Attempts to Further Mass Destruction Weapon-Free Zone in Middle East Falter amid Seemingly Insoluble Disagreements, Speakers Tell First Committee

16 October 2012
GA/DIS/3459

Attempts to Further Mass Destruction Weapon-Free Zone in Middle East Falter amid Seemingly Insoluble Disagreements, Speakers Tell First Committee

16 October 2012
General Assembly
GA/DIS/3459
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

First Committee

8th Meeting (PM)

Attempts to Further Mass Destruction Weapon-Free Zone in Middle East Falter

 

amid Seemingly Insoluble Disagreements, Speakers Tell First Committee

 

Syria , Iran, Israel Articulate Positions; Delegate Says Conference

To Rid Region of Loathsome Weapons Will Be Difficult, but ‘Prize’ Worth It

Discussions for a proposed conference on ridding the Middle East region of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction would be difficult and the path would be long, but the “prize” — the security of the region and the world — would be worth the time and effort, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) heard today.

The conference, said Ireland’s representative, which was planned for December in Helsinki and part of the action plan agreed at the 2010 review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), was an opportunity for meaningful discussion on establishing such a zone in that tense region, and he urged all States of the region to attend and to engage constructively with each other.

Iran, said its representative, had proposed the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East in 1974, but efforts to establish it, he said, had not yet succeeded, owing to the persistent refusal of the Zionist regime to join the NPT as a “non-nuclear-weapon party” and place its concealed nuclear facilities under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.

The best way to stop proliferation of nuclear weapons, he said, was full and non-selective implementation of the NPT, in particular in his region, where the clandestine nuclear weapons programme of the only non-NPT party in the region seriously threatened regional and international peace and security.

After seven decades of constant calls for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, he said, nations had lost their patience.  The nuclear-weapon States should “stop the rhetoric […] and start adopting practical measures to fulfil their obligations”, he said.

The representative of Syria similarly expressed deep concern that the NPT reviews had failed to draw a timeline for the nuclear-armed States to get rid of their nuclear arsenals.  He urged the international community to work diligently to implement the 2010 NPT Action Plan, particularly the agreement to convene the 2012 Conference on the Middle East zone.

Nuclear-weapon States, he said, were arming Israel and providing it with the technologies needed to manufacture such weapons, he said.  International silence towards Israel, which had allowed it to openly declare nuclear weapons possession and the threat of their use, was indicative that some countries were conspiring with Israel and protecting it, thereby endangering the NPT’s credibility.

The region, said Israel’s representative, was undergoing historic changes, and the current turmoil in the Arab world was a clear example of its fragility.  Israel had never challenged the non-proliferation regime, but there were other countries in the Middle East that were not members of other non-proliferation treaties.  The Syrian chemical weapons threat remained extremely worrying, he said.

Although Israel had substantive reservations regarding certain elements of the resolution establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, it supported the annual endorsement of that visionary goal, he said.  In stark contrast to that spirit of cooperation, the Arab League was tabling a resolution on the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, which was a contentious text and sought to divert attention from the flagrant violations of international obligations of States such as Iran and Syria.  The decision to add a paragraph on the 2012 regional conference raised profound questions about the real motivation of Arab States with regard to that idea.

The Canadian delegate said it must be decided in 2012 whether to take the steps required to address the proliferation of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and contribute to their eventual elimination.  The alternative was to sit idly by as the disarmament machinery continued to fall into irrelevancy.

He called on Iran, Syria and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to comply fully with their NPT obligations, stressing that Iran’s continued illegal enrichment of nuclear material and non-cooperation with IAEA inspectors had a profoundly destabilizing effect on the region and international security.  Furthermore, its “stonewalling” of IAEA demands and blatant sanitization of suspect sites underscored Canada’s belief that Iran continued to develop nuclear weapon capabilities.  A nuclear Iran would embolden an already reckless regime in an already fragile region.

Also speaking during the general debate were the representatives of Ethiopia, Bahrain, Timor-Leste, Niger, Nepal, Tajikistan, Kuwait, Georgia, Morocco and Gabon.

A representative from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also delivered a statement.

Statements in exercise of the right of reply were made by the representatives of Israel, Syria, Russian Federation, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Georgia.

The First Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. Wednesday, 17 October, to begin its thematic discussion and consideration of all draft resolutions.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to continue its general debate.  For background information, see Press Releases GA/DIS/3453 of 8 October and GA/DIS/3454 of 9 October.

