Recent Battlefield Use of Chemical Weapons, Absence of Verification Mechanism for Biological Weapons Ban Trigger Strong Rebuke in First Committee

24 October 2013
GA/DIS/3486

Recent Battlefield Use of Chemical Weapons, Absence of Verification Mechanism for Biological Weapons Ban Trigger Strong Rebuke in First Committee

24 October 2013
General Assembly
GA/DIS/3486
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

First Committee

16th Meeting (AM)

Recent Battlefield Use of Chemical Weapons, Absence of Verification Mechanism

For Biological Weapons Ban Trigger Strong Rebuke in First Committee

As Disarmament Machinery Debate Concludes, Speaker Warns Negotiations

So Delicate that ‘Smallest Swerving’ by Any State Can Have Negative Impact

Speakers today in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) said any breach of the chemical and biological weapons ban was repugnant and the recent use of chemical weapons a graphic reminder of the very real threat and scale of the potential consequences of those weapons, insisting that no effort should be spared to completely eliminate them for the sake of all humankind.

As debate got under way on weapons of mass destruction, two draft resolutions were introduced, with the aim of preventing the chemical and biological disarmament regimes from unraveling.  Expressing a widely held view, the representative of Switzerland cautioned that the international community must ensure chemical weapons, as well as the toxic chemicals and pathogenic micro-organisms would never be allowed for hostile purposes.

Several delegations condemned the use of those weapons in Syria.  The delegate from South Africa said that no cause could ever justify chemical weapons use “by any actor, under any circumstances”.  The delegate from the United States said that with confirmation of the “senseless killing” of more than 1,000 Syrians on 21 August, the world had seen that horrible reality come true.  Inspectors now on the ground overseeing the initial stages of chemical weapons destruction in Syria was a step forward.  It was now up to that Government to follow through. 

She said it remained the overarching goal of 98 per cent of the world community to exclude completely the use of chemical weapons.  The United States had destroyed almost 90 per cent of its chemical weapons stockpile and remained committed to the non-proliferation of those weapons.  Her country also recognized the “unique nature” of the biological threat and looked forward to achieving pragmatic, meaningful actions to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention.

Other speakers acknowledged Syria’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention and stressed the importance of that instrument.  The representative of Poland, introducing the resolution on the treaty, emphasized its “unique and exceptional role” over the past 16 years.  He called it one of the most successful disarmament and non-proliferation instruments, which enjoyed the “unequivocal support” of the United Nations community. Speakers likewise commended the work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

When attention turned to the Biological Weapons Convention, several delegations raised the question of how to address “ambiguities, doubts and suspicions”.  The representative of Suriname, speaking on behalf of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), noted that the Convention lacked the means to ensure compliance with its commitments.  She supported the negotiation of a protocol to establish an effective verification regime.

Emphasizing that the possible use of any biological agents for military purposes must be prohibited, Cuba’s delegate agreed with the need to close the loopholes and enforce verification, and called for a legally binding protocol to the Convention.

Venezuela’s speaker, reaffirming his county’s strict compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention, also stressed the need to rapidly negotiate an enforcement protocol.  At the same time, he underscored the importance of international cooperation when it came to technological exchanges for peaceful purposes in the area of life science.

In that vein, the representative of Australia said the Convention underpinned the international consensus against those weapons while at the same time facilitating global efforts to promote the peaceful uses of life sciences. The representative of Spain called for strengthening of the Convention’s role as it applied in the field of development.

During the discussion, the representative of Hungaryintroduced a draft resolution entitled “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction”, as the Convention is formally titled.

Earlier, the Committee concluded its thematic debate on the disarmament machinery.  Statements were once again marked by frustration at the “malaise”, but also by commendations of the institutions’ past successes, which included the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions.  The representative of Turkey said that the seemingly endless paralysis was a reflection of strategic bottlenecks, but he also acknowledged the tangible outcomes.  The representative of the Russian Federation worried that the problem was more serious, saying that disarmament was such a delicate area of international relations that the “smallest swerving” of any State had a negative impact the whole negotiation process.

During that cluster, the representative of Ireland introduced a draft resolution, entitled “Report of the Conference on Disarmament”.

Speaking before the thematic debate clusters, Rob Wensley, Chair of the Group of Governmental Experts on the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, briefed the Committee on that Group’s report.

Also speaking during the meeting were representatives of Bahrain on behalf of the Arab Group, Egypt, France, Indonesia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, and Portugal. A representative of the European Union delegation also participated.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 25 October, to continue its thematic debates.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its thematic debate segment and hear the introduction of draft resolutions and decisions across the spectrum of agenda items before it.

Briefing on United Nations Register of Conventional Arms

ROB WENSLEY, Chair of the Group of Governmental Experts on the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, stated that the report of the Group as requested by the General Assembly on the continuing operation of the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms was the result of three sessions of the 15 Member States appointed to the Group.  The sessions were characterised by divergent views in the context of the Register’s relevance, universality and further development.  The Group agreed, however, on the Register’s status as an important global measure to strengthen confidence building among States. Deliberations had taken place against the backdrop of the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which had a direct impact on the operation of the Register.

Most concerning, he continued, was the “downward trend” in reporting to the Register, with a mere 52 national reports submitted in 2012.  The Secretariat had a crucial role in this context in maintaining and promoting the Register. Highlighting some specific issues considered by the Group, he said future Groups should be more geographically inclusive.  It was a positive development that so far 61 States had submitted national reports for 2012, and the Register remained as relevant as ever as a transparency measure.

Statements on Disarmament Machinery Cluster

VLADIMIR YERMAKOV (Russian Federation) delivered a joint statement on behalf of interested States in support of the Conference on Disarmament —  Algeria, Armenia, Belarus, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Syria, and Ukraine.  Recalling the joint statement of likeminded States made in the First Committee last year, he reaffirmed commitment to commencing the substantive work in the Conference without further delay.  Tangible results in multilateral disarmament could be achieved only through taking due account of the national security priorities of each member State within the framework of the existing multilateral disarmament mechanisms, with the Geneva-based Conference its key element.  Pending the adoption of a programme of work, result-oriented discussions should be encouraged in the Conference on core issues, which were nuclear disarmament, a fissile material cut-off treaty, prevention of an outer space arms race, and negative security assurances against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.

In his national capacity, he said that, for many years, the Russian Federation had been talking about the stagnation in the work of the United Nations disarmament machinery, the cause of which did not stem from structure, but was rather more serious. The machinery was undermined by deep-rooted political factors.  Disarmament on the whole was such a delicate area of international relations that the “smallest swerving” of any State had a negative impact on the whole negotiating process.  Any experienced negotiator would say how sensitive he or she was to the sincerity of his negotiating partners.

The only recent viable and substantive agreement in nuclear disarmament was the Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START), he said. That was historic, but he questioned whether the international community would be able to repeat such a breakthrough in the future.  Saying that he “wished to share a secret”, he said that the unique nature of the negotiations for that treaty, and the situation in the 1990s, was not only characterized by political will on behalf of those two States; the Russian Federation and the United States had been intractable enemies, and yet despite all that, when it came to the negotiations, they trusted one another, particularly in the sincere desire of both sides to show the world the credibility of their intentions and their responsibility as nuclear-armed States, in support of global strategic stability.

Ms. O’BRIEN (Ireland) introduced draft resolution “L.27”, entitled “Report of the Conference on Disarmament”.  It was her hope that the resolution would be adopted without a vote, and emphasised her belief that, following consultations in Geneva and New York, the draft as tabled was a “fair and balanced reflection” on the Report. During the Committee’s debate on the disarmament machinery, many speakers had referred to the important role of the Conference.  The draft reaffirmed that, as it had in previous years, despite the fact that the Conference had been unable to adopt a programme of work, which was a matter of concern.  The draft welcomed the decision to request Conference Presidents to consult during the intersessional period, and it underscored the importance of overcoming the Conference’s deadlock.  As current President, she hoped the Committee could send “clear signals” to the Conference, and, in that regard, the resolution provided the Committee the opportunity to do so.

