Outer Space Increasingly ‘Congested, Contested and Competitive’, First Committee Told, as Speakers Urge Legally Binding Document to Prevent Its Militarization

25 October 2013
GA/DIS/3487

Outer Space Increasingly ‘Congested, Contested and Competitive’, First Committee Told, as Speakers Urge Legally Binding Document to Prevent Its Militarization

25 October 2013
General Assembly
GA/DIS/3487
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

First Committee

17th Meeting (AM)

OUTER SPACE INCREASINGLY ‘CONGESTED, CONTESTED AND COMPETITIVE’, FIRST COMMITTEE

TOLD, AS SPEAKERS URGE LEGALLY BINDING DOCUMENT TO PREVENT ITS MILITARIZATION

Syrian Action Shows Risk of Chemical Weapons Use ‘Not Latent, But Very Real

And Possible’, Say Delegates at Conclusion of Weapons of Mass Destruction Debate

The outer space environment was becoming increasingly “congested, contested and competitive” as States vied to benefit from space-based technologies, while cautioning that it must not become the next theatre of proliferation, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) heard today as it took up its cluster on the disarmament aspects of outer space.

The European Union’s representative said that space assets offered the world enormous benefits, which had been “unimaginable” just a few decades ago.  However, those benefits were accompanied by significant challenges, among them, the dangers of orbital debris and the threat of “deliberate disruption”.  Preventing outer space from becoming an arena of conflict was essential for strengthening strategic stability, the delegate said.

Emphasising the need for confidence-building measures, she said the European Union’s proposal for a “Space Code of Conduct” supported the notion of “voluntary rules of the road” to strengthen norms of behaviour in space.  The ultimate goal of the process, she said, would be to garner the broadest possible support for such an instrument, which should be adopted by an “act of international endorsement”, such as in the context of a diplomatic conference.

Similarly, the representative from the United States said that in the half century since the adoption in 1963 of the Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, nations and peoples had seen a “radical transformation” in daily lives due to the use of space.  However, threats to space services were likewise increasing as disruptive and destructive counter-space capabilities were developed.

It was essential for nations to work together in the face of those challenges to adopt approaches for responsible space activity, he said.  The report of the Group of Governmental Experts on Outer Space Activities deserved careful consideration, because its recommendations served as the basis for a range of commitments and measures that could be implemented on a voluntary basis.  For its part, the United States had undertaken bilateral transparency and confidence-building measures with a number of space-faring nations.

However, Brazil’s representative said that while transparency and confidence-building measures could foster cooperation, they were no substitute for legally binding norms.  Moreover, no voluntary measure could entirely reflect the complexities of outer space security.  It was in the best interests of the international community to start negotiations on a legally binding instrument to prevent placement of any kind of weapon in that environment.

Brazil supported the efforts of the Group of Governmental Experts, but the European Union’s initiative on a code of conduct would benefit from a multilateral approach, as well as a specific mandate.  Also, the latest draft retained the reference to the notion of self-defence, which caused serious difficulties, since it could allow for the justification of the use of force in outer space.  Even aside from concerns about weapons, the use of satellites impacted people in their daily activities, and their interruption would cause a “major global collapse”.

Several space actors and stakeholders, said Kazakhstan’s speaker, had made the space environment hazardous, and he endorsed the treaty drafted by the Russian Federation and China on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space.  However, political hurdles and the impasse in the Conference on Disarmament had thus far blocked its realization.  Weaponizing that fragile environment must be avoided at all costs, as exclusivity would create distrust and suspicion; that had occurred with the secret proliferation of nuclear weapons.

During an earlier portion of the meeting, the Committee concluded its thematic debate on other weapons of mass destruction, in which Ireland’s representative warned that the temptation to use those weapons would exist as long as the weapons themselves existed.  The international community must, therefore, redouble its efforts to remove that temptation for good.

Pakistan’s delegate said that the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions served as key constituents of the international security architecture, which together, had strongly reinforced their roles as the international norm and a bulwark against the use of those weapons.  Those “success stories” reaffirmed the vitality and value of treaties negotiated multilaterally on the basis of inclusiveness, good faith and equality, while taking into account the security interest of all States.