Statements

GUJUBO BELACHEW (Ethiopia), associating with the statements made by the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the threats posed by nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction were multifaceted, complex, and required urgent and effective responses by all States.  Africa, for its part, had been a nuclear-weapon-free zone since July 2009 when the Treaty of Pelindaba had entered into force.  The Treaty sought to ensure that nuclear weapons were not developed, produced, stockpiled, tested, acquired or stationed in Africa, including its island States.  However, it supported the use of nuclear energy and technology for peaceful purposes.  It not only remained a fundamental legal basis for creating a zone of peace and cooperation in Africa, but also helped to serve as an effective confidence-building measure for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament at the global level.

He said that Ethiopia had shown its unwavering determination to combat   terrorism arising from any fundamentalist groups and anti-peace elements, supported by outside States and non-State actors in the region.  It would continue to work closely at the regional and international levels to curb that threat, as well as the illicit trafficking in weapons.   Ethiopia, like many developing countries, suffered the adverse effects of illicit conventional weapons, in particular, from the spread and transfer of small arms and light weapons, which undermined peace in the subregion.  He stressed the need to implement the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in all Its Aspects, as well as for an early conclusion of a balanced, non-discriminatory, universal, effective and equitable arms trade treaty.

HAMAD HASAN ( Bahrain), associating with the statements made on behalf of the Arab Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said the international community was aware of the undeniable importance of holding an international conference in 2012 to make the Middle East a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.  He reaffirmed the importance of all concerned countries in the Middle East to participate.  Making the Middle East a nuclear-weapon-free zone in no way diminished the right of countries to obtain nuclear energy for peaceful uses.  He also reaffirmed Brahrain’s consistent position to work in all seriousness to create such a zone, and he called on Israel to accede to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and place its nuclear arsenal under the safeguards system of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).   Iran must also abide by its commitments transparently, and fully cooperate with the Agency.

He said humanity must do away with those lethal weapons, by ceasing their production and, in the meantime, ensuring their non-proliferation, as well as fulfil the broader goal of general and complete disarmament.  Therein lay the importance of the United Nations work in disarmament, particularly the work of its First Committee.  It was important, meanwhile, to prioritize nuclear safety and security, and, with the greatest transparency, apply international standards to nuclear energy activities to avoid raising suspicions.  Indeed, to possess nuclear technologies for nuclear energy was an inalienable right for all, and especially important for developing countries, as long as those States were compliant with IAEA and international law.  The global community must build a safer and more stable world by creating conditions favourable to eliminating nuclear weapons.

BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed total support for building an international community that was free from the threat of the use of force, be it nuclear or conventional.  The maintenance of international security was a right and not a privilege to be used as justification for the application of double standards.  The world was facing challenges, including the spread of weapons of mass destruction and the threat that some States would use those weapons.  After four decades since the conclusion of NPT, compliance by the nuclear-armed States was important.

He said the continued arming of Israel by some major Powers with all types of mass destruction weapons, and providing it with technologies that enabled it to manufacture such weapons, did not foster peace or assist attempts to create a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  Some nuclear-weapon States had also provided Israel with advanced nuclear technology and continued to protect Israel’s “nuclear exception”, which had enabled it to produce nuclear weapons in a manner that threatened the security of the entire region.  The international silence towards Israel, which had allowed it to openly declare possession of nuclear weapons and the threat of their use, only showed that some countries conspired with Israel and protected it.  That endangered the credibility of the NPT system.

Syria was deeply concerned that NPT reviews had failed to draw a timeline for the nuclear-weapon States to get rid of their nuclear arsenals, he said, emphasizing that the international community must work diligently to implement the 2010 NPT Action Plan, particularly the agreement to convene a conference in 2012 on a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  The world community must also pressure Israel to adhere to NPT and subject its nuclear facilities to IAEA safeguards.  Most countries hoped for a successful conference, however, the declaration by Israel during the general conference of IAEA was proof of its intention to renounce the resolution on the conference, leading to its failure.

Israel was the only party in the region with nuclear weapons and their delivery means, he said, calling on the United Nations Secretary General and sponsoring countries to respect their commitments and pressure Israel to participate in the conference and adhere to NPT as a nuclear-weapon party.

He said that the Conference on Disarmament remained the only forum for considering those issues, and it was important to respect its consensus rule.  The Conference must include subcommittees on the total elimination of nuclear weapons within a specific timeframe; a legally binding instrument on negative security assurances for non-nuclear-weapon States; prevention of an outer space arms race; and an end to the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.  On the other hand, Syria supported the right of NPT members to acquire nuclear technology and use it for peaceful purposes, under the IAEA.

The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons also proved that certain Powers — big and small — were active in the transfer of those weapons to terrorist groups and mercenaries to destabilize peace and stability in specific countries, he asserted.   Syria was witnessing painful activities as a result of the actions of terrorists and extremist mercenaries.  Suicide groups used cars and explosive belts and all forms of light weapons to attack targets, including human beings, and to spread fear among citizens and push the country towards sectarian and civil war, in order to invite foreign intervention.  Attacks could not exist without financial and other support, and it was regrettable that some in the Arab region and elsewhere in the international community provided that to terrorist groups, including to Al-Qaida, to aid terrorist activities in Syria and to realize foreign interventionist policies there.   Syria called on all countries to stop smuggling all forms of weapons and arming countries across borders.

JIM KELLY (Ireland), aligning with statements made on behalf of the European Union, the New Agenda Coalition (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden), and Switzerland, said that his country had always held to a complete and unequivocal opposition to nuclear weapons.  The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons remained the only bulwark against the danger of those weapons, but while the majority of non-nuclear-weapon States continued to fulfil their Treaty obligations, the world currently confronted proliferation challenges in Iran and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Those countries must dispel the many concerns expressed by the international community.

At the same time, he said, ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) by all nuclear Powers would be an important confidence-building gesture along the road to complete disarmament.  Further, the proposed conference on a weapons of mass destruction-free zone in the Middle East offered an opportunity for meaningful discussion on that important topic.  Discussions would be difficult, and the path would be long, but the prize – the security of the region and the world – would be worth the time and effort, and he urged all States of the region to attend and engage constructively with each other.

He said the international community must recognize that any use of nuclear weapons would have calamitous consequences for humanity for generations to come.  For this reason, the humanitarian dimension of nuclear disarmament should be explored in more detail as the present NPT review cycle progressed.  He welcomed the fact that the number of States parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions had increased to over 75, which reflected the global recognition that the humanitarian cost of those weapons was simply too high.  He called on all States, including the world’s largest possessors and manufacturers, to adhere to the Convention without reservation or delay.

Ireland, he said, looked forward to developing new ideas on implementation and universalization of the Chemical Weapons Convention.  Enormous progress had already been made towards ridding the world of an entire class of weapons of mass destruction, but efforts would not be complete until the Convention was universally accepted.  As for the arms trade treaty, Ireland was disappointed that no conclusion had been reached in July, but was encouraged by progress made and was determined to maintain the momentum and convene a final conference next March.

ANTONITO DE ARAUJO (Timor-Leste), associating with the statement delivered on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, welcomed the entry into force of the new Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START) between the United States and the Russian Federation, and the recent ratification of CTBT by Ghana, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, and Indonesia.  At the regional level, he welcomed the commitment of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to preserve South-East Asia as a nuclear-weapon-free zone, and recognized the efforts of the United Nations in promoting and strengthening the implementation of the Treaty as the region’s contribution to achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.

He said that as Timor-Leste this year celebrated its 10-year anniversary as an independent nation, it made efforts in the spirit of multilateralism to contribute to a vision of a world free from the scourge of armed conflict.  Thus, it had acceded to NPT and the chemical and biological weapons conventions.  In addition, it had acceded to the Geneva Convention, and concluded its comprehensive safeguards agreement with IAEA.  It was also a signatory to CTBT.  Timor-Leste would continue to support the First Committee as the fundamental body for addressing international security and disarmament issues.  Global peace and security was the keystone for the construction of global prosperity, and local threats to peace and security became global threats in today’s increasingly interconnected world.

MAMANE SAIDOU (Niger), associating his statement with those made on behalf of the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that little progress had been made in disarmament in recent years.  In particular, the impasse in the disarmament community was evident in the failure of the arms trade treaty process.  He was pleased, however, that the recent Review Conference of the 2001 United Nations Programme of Action to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons had been able to adopt a consensus document.  The monitoring of those weapons was of particular concern for the Sahel countries.  There had been threats of all kinds, such as those from terrorist groups and traffickers.  For that reason, he was in favour of an arms trade treaty and would support any draft resolution to reach that goal.  There was an undeniable link between disarmament and development, and the procurement of arms blocked resources that could be used to fund development activities.  The international community should work to devote greater resources towards development goals, particularly in developing countries.

DEEPAK DHITAL (Nepal), associating himself with the statement made by the Non-Aligned Movement, said that disarmament was not only of crucial importance in maintaining global peace and security, but in “unleashing valuable resources”,  particularly for development, which could provide real freedom and prosperity to all peoples of the world.  He pointed out that global military expenditure currently stood at more than $1.7 trillion and was still rising despite the global financial and economic crisis.  It was ironic, he said, that so much money was “squandered in military expenditures” while the investment in peace, development and international cooperation amounted to only a fraction of that.