VOLKAN OSKIPER (Turkey) said when it came to the disarmament machinery, there was a lack of political will by some States, making the stalemate seem endless.  Nevertheless, that mechanism had, in the past, been successful in producing tangible outcomes.  The problems that hampered progress now were not due to procedures or internal dynamics.  The malaise throughout the machinery was a reflection of the strategic bottlenecks at different, yet interrelated, levels.  The Conference possessed the mandate, rules of procedure, and membership necessary to discharge its duties.  For the sake of progress, he urged that the focus on the main issues not be diluted by introducing deliberations on additional points of contention that did not command consensus.  The First Committee remained a significant component of the disarmament machinery, however, the international community needed to be mindful not to create a self-imposed “maze of duplication” through its numerous resolutions.  It should make the necessary consensual amendments to the texts, as well as to the timetable for introducing them.

MANUEL FREDERICO PINHEIRO DA SILVA (Portugal), associating with the Informal Group of Observer States to the Conference on Disarmament, stated his country’s strong belief in a multilateral approach to long-lasting peace and security.  That entailed participation in the decision-making process in the disarmament machinery.  States must not prevent others from contributing to the discussion on issues that were of everyone’s concern.  Regrettably, no special rapporteur had been appointed to consider the expanding Conference’s membership, which was a consequence of the “agonizing” impasse.  The Conference’s failure to agree on a work programme did a disservice to the “higher aims of its creation”.  Furthermore, it was “painfully clear” that negotiations on a fissile material cut-off Treaty must begin at once and that a moratorium must be observed in the meantime.

Statements on Weapons of Mass Destruction Cluster

DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, underlined the need to prevent the emergence of new types of weapons of mass destruction.  He outlined several objectives to be achieved by the Non-Aligned Movement’s States parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention:  they must call for the full, balanced and non-discriminatory implementation of the Convention and reaffirm the importance of international cooperation in the field of chemical activities not prohibited under the Convention; and possessor States should ensure strict compliance with the Convention and with the decision on the final extended deadline concerning the destruction of their remaining chemical weapons stockpiles “in the shortest time possible”.  He was disappointed that, to date, that obligation had not been met, and he reaffirmed that verification of the destruction of the remaining stocks, as well as outdated and abandoned chemical weapons should continue to top the priorities of OPCW.

Finally, he said, those States’ parties should declare their firm conviction that international humanitarian support to provide of immediate care to all victims suffering the effects of exposure to chemical weapons.  In that context, the Movement welcomed the establishment of the International Support Network for Victims of Chemical Weapons and a voluntary trust fund for that purpose. 

Regarding the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, the Non-Aligned Movement, he said, reaffirmed that the possibility that any use of bacteriological agents and toxins as weapons should be completely excluded and it reaffirmed its conviction that such use would be “repugnant to the conscience of humankind”.  He called for balanced, effective and non-discriminatory implementation of the Convention and stressed the significance of establishing a verification mechanism, the lack of which continued to challenge the Convention’s effectiveness.  In that context, he urged multilateral negotiations for a legally binding protocol, as well as universal adherence to the Convention.  He also emphasized the need for enhancing international cooperation and exchanges in toxins, equipment for biological agents, and science and technology for peaceful purposes.  Finally, the Movement stressed that the issue of acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by non-State actors should be addressed in an inclusive manner by the General Assembly, as it was not in the purview of the Security Council to utilize its authority to define legislative requirements for Member States.