Likewise, the representative of Mexico said that those Conventions were milestones in the international disarmament and non-proliferation architecture, as they established norms and standards to prohibit the use of those inhumane agents of warfare.  In fact, the Chemical Weapons Convention had proven to be the most successful and advanced instrument of disarmament, not only in prohibiting those weapons, but also by ordering their destruction under a regime that had the highest verification standards in the field.

Colombia’s representative joined others in pointing out that the situation in Syria had shown that the risk of chemical weapons’ use was “not latent, but very real and possible”.  Speaking as a country which had itself been targeted by chemical weapons attacks, Iran’s delegate said the “heartbreaking” events in Syria had revealed once again the horrific nature of those weapons, and proved that the international community should spare no effort to abolish them.

Before the thematic debate clusters, Peter Woolcott, briefing on behalf of Deborah Stokes, Chair of the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security, presented the Group’s report.

Also speaking during debate on the cluster on other weapons of mass destruction were the representatives of China, Croatia, Finland, India, Iraq, Japan, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation and Turkey.

Additional speakers on the disarmament aspects of outer space were the representatives of Bahrain on behalf of the Arab Group, Canada, Cuba, Egypt, France, Indonesia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, and Kuwait.

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Monday, 28 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

PETER WOOLCOTT, briefing on behalf of Deborah Stokes, Chair of the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security, presented the Group’s report.  The 15 experts had met three times to consider, among others, threats, risks and vulnerabilities related to information and telecommunications.  It had also considered issues related to confidence- and capacity-building, seeking to produce recommendations on norms and principles.  The report had been adopted by consensus, and it noted, among other things, that information and communication technologies (ICT) were “dual-use”, which meant they could be used for legitimate or malicious purposes.  Threats had become more acute, and incidents more damaging, with their sources comprising both State and non-State actors.  The lack of common understanding on acceptable State behaviour with regard to the use of those technologies increased the risk to international peace and security.

Key recommendations, he noted, included the application of norms derived from international law regarding the use of information and communication technologies by States as an “essential measure” to reduce risks to international peace and security.  State sovereignty and international norms and principles applied to State conduct of “ICT”-related activities and to State jurisdiction over the relevant infrastructure within its territory.  Efforts to address “ICT” security should go hand-in-hand with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and States must meet their international obligations regarding wrongful acts, on the global scale, attributable to them.  Neither should States use proxies to commit such acts.  The report, he concluded, provided a solid foundation for further work on those and other measures.

Statements on Weapons of Mass Destruction Cluster

MOHAMMED SAMIR EZZAT SAMI ALNAQSHABANDI(Iraq), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the Biological Weapons Convention was the first multilateral instrument to have banned the use of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction.  He reiterated Iraq’s commitment to the Convention and called upon States to exert efforts to further its implementation.  Exchange of information was an important tool to increase confidence.  The potential use of biological weapons by terrorists or non-State actors required international cooperation.  Moreover, that was a long-term process that required innovative measures.  Iraq welcomed the decision by the Convention’s Seventh Review Conference to create a database to help with requests for assistance, and he called on full support for that initiative.  Iraq shared the international community’s concern over the proliferation of nuclear and biological weapons, and called for implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) to ensure those weapons did not fall into the hands of terrorists or non-State actors.  Iraq had submitted an updated report to the Council of legislation action in that regard.

SYED ATIF RAZA (Pakistan), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions served as key constituents of the international security architecture, which together, had strongly reinforced their roles as the international norm and a bulwark against the use of those weapons.  Those “success stories” reaffirmed the vitality and value of treaties negotiated multilaterally on the basis of inclusiveness, good faith and equality, while taking into account the security interest of all States.

He said that Pakistan shared the concern that, along with the threat of the possible production, acquisition and use of chemical and biological weapons by States, the international community also faced the danger of their acquisition and use by non-State actors.  The slow pace of chemical weapons disarmament and the existence of still-huge quantities of those weapons accentuated those concerns.  Realizing the full potential of the Chemical Weapons Convention for international peace and security necessitated early elimination of remaining stockpiles.  The deplorable use of chemical weapons in Syria had highlighted that concern.

While advances in biology offered a range of new tools to address disease, they also heