiatives to strengthen the conditions of supply in highly sensitive nuclear equipment and technology, and supported the proposal to make the additional protocol a condition of supply.

He further expressed support for the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East and said that his country encouraged all efforts for having a common regional understanding on that project with the participation of all parties concerned. On the CTBT, he called on all the remaining 11 States to become party without delay, in order to make way for its entry into force.

He announced that Turkey would continue to contribute to all efforts within the United Nations and other forums to foster international cooperation and the evolution of effective norms and rules to combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.  It was generally believed that an average of 500,000 people were killed each year with small arms.  The excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons posed a significant threat to peace and security and to the social and economic development of communities and countries.

ALYAKSANDR SYCHOU, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, said that, whereas the risk of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists remained society’s “sword of Damocles”, the challenges posed by landmines and small arms and light weapons were also daunting.  The only way to address such threats was through multilateralism and the efforts of the entire international community, he said.  In that regard, the role of the United Nations and its coordination with regional organizations should be strengthened.  He added that, because the Conference on Disarmament and the Disarmament Commission were both mired in stalemates, the First Committee was the only United Nations forum that could make principled decisions on international security, disarmament and non-proliferation.

Voicing support for Security Council resolution 1540, he said that, for its part, his country had contributed to non-proliferation efforts by initiating resolution 57/50, which had sought to address the particular problems posed by new types of weapons of mass destruction, such as dirty bombs.  His country was also cooperating with the Proliferation Security Initiative.  The “most important instrument” in the fight against nuclear weapons, however, remained the NPT, which his country supported.  He also urged all States that had not yet done so to accede to the CTBT.  Turning to missiles, he called for the establishment of comprehensive cooperation between the United Nations and participants in The Hague Code of Conduct.  On small arms, he supported efforts to negotiate an international instrument governing the tracing of such weapons.

AMARE TEKLE (Eritrea) said that traditional threats to peace were being overwhelmed by new forms –- such as terrorism.  The traditional actors –- States -– were being overshadowed by non-territorial and faceless non-State actors, including terrorists, warlords, drug lords and lawless transnational operators.  Nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction had not been eliminated or even meaningfully reduced, but the destruction caused by small arms, conventional weapons and landmines had also been disastrous in their destabilization effects on States.

The Horn of Africa was one of the regions that had been highly infested by landmines and unexploded ordinance, which continued to wreak havoc on the livelihood of the people of Eritrea long after the end of conflict, he continued.  Those nefarious weapons had claimed and continued to claim numerous victims every year, despite the great efforts made to clear them.  They had a harmful effect on reconstruction efforts and development programmes.  The Government of Eritrea was creating a safety net to protect vulnerable members of the society, including children and the elderly, from the adverse consequences of those weapons.

Eritrea shared the concern that the role of multilateralism in disarmament and peace and security matters was decreasing and was of the view that multilateralism –- especially under the auspices of the United Nations -– could provide credibility and legitimacy.  It was, therefore, imperative to promote multilateralism and to ensure the primacy of the role of the United Nations.  Multilateralism needed to be bolstered by the democratization of international relations, the promotion of the rule of law, the rejection of the logic of force and respect for the Charter and the sanctity of treaty agreements.

ABDULAZIZ NASSER AL-SHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) said dangerous security threats had arisen throughout the world over the past decade, leading to eruptions of violence and terrorism.  The resources directed towards acquiring weapons were not being used for development and welfare.  Further, the roots of armed conflicts needed to be understood and disarmament programmes had to be strengthened.  Turning to his own region, he said it would never attain stability and peace so long as some countries continued to carry out nuclear tests on the pretext of enhancing their deterrence capabilities.  Such actions only served to create military and strategic imbalances.  What was needed instead was a common approach to settling conflicts, one that respected sovereignty, territorial integrity, and non-intervention in other States’ internal affairs.

Lamenting that nuclear-weapon States were not necessarily carrying out disarmament, he called for the creation of an international legally binding instrument that would guarantee against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States.  He also called for the development of specialized mechanisms that would monitor the gradual elimination of nuclear weapons, as well as the establishment of an international agency authorized to negotiate a fissile material cut-off treaty.  With respect to non-nuclear-weapon States, he urged them to exercise self-control and not attempt to acquire nuclear weapons.  Reiterating his call for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, he called on the international community to compel Israel, the only country in the region that was not party to the NPT, to dismantle its “dangerous nuclear facilities”.

JENÖ STAEHELIN (Switzerland) expressed support for the proposal to implement measures to bring about practical improvements in the work of the First Committee.  The Committee was the ideal platform for international cooperation in the field of arms control and disarmament.  The slow pace of reaching meaningful goals with respect to weapons of mass destruction was disheartening.  It must be recognized that the elimination of those weapons remained an elusive and hard to achieve long-term goal.  However, some measures, which could be implemented without delay would allow for that objective to be approached.  Such measures included respecting existing commitments; increasing efforts to achieve the universalization of all agreements and treaties in the field of weapons of mass destruction; and starting negotiations without delay at the Conference on Disarmament on a ban on the production of fissile materials for weapons purposes.

The picture was less disheartening with respect to conventional weapons, he continued.  Important progress had been achieved in the field of small arms and light weapons with respect to the implementation of the Programme of Action and the negotiations started this year in New York on an international instrument on marking and tracing.  Switzerland called for continued efforts to minimize the humanitarian consequences of the explosive remnants of war.  His country was currently chairing the group of military experts on such remnants.

On the first Review Conference of the Convention banning anti-personnel mines, which would take place in Nairobi in November, he said that it would be an opportunity to welcome the important progress achieved since the entry into force of that Convention.  It also represented an occasion to renew commitment towards a world free of anti-personnel mines.  An important goal for Switzerland would be the universalization of the Convention and the respect of its provisions by non-States.

JORGE SKINNER-KLEE (Guatemala) said the Committee was once again meeting in an “atmosphere of uncertainty”.  Shocking new terrorist attacks had raised new concerns in the world and created new challenges for the Committee.  In that context, he stressed that the international fight against terrorism required not only actions at the national level, but also multilateral efforts by both regional and global organizations.  It was no longer enough to preserve past accomplishments in the field of disarmament.  Rather, the international community had to address new realities and insist upon universal participation in global disarmament and non-proliferation regimes.

Acknowledging the validity of proposed Committee reforms, he, nevertheless, said that the body’s nature must not be changed, since it was the world’s most representative in the area of disarmament.  Instead, measures should be taken to strengthen the Committee.  For example, efforts should be made to breathe new life into resolutions and ensure that they were implemented.  For its part, his country had recently created a national disarmament commission to, among other things, limit the availability of arms, raise public awareness, and coordinate actions aimed at curbing incidents of armed violence.

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For information media. Not an official record.