HAMAD FAREED AHMAD HASAN (Bahrain), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, upheld the principled position that it was of utmost importance to achieve a world free of weapons of mass destruction, paying particular attention to establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  The universalization of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) through Israel’s adherence as a non-nuclear-weapon State would enhance international security.  The Arab Group had always played an active role in seeking to eliminate other weapons of mass destruction, and had translated that conviction into specific actions in the Middle East, in the recent context of the NPT 2010 Plan of Action.  While the Group abided by its commitments, Israel refused to adhere to NPT.  The Plan of Action set out practical measures concerning the Treaty’s three pillars, linking them to further action, including in the Middle East, which provided a unique opportunity to establish a zone there.

He said that when it came to implementation the 2010 Plan of Action, the Secretary-General was tasked with convening a regional conference in 2012 to establish the Middle East zone, and the Arab States, for the first time, had agreed to expand that concept to include other weapons of mass destruction in order to overcome the unjustified disputes and arguments concerning Israel’s as yet undeclared nuclear capacity.  The elimination of nuclear and other mass destruction weapons in the region was a shared responsibility.  The Arab Group had shouldered its responsibilities.  Now, other parties must shoulder theirs and ensure that the conference was convened as soon as possible.

KITTY SWEEB (Suriname), speaking on behalf of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), condemned the existence of chemical and biological weapons, calling their use a crime against a humanity.  Their catastrophic consequences must be prevented through their complete elimination.  Condemning in particular the use of chemical weapons in Syria, she welcomed that country’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention and expressed hope that the decision on the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons would be expeditious and safe.  Despite the growing participation of States in that Convention, those that had not yet acceded to it should do so promptly.  She called upon the chemical-weapon-possessor countries to fulfil their obligations in line with the Convention and destroy their arsenals.  She particularly called upon all State possessors to eliminate those weapons and join the Convention promptly, without any condition.

At the same time, she said, the Convention should be applied without hampering States parties’ economic or technological development or international cooperation in the field of chemical activities or scientific and technical information for purposes not prohibited under the text.  Stressing the importance of the Biological Weapons Convention, she said she supported the idea of designing and implementing additional measures to ensure its effective enforcement, pointing out that the Convention lacked the means to ensure compliance with its commitments.  She also supported the negotiation of a protocol to that Convention which would establish an effective verification regime.  Those two Conventions were vital international legal instruments to guide multilateral efforts in the total elimination of weapons of mass destruction under strict and effective international control, she said in conclusion.

ANDRAS KOS, representative of the European Union Delegation, stated that current grave cases of the use of mass destruction weapons reinforced the need for a “resolute and global” approach to those weapons, the proliferation of which was a growing threat.  He welcomed Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) and the decision of the Executive Council of the Organisation on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) with regard to Syria, and highlighted the United Nations’ investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.  That probe had illustrated the viability of that important mechanism.  Also of concern was the increasing use of ballistic missiles by the Syrian Government, which was all the more serious since they were capable of carrying chemical warheads, which that Government had publicly claimed to possess.  He welcomed the Chemical Weapons Convention as a key component of the non-proliferation and disarmament framework, and called for a guarantee of its “integrity and strict application”.

He said that the European Union member countries were the largest contributors to OPCW and, in line with the Convention’s principles, called for the complete destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles by possessor States “in the shortest time possible”.  The Union likewise attached high priority to strengthening of the Biological Weapons Convention, and welcomed the new intersessional process.  National implementation was of great importance, and that process offered numerous opportunities to enhance that.  Proliferation of mass destruction weapons was a serious concern, which was deepened by recent missile testing in violation of Security Council resolutions, especially by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran.  Expressing the Union’s support for The Hague Code of Conduct, he noted that all its member States had subscribed to it.  With that, he called on all States to adhere to it as soon as possible.  The challenge posed by proliferation of weapons of mass destruction represented a “collective task” that should be addressed in a “cooperative manner”.