He said that regional mechanisms played an important complementary role in the promotion of the global agenda on peace and disarmament.  In that regard, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Kathmandu was making strides to promote regional discourse.  The Asia-Pacific region bore unique prospects and challenges, and he believed that the Kathmandu process needed to be revitalized to facilitate dialogues and deliberations for fostering understanding, cooperation and confidence-building for peace in the region.  He called for enhanced support for the Centre from the international community, and particularly from States within the region.

ELISSA GOLBERG ( Canada) said it needed to be decided in 2012 whether the time was ripe to take the steps needed to address the proliferation of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and contribute to the reduction and eventual elimination of those weapons.  The alternative was to sit by idly as the disarmament machinery continued to fall into irrelevancy.  Countries should be prepared to “think outside the box” towards innovative and practical approaches to multilateral negotiations.  One means of achieving that goal would be through consideration of Canada’s draft resolution on negotiations of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.  The resolution was the result of cross-regional consultations and was intended to begin a process towards a treaty, but not to replace the work of the Conference on Disarmament.

She pointed to some recent progress, including the success of the Biological  Weapons Convention Review Conference and the first Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT review.  Continuing to play a leadership role in international efforts to combat weapons of mass destruction, proliferation and terrorism, at the Nuclear Security Summit in 2012, Canada’s Prime Minister had announced a renewal of its significant commitment for that purpose through the country’s Global Partnership Program.  “Just as the struggle against communism was the great struggle of previous generations, terrorism is the great struggle of ours,” she said.

Canada also maintained the importance of curbing the irresponsible trade in conventional arms and their diversion to illicit end users, but felt it was important to acknowledge the legitimacy of lawful ownership of firearms by responsible citizens, she said.  A future arms trade treaty should in no way result in new burdens on the possession of lawful firearms in Canada.

She said her country welcomed further international efforts to destroy the world’s chemical weapons stockpiles and prevent their proliferation.  It meanwhile remained deeply concerned with Iran’s, Syria’s and North Korea’s disregard for the international community’s common interest and continued to call on those States for full compliance with their NPT obligations and cooperation with the IAEA.   Iran’s continued illegal enrichment of nuclear material and non-cooperation with IAEA inspectors had a profoundly destabilizing effect on the region and international security.  Furthermore, its “stonewalling” of IAEA demands and blatant sanitization of suspect sites underscored Canada’s belief that Iran continued to develop nuclear weapon capabilities.  A nuclear Iran would embolden an already reckless regime in an already fragile region.

North Korea’s purported withdrawal from NPT in 2002 and testing of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles were also thoroughly provocative and unhelpful, she said.   Canada was also disturbed by the behaviour of the Syrian Government, which was uncooperative on nuclear questions and had admitted to having chemical and biological weapons.   Canada called on Syria to ensure that its stockpile of chemical and biological weapons remained secure against possible use by those who would do evil.

RON PROSOR ( Israel) said his country’s perspective and policy in the field of regional security and arms control had always been pragmatic and realistic and rooted in its belief that all security concerns of regional members should be taken into account and addressed within the regional context.  The disturbing realities in the Middle East mandated a practical step-by-step approach.  The process was inherently incremental and could only begin realistically with modest arrangements for confidence- and security-building measures.  At present, no regional dialogue existed in the Middle East, nor was there a forum to develop confidence-building measures and defuse tensions.  Additionally, no regional forum existed in which all countries in the region could directly communicate with each other on core issues of security.  No majority vote and one-sided resolutions in international forums could substitute for a broad regional dialogue.

He said the region was undergoing historic changes and the current turmoil in the Arab world was a clear example of the region’s fragility.  His country, at times, felt that its existence and survival were put into question.  Countries like Iran, which threatened to wipe Israel off the map, and terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hizbullah, which did not accept Israel’s right to exist, still posed fundamental security threats.  Any regional security dialogue should focus on actual threats.  Despite the current situation, Israel had positively engaged in various European Union seminars and an IAEA Forum, understanding that only direct dialogue between parties could move them towards regional security.

Israel also had signed a number of weapons conventions and agreements, including the Chemical Weapons Convention, he said.  The country had never challenged the non-proliferation regime, but there were other countries in the Middle East that were not members of other non-proliferation treaties.  The Syrian chemical weapons threat continued to be extremely worrying to Israel and the region as a whole.  The volatile situation in Syria was a fresh reminder of the need to work together to secure nuclear and chemical materials and to prevent illicit trafficking and terrorism.