MOHAMED REFAAT FARGHAL (Egypt), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and Arab Group, attached the utmost priority to attaining a nuclear- weapon-free world, and had been among the first to sign the Geneva Protocol of 1925 for the Prohibition of the Use of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare.  Egypt had always commended efforts aimed at eliminating mass destruction weapons, and that aspiration had been translated into an initiative to render the Middle East a zone free of those weapons.  It was unacceptable that all countries in the region with the exception of one were parties to the Conventions on Chemical and Biological Weapons.  The only impediment for Egypt with regard to those treaties was the imbalance in legal obligations.  It was not right that all States but one needed to implement them.

He called on all Middle Eastern States and the five permanent members of the Security Council to deposit official letters with the Secretary-General supporting the establishment of a weapon-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East. Syria’s recent adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention was an essential link, and the opportunity must be seized to support the efforts to establish the Middle East zone.  They would negate the pretexts currently blocking its establishment.

KATHARINE C. CRITTENBERGER ( United States) stated that one year ago, amid reports of chemical weapons use in Syria, her country had emphasised that that was a “very real possibility”.  With confirmation of the senseless killing of more than 1,000 Syrians on 21 August, the world had seen that horrible reality come true. It remained the overarching goal of 98 per cent of the world community to exclude completely the use of chemical weapons.  The fact that inspectors were now on the ground overseeing the initial stages of chemical weapons destruction in Syria was a step forward.  It was now up to that Government to follow through.  The international community would be paying close attention as to whether the Syrian regime abided by its obligations.

Regarding the Chemical Weapons Convention, she said that the final document of the Third Review Conference provided a strong and balanced call for the treaty’s improved implementation.  The United States was encouraged by the progress made by OPCW in that regard, she said, adding that the organization had accomplished mush since the Convention’s entry into force.  The United States had destroyed almost 90 per cent of its chemical weapons stockpile and remained committed to the non-proliferation of those weapons.

Turning to the Biological Weapons Convention, she said that it seventh Review Conference, while not achieving everything the United States had hoped for, nonetheless set the stage for enhancing the important work of the intersessional process.  Progress had also been made on a work plan at the 2012 Meeting of States Parties, as well as at the 2013 Meeting of Experts, and she noted, in particular, the importance to the Convention of bio-security demonstrated at those meetings. Highlighting other issues that had arisen in that context, she underscored her country’s recognition of the “unique nature” of the biological threat and looked forward to achieving pragmatic, meaningful actions to strengthen the Convention.

JEAN-HUGUES SIMON-MICHEL ( France), associating himself with the European Union, said that the use in Syria of a weapon of mass destruction by a Government against its own people was intolerable.  Noting the OPCW decision on the matter, he recalled the Security Council’s condemnation, in resolution 2118 (2013), of the 21 August attack in Syria and of the text’s measures, among them, the legally binding decision to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stocks.  He also supported OPCW’s transition from a disarmament regime to one against proliferation.  Noting too that the Biological Weapons Convention was a central component in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, he called on all States that had not yet done so to ratify or accede to that Treaty.

He said that the 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibiting the use of chemical and biological weapons in war remained essential as the major conventions on those weapons had not yet been universally adopted.  He called on Member States that had not done so to accede to the Protocol and for States that had reservations to withdraw them.  Also central to the debate were delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction.  He expressed concern over Iranian and North Korean ballistic programmes and noted Syrian Government activities linked to missile development. He condemned the North Korea’s long-range missile launch of 12 December 2012, which violated Security Council resolutions.  All must step up efforts to increase the effectiveness of multilateral arrangements on delivery systems, he said, expressing support for universal acceptance of The Hague Code of Conduct.

SILJE ARNEKLEIV ( Norway) said there was no doubt that the use of chemical weapons constituted a threat to international peace and security.  Recent incidents of their use had illustrated the urgent need to strengthen the prohibition norm, as set forth in the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the Chemical Weapons Convention.  That Convention celebrated its fifteenth anniversary last year.  Verification played a crucial role in providing confidence that all States parties were living up to their non-proliferation obligations, and Norway would continue to advocate that OPCW further strengthen its capacity in that area. Norway also attached great importance to confidence building measures as a way to demonstrate full compliance to the obligations set out in the Biological Weapons Convention.  While the confidence building measures were voluntary in nature, Norway urged all States parties to make use of that reporting mechanism.  On the issue of outer space, the international community must not delay in enhancing transparency measures on civilian outer space activities.  Lastly, she joined the call for universalizing the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation.