Although Israel had substantive reservations regarding certain elements of the resolution establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, it supported the annual endorsement of that visionary goal, he said.  In stark contrast to that spirit of cooperation, the Arab League was tabling a second resolution, titled “Risk of Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East”. That was a contentious text, which sought to divert attention from the activities of some regional States, such as Iran and Syria; those activities constituted flagrant violations of international obligations.  Tabling the resolution constituted an annual declaration by its sponsors that they preferred to continue trying to alienate and isolate Israel rather than engage it in a cooperative manner.  The decision to add a paragraph on the 2012 regional conference raised profound questions about the real motivation of the Arab States with regard to that idea.  Belligerent resolutions did not result in progress, and he called on Member States to vote against the draft.

He said it was no coincidence that four out of five major violations of NPT had occurred in the Middle East – Iraq, Libya, Syria and Iran – while the fifth case, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, had been involved in nuclear proliferation to the Middle East.   Iran and Syria were under continuous investigation by IAEA, and Syria had not yet declared the nuclear fuel destined for the nuclear reactor built by the “DPRK” at the Deir al Zour site.  One of the most central threats in the Middle East today was Iran’s hostile policies, its pursuit of nuclear weapons, the aggressive development of missile technology and its support of terrorist groups.  It was clear that without halting the Iranian military nuclear programme, it would be very difficult to promote an international or regional non-proliferation agenda.

Israel, for several years, had stressed that preventing the transfers of both conventional and non-conventional arms to terrorists and non-State actors should be a priority, he said, welcoming the outcome of the second review of the Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons.   Israel emphasized its concern about the illicit proliferation of man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) and short-range rockets, as several sources had claimed that thousands of those weapons were missing in Libya, posing a serious threat when they fell into the wrong hands.   Israel supported the arms trade treaty conference and hoped that negotiations would lead to a legally binding instrument.

SIRODJIDIN ASLOV ( Tajikistan) said that in order to strengthen the non-proliferation regime and ensure regional security, his country, together with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, had created a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia.  Establishing such a zone was essential to promoting nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation, and peace and security at the regional and global levels.  He encouraged other States and other regions to follow that example, and hoped that all parties concerned would take practical measures for the establishment of a zone free of nuclear and other mass destruction weapons in the Middle East.  He looked forward to the successful outcome of the Helsinki conference, scheduled for December 2012.

He regretted that the arms trade treaty conference in July 2012 had failed to reach a conclusion.  His delegation would support further efforts to conclude such a treaty.  He backed the United Nations’ leading role in combating the illicit arms trade; it was the main multilateral mechanism to curb their proliferation.

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction(Mine-Ban Convention), he noted, called on the international community to put an end to the suffering and casualties caused by anti-personnel mines, which killed or maimed hundreds of people, mostly innocent and defenceless civilians, especially children, and obstructed development and reconstruction.  Regrettably, the suffering and misery caused by anti-personnel landmines was a heavy burden borne by parts of Tajikistan.  He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the full and effective implementation of the Convention.

ABDULAZIZ AMASH ALAJMI (Kuwait), associating his country with the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated his belief in the importance of the United Nations and its noble message that sought to maintain international peace despite multiple challenges, including the dangers posed by nuclear weapons.  Listing the numerous relevant international conventions and agreements signed or ratified by his Government, he emphasized the need to deal in a balanced manner, particularly in respect of the rights of States, with nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, consistent with IAEA safeguards.  As a State that did not manufacture arms of any kind, Kuwait had acceded to instruments to achieve a world free of weapons of mass destruction, with the aim of devoting the financial resources freed up towards economic, social, humanitarian and political development.

He said the chronic challenges plaguing the Middle East blurred the view of its future – a future that relied on development as well as regional and international cooperation.  He described the congested political and economic conditions resulting from the environment of distrust, represented in Israel’s possession of weapons of mass destruction and its defiance of the call to accede to NPT and place all its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards.  Kuwait welcomed the preliminary steps aimed at convening the 2012 conference in Helsinki and hoped the international community would lend its support towards making  achieving tangible results with implementation mechanisms that were clear, had a specific timetable and aimed to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone.