ARTURAS GAILIUNAS ( Lithuania), associating himself with the European Union, said that chemical weapons had been outlawed for almost a century; their use was a war crime.  As such, he condemned the use of those weapons in Syria and welcomed efforts by the international community to prevent such attacks from ever occurring again.  The OPCW and Chemical Weapons Convention were more than ever at the forefront of disarmament and non-proliferation efforts in that regard.  Security Council resolution 2118 (2013), as well as the decision of OPCW in connection with Syria were welcome.  He noted Syria’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention and called on it to comply fully with all of its obligations.  The Final Report of the Convention’s Third Review Conference was a welcome outcome, and he called for the destruction of existing chemical weapons stockpiles “in the shortest time possible”.  Looking forward, that Convention should focus on preventing the re-emergence of those weapons.  Lithuania placed great emphasis on the issue of dumping chemical weapons at sea and would table a resolution on that topic in the Second Committee (Economic and Financial). 

In conclusion, he said that misuse of life sciences and biological weapons development was a serious challenge, and he supported the Biological Weapons Convention.  Given the threat of bio-terrorism, he underlined the importance of national bio-security capabilities.

YADIRA LEDESMA HERNÁNDEZ ( Cuba) agreed with previous speakers that the existence of weapons of mass destruction threatened international peace and security.  She thus called for their prohibition and condemned their use, no matter where or by whom.  She welcomed the outcome of the Third Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which made it possible to uphold the balance of the treaty’s four fundamental pillars.  OPCW played an important role in promoting economic and technical development among its States parties, particularly its least developed members.  Cuba did not possess nor did it ever intend to possess any type of mass destruction weapons, and renewed its firm commitment to the Convention’s full and effective implementation.  She welcomed Syria’s adherence to the Convention, adding that the total destruction of chemical weapons globally, including abandoned such weapons, remained OPCW’s principal objective.  Chemical weapons possessor States must destroy those in the time allotted, as the deadlines had already been extended.

She reiterated Cuba’s commitment to strict compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention as well, as the possible use of any such agents for military purposes must be fully prohibited.  For developing countries, it was a priority to ensure the Convention’s article X and to strengthen it through the adoption of a legally binding protocol to close loopholes and include verification of all articles of the Convention.  She shared the concern that terrorist groups could acquire weapons of mass destruction, and said that the possibility of vertical proliferation must not be ignored.  No measure adopted by the Security Council should in any way undermine the central role played by the General Assembly and the multilateral treaties regarding weapons of mass destruction.  Selective, discriminatory resolutions hardly made a contribution, but rather, undermined the role of the United Nations in seeking to combat weapons of mass destruction.

JUDIT KOROMI ( Hungary) introduced the resolution, entitled “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction” (document A/C.1/68/L.10). The draft was based on the text adopted in 2012 and was updated to reflect latest developments.  The minor changes included an update in preambular paragraph 2 on the number of States parties and a reference in operative paragraph 4 to the intersessional meetings held since adoption of the previous resolution.  A change in operative paragraph 11 ensured that the item would feature on the agenda of next year’s General Assembly session.  Hungary wished to remain the sole sponsor on that draft, and hoped it would again be adopted by consensus.

HENK COR VAN DER KWAST (Netherlands), associating himself with the European Union, congratulated the OPCW on the Nobel Prize and welcomed its joint Security Council decision to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.  He congratulated Sigrid Kaag’s appointment as the Special Coordinator of the joint mission of the OPCW and United Nations.  The task entrusted to her was an historic opportunity and an enormous challenge, which required the full support of the international community.  The horrific use of chemical weapons must never be repeated, and those responsible should be held accountable.