Concerning Iran’s nuclear programme, he said his delegation supported  ongoing efforts to resolve this crisis peacefully and to guarantee the right to  nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, under IAEA supervision.   Kuwait called on Iran to cooperate fully with international efforts, as well as to work on implementing the relevant Security Council resolutions, cooperate with IAEA and implement its decisions, in order to leave the “crisis phase” behind and ensure the stability of the Arab Gulf region and the wider Middle East.  In closing, he welcomed the consensual adoption of the outcome document of the recent review of the small arms and light weapons Action Programme.

VAKHTANG MAKHAROBLISHVILI ( Georgia) heralded CTBT as a vital instrument, urging its early entry into force.  Renewed political commitments to pursue its ratification were solid grounds for optimism.   Georgia was actively cooperating with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Provisional Technical Secretariat to strengthen the treaty’s monitoring and verification system.  At the same time, he was deeply concerned that the international community remained unable to start disarmament negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament, as the world witnessed yet another stalemate in that forum.  Prolonging further the already long-standing impasse was absolutely unacceptable.  If the current situation persisted for another year or two, the international community’s confidence in the Conference would dwindle fast, thus degrading the process aimed at bringing it back to life.

Besides known dangers, such as conventional weapons proliferation, he said that new threats, such as cyberattacks, had emerged and were evolving rapidly.  Sufficient understanding of their potential effects was lacking, as were instruments to adequately respond to those challenges.  It was the responsibility of the United Nations and, above all, the First Committee, to contribute to scrutinizing the problem and raising awareness of that challenge.

Preventing the risk of nuclear terrorism required compliance with Security Council resolutions 1540 (2004) and 1887 (2009), he said, adding that improving security for highly radioactive sources was one of his country’s priorities.  Despite numerous initiatives to combat proliferation, that serious challenge remained.  There had been attempts to use the occupied territories of Georgia for smuggling radioactive and nuclear materials, and vast amounts of armaments continued to be amassed in the occupied regions of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia.  Foreign military build-up had been magnified exponentially in the aftermath of the 2008 invasion, and Georgia’s “neighbour to the north” continued that build-up in the occupied territories.  As long as international control mechanisms were totally absent in those territories, there were no guarantees whatsoever that those arms, including the most dangerous, such as MANPADS, would not be transferred to various terrorist and criminal groups.  That seriously threatened not only the region, but the whole international community.

BOUCHAIB EL OUMNI ( Morocco), associating his statement with those made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Group and the Arab Group, said that Morocco was committed to general and complete disarmament, including irreversible and transparent nuclear disarmament.  Everyone’s security resided in dialogue and mutual respect, and it was the duty of all to implement NPT goals.  It was imperative for each State party to play its role and implement the 2010 Action Plan, in order to consolidate progress.

He said that the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons represented a challenge to security, stability, and the development of African States.  The absence of control of those weapons contributed to their proliferation.  Regional and subregional cooperation was an essential lever in the struggle against the illicit arms trade.  A dangerous situation prevailed in the sub-Saharan region because of that trafficking, made worse by the connection between arms trafficking and terrorist groups.  He welcomed the success of the second Review Conference of the Programme of Action and the elaboration of the marking and tracking instrument.  That success showed that leaders could indeed advance towards goals, when pursued collectively.

To respond to the proliferation challenge, he called for the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  Failure to hold an international conference in 2012 should be averted, as that would be an historic occasion to eliminate weapons of mass destruction in that region.  He underscored the importance of adhesion to NPT and support for the treaty by all in the region, including Israel.   Morocco was deeply convinced of the vital need for effective disarmament and international security mechanisms, particularly to rid the world of nuclear weapons.  The effectiveness of that machinery required political will.

ALLEGRA BONGO ( Gabon), associating with the African Group, said the nuclear-weapon-free zone in Africa strengthened global security and non-proliferation.  It was a shared responsibility to ensure that nuclear weapons did not fall into terrorists’ hands, and her country regretted the impasse in multilateral diplomacy and believed it was essential to find agreement on a fissile material ban.

She said it had been proven that conventional weapons had become weapons of mass destruction, due to the number of victims they claimed.  Trade in small arms and light weapons in Africa had tragic consequences, and her country welcomed the second Review Conference of those weapons.  That blueprint assisted in stemming the problem in a number of significant ways.  Still, the negative effects of the illicit trade in those weapons persisted, tragically disabling members of the community.  Gabon was prepared to launch a vast operation to register arms in circulation, which would be followed by the creation of a databank to mark and track those weapons.   Gabon welcomed work aimed at building peace in its subregion.  It also reiterated its support for an arms trade treaty, which would regulate the weapons and promote peace and development.

ESHAGH AL HABIB ( Iran), associating his country with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the very existence of nuclear weapons was still the gravest threat to international peace and security.  The adoption of nuclear posture reviews by a certain nuclear-weapon State and a military alliance that justified the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons had further aggravated the situation.  The continued allocation by a certain nuclear-weapon State of billions of dollars to modernize nuclear weapons, as well as sharing those weapons with other States and deploying them in other territories exacerbated the tense security environment.  A country like the United States, which had conducted the first ever and most nuclear test explosions; was the only one that had used nuclear weapons; possessed one of the largest nuclear arsenals; was still allocating billions of dollars to modernize its nuclear weapons; and had threatened to use them against some NPT State parties, should fully comply with its legal obligations under that treaty.

The only absolute guarantee against nuclear weapons was their total elimination, he said.  After almost seven decades of constant calls by all nations for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, nations lost their patience.  All called on the nuclear-weapon States to stop rhetoric and start adopting practical measures to fulfil their obligations.  Those generations that had witnessed the horrible consequences of the use of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki called for the realization of a nuclear-weapon-free world as soon as possible.   Iran strongly supported the conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention as a legal framework for the total elimination of those weapons within a specified timeline, no later than 2025.

The best way to stop proliferation of nuclear weapons was full and non-selective implementation of NPT, in particular, in the Middle East, where the clandestine nuclear weapons programme of the only non-NPT party in the region, which had been originally assisted by France, seriously threatened regional and international peace and security, he said.   Iran had proposed the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East in 1974, but efforts to establish it had not yet succeeded, owing to the persistent refusal of the Zionist regime to join NPT and place its concealed nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards.  Iran strongly called for the immediate implementation of the 1995 NPT resolution on the Middle East and believed there should be extreme international pressure on the Zionist regime, particularly in the upcoming 2012 conference, to force it to accede to NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon party and place all its underground nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards in order to remove the only impediment to the goal of establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

He said that NPT’s continued relevance depended on its full and non-selective implementation.  Certain nuclear-weapon States who pretended to be advocates of the Treaty must be aware that the Treaty’s credibility was challenged as a result of their non-compliance.   Iran also stressed the full implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention and attached importance to its strengthening through multilateral negotiations on a legally binding protocol.  He urged the only State party rejecting the resumption of negotiations to reconsider its policy.  As a victim of chemical weapons’ use by Saddam’s army, with the support of certain Western countries, Iran considered the non-compliance of major possessor States parties with the 2012 final extended deadline for the total destruction of their chemical weapons to be a setback.  As a State party to all international instruments banning mass destruction weapons, Iran attached great importance to the inalienable right of States parties to acquire material, equipment and technology for peaceful purposes.

In Iran’s view, the failure of the conference on the arms trade treaty had been due to both its procedural and substantive difficulties, he said.  Procedurally, the Conference did not have a “real negotiations nature” and the draft text presented by its President was merely his “recollection” of the discussions.  Likewise, some critical elements in the text, such as exemptions and loopholes created in order to give one State immunity for transferring weapons under the pretext of military alliances or for deploying weapons in other countries, ran counter to the goal of an arms trade treaty.  To hold another conference would be futile if the procedures were the same.  In conclusion, he reiterated that Iran had a sovereign right to develop a full national nuclear fuel cycle and was determined to exercise that right.  Contrary to baseless allegations, Iran’s nuclear activities were and had always been for peaceful purposes.

VÉRONIQUE CHRISTORY, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that while discussion on nuclear disarmament had for decades focused primarily on military doctrine, there was now a growing understanding of the catastrophic consequences of those weapons for public health, human safety and the environment.  ICRC had focused on raising awareness of the incalculable human cost of using nuclear weapons ever since it assisted the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in August 1945.  She called on all States to ensure that those weapons were never used again and to pursue negotiations to prohibit and eliminate those weapons through a legally binding international instrument.

Despite the lack of a result at July’s arms trade treaty conference, she said, the need for such a treaty remained as urgent as ever.  As long as international arms transfers continued to be insufficiently regulated, the enormous human cost for individuals and communities around the world would persist.  She also urged States parties to the Mine-Ban Convention to implement it, and drew attention to the humanitarian concerns associated with cyber warfare, stressing the need to uphold international humanitarian law if those new technologies were used in armed conflicts. 

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Israel said it was truly surreal to listen to the Syrian delegate about preventing illicit arms transfers, considering that the country had served as a warehouse for weapons transfer to Hizbullah, Hamas and other terrorists throughout the Middle East region for years.  The Syrian regime was ruthlessly using those weapons to massacre women, children and thousands of innocent civilians.