URS SCHMID (Switzerland), welcoming Syria’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention and Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) on the destruction of that country’s chemical weapons stockpiles, said that the Third Review Conference had fallen short on a number of issues.  A comprehensive and focused debate on “incapacitating” chemical agenda and their status under the Convention was important to establish transparency and confidence among States parties.  His country feared that “the silence and uncertainty” about the use of toxic chemicals for law enforcement purposes other than riot-control agents risked eroding the Convention.  Furthermore, the convention could not be considered effective unless it was translated into legislative and executive measures in each and every State party.  Switzerland also regretted that the final extended deadline for the destruction of all declared chemical weapons had not been met by all States.

Turning to the Biological Weapons Convention, he added that his country welcomed the efforts of the presidency to bring more voices to the table.  It was vital that that Convention did not lose touch with rapid developments in biological sciences, which raised a number of challenges concerning its application and long-term sustainability.  A dedicated structure should be established that provided for a more systematic and comprehensive review of scientific and technological developments and their bearings on the Convention. Further, the current mechanism for confidence building measures was still marked by a number of shortcomings and participation in it remained low.  It was important to achieve a common understanding on how to process the wealth of information submitted by States parties in a systematic way and determine “how we are going to address any ambiguities, doubts and suspicions”.  The international community must ensure that the menace of chemical and biological warfare and the use of toxic chemicals and pathogenic microorganisms for hostile purposes never re-emerged.

ŁUKASZ ZIELIŃSKI ( Poland) introduced a draft resolution on the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (document A/C.1/68/L.32).  Sole sponsorship of the draft reflected Poland’s contribution to efforts to free the world of those weapons.  The resolution underlined the “unique and exceptional role” played by the Convention for the past 16 years.  It was one of the most successful disarmament and non-proliferation instruments, and every year, the United Nations Community expressed its unequivocal support for it.  He hoped that it would be adopted without a vote.  This year, the resolution was of special importance, confirming the unity of the United Nations in the “extraordinary situation” of chemical weapons use in Syria, and Syria’s accession to the Convention.  The text also reflected the outcome of the Third Review Conference.  It would continue to evolve to reflect changes in the Convention’s implementation.

JAVIER GIL CATALINA ( Spain) commended the OPCW on the Nobel Peace Prize and welcomed the continuing work to implement Security Council resolution 2118 (2013). Spain was closely following the upcoming presentations to the Security Council regarding the allegations of the possible use of chemical weapons on dates other than the confirmed 21 August attack.  Syria’s adherence to the international regime was one of the pending tasks towards the establishment of Middle East zone free from nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.  A pragmatic approach was needed in keeping with a phased step-by-step agenda.

He said that universalizing the Biological Weapons Convention and adding a verification system still needed work.  Spain had drafted a working paper along with Chile, Colombia, Italy and Mexico, which was submitted in December 2012, called “Code of Conduct for Scientists”.  It would, among other things, serve as a useful tool for the benefit of national and international security.  He also wanted to strengthen the role of the Biological Weapons Convention and see it applied in the field of development, particularly with regard to infectious diseases.

Addressing the fundamental role played by Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) on the use of weapons of mass destruction by non-State actors, he said Spain was working towards the development of effective and efficient mechanisms to end proliferation of those weapons.  Efforts included security plans, establishing the necessary infrastructure, and ensuring export controls for chemical and bacteriological agents in the field of dual-use goods.

JOHANN KELLERMAN (South Africa), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that recent events in Syria reminded the international community of the importance of international instruments governing other weapons of mass destruction, as well as the devastating humanitarian consequences of those weapons’ use.  Total elimination of all such weapons, including through implementation of the Chemical and Biological Weapons Convention, remained a key priority. Condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria, he said that no cause could justify the use of those weapons “by any actor, under any circumstances”. That said, he welcomed Syria’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention and called for States to support OPCW in fulfilment of the mandate to destroy all chemical weapons in Syria.

He said that the outcome of the Third Review Conference had been a success, he continued, calling on States to work with OPCW to implement agreements reached. The chemical weapons possessor-States should take necessary steps to reach planned completion dates for their destruction activities.  Furthermore, OPCW needed to remain ready to provide protection against chemical attacks.  It had a particular role in that regard in preventing access to chemical weapons by non-State actors and providing assistance in the event of a chemical attack.  With regard to the Biological Weapons Convention, South Africa remained concerned by the threat from naturally occurring organisms, as well as from those deliberately manufactured, and believed in a strengthened role for the Convention in that area, as well as in the field of infectious diseases.

IAN MCCONVILLE (Australia) said that events this year were a graphic reminder of the very real threat posed by weapons of mass destruction and of why the international community must commit its efforts to counter the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons, as well as why there were no circumstances under which those weapons were justified.  Their use was an egregious violation of international law, and it was vital that the perpetrators of such crimes did not escape justice.  He noted developments regarding the mission to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria and the importance of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

He said that the Biological Weapons Convention was also important, as it underpinned the international consensus against those weapons and facilitated global efforts to promote the peaceful uses of life sciences.  While recent developments had posed clear challenges to the Convention, they also underlined its relevance.  Advances in bio-sciences and technology continued to make pursuit of a biological weapons programme ever more feasible for a growing number of countries, if they were to choose such a course.  As life sciences developed rapidly, the current intersessional process presented an invaluable opportunity to evolve a practical vision and road map for the Convention to go forward.  It must be able to keep up with relevant developments in science and technology, for which industry and academia were increasingly the primary drivers.

ALFREDO FERNANDO TORO-CARNEVALI (Venezuela), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and UNASUR, said vertical and horizontal proliferation of mass destruction weapons threatened international peace and security as well as the survival of humankind.  He reiterated the call for the total elimination of those devastating weapons, including chemical and bacteriological weapons, and condemned the use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world, regardless of the circumstances or motives, as their use was a war crime and a crime against humanity.

As for the total elimination of bacteriological weapons, he reaffirmed his county’s strict compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention and stressed the need to rapidly negotiate a protocol to establish a multilateral verification mechanism to strengthen it.  In the same vein, he underscored the importance of international cooperation when it came to technological exchanges for peaceful purposes in the area of life science.  He condemned international terrorism in all its incarnations, and said the total elimination of mass destruction weapons was the best way to ensure that those deadly systems were not acquired by such groups.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Syria said that the French delegate had made remarks that were baseless and unfounded.  In the Second World War, which had ended in 1945, all types of weapons including nuclear weapons had been used, along with other weapons of mass destruction, and had killed more than 60 million human beings around the world.  But Syria had not been a party to that horrific war in any way.  The United Nations was established at the end of that war, and still, no one was brought to justice.

In Syria, he continued, French colonial rule had lasted “way beyond the date of the establishment of the United Nations”, and while maintaining its rule, France had committed massacres, killing hundreds of thousands of people and had experimented on human beings.  He wished to remind the French delegate that colonial rule had ended more than half century ago, and he called on that Government to join international diplomatic efforts and give up its belligerent and escalatory positions adopted against Syria.

He said further that the United States’ delegate had stated that, as of a month ago, Syria had not acknowledged the chemical weapons issue.  However, that delegate had failed to mention that Israel was denying that it possessed all kinds of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, and had for a few decades.  It would be suitable for the United States’ delegate to demand that Israel accede to the relevant agreements, including NPT.  Since the establishment of the United Nations, a few Member States had repeatedly used all kinds of weapons, including internationally banned ones, against many other Member States in wars allegedly waged to save humans.  And yet, even with the presence of the United Nations, no one was brought to justice.  The only way out of the crisis was through a political and diplomatic solution that preserved the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all Member States.

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