He said the First Committee was tasked with prevention, and if the Assad regime had any interest in that subject, it would begin by looking carefully in the mirror.  It was time that the Syrian delegate stopped using Israel to sweep the despicable crimes of his regime under the carpet.  Saying “ Israel” again and again would not distract the world from Syria’s crimes.

Also exercising the right of reply was Syria’s representative, who said that the representative of Israel retained nuclear weapons, had refused to submit its nuclear installation to international controls, and had delivered an intervention that was a provocation to the peoples of the world.  As usual, Israel was assuming a weak position, which it used to escape its international responsibility with regard to non-proliferation and NPT.   Israel was trying to cover its aggression committed several years ago, and it continued to refuse to submit its nuclear facilities to IAEA control, despite the fact that the current and former Director Generals had visited Israel on a number of occasions and tried to arrive at some sort of international resolution for it to accept that kind of solution.   Israel represented a danger to the world as a whole.

Israel continued its nuclear armaments, and possessed an arsenal of nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles that went beyond the British and French arsenals, he said.   Israel was attempting to hide that nuclear arsenal and threatened the countries of the region.  Israel called that the policy of ambiguity.  15 religious authorities had called on the United States to cease nuclear support for Israel, which must understand its own mistakes, including its refusal to adhere to United Nations declarations and conventions in general.  It must participate in international efforts aimed at creating a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East in order to eliminate the danger it posed.  Several terrorists recently arrested in Syria had revealed that they possessed arms produced by Israel, which proved Israel’s part in the events in Syria.

He was also concerned about the intervention by Canada, among the “defenders of the devil”.  Its statement calling on Israel to adhere to NPT and open its facilities to inspection was “empty”.

The representative of the Russian Federation, also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that he had not planned to speak, but the comments made by the representative of Georgia had compelled him to do so.  What was going on around those borders was very important, and the Russian Federation had paid attention to the recent parliamentary election in Georgia during which the people there had shown a lack of confidence in the current President and his policy of division against his own people, which had led to the request for independence by the people of Abkhazia and northern Ossetia.

He said that representative had expressed concern about an uncontrolled situation, in particular, concerning radioactive material and the accumulation of conventional weapons in the so-called “occupied territory”.  Those territories were not occupied and the events to which the representative of Georgia referred were not happening.  In order to convince the First Committee of that, steps needed to be taken regarding the independence of those regions, which could take part in international forums and relevant control mechanisms.  But that went far beyond the framework of the Committee, which would hardly be able to solve the problem here in this room.  He called on his colleagues from Georgia to avoid politicizing the First Committee’s work and focus instead on solving those issues that were within the Committee’s agenda.

Also speaking in exercise of the right to reply, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected the statement made by the Canadian delegation.  First, that delegation had said that the testing of the ballistic missile in April had been provocative and unhelpful.  In fact, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had launched a space satellite in a peaceful manner, following all necessary procedures as a State party of the outer space treaty, including the notification of the launch through the relevant channels.  Any launch would look like a ballistic missile to Canada, he said.

He said that Canada’s delegate had said that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a country experiencing dire poverty, had invested so much in its weapons.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had developed its weapons programme because its security had been exposed to severe threats from the nuclear blackmail of the United States for several decades.  Security came first, before anything else, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea possessed nuclear deterrents to defend its sovereignty.  But economic development could occur now that his country had a solid defence of peace and security.

Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, Georgia’s representative said it was regrettable that the Russian colleagues had disregarded not only the finding of respective institutions, but also had forgotten the very position of the Russian leadership, which had explicitly stated that aggression against Georgia had been planned in advance and then conducted.  He wished to remind the Russian colleague that its military presence and effective control of those territories did represent occupation.  He further reminded his “Russian friends” that this Organization, as well as many others, had adopted numerous resolutions and statements underlining the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia, and it would be the Russian Federation side that was politicizing the First Committee when it referred to the Georgian regions, as well as to the elections that had democratically been conducted in Georgia.

He said Georgia had taken many steps in the past to engage with Russia in a meaningful political dialogue, but, unfortunately, the Russian Federation had not reciprocated.  Any present or future Georgian Government would of course be ready to engage in a meaningful political dialogue that underlined the principles of international law.  He hoped that at some point, with the efforts of the international community, instead of having to remind the Russian Federation of some of its international commitments, the international community would instead be commending the Russian Federation’s decisions to pledge itself to the non-use of force, to demilitarize and de-occupy the Georgian regions and territories, and make a decision to engage in a meaningful dialogue with Georgia.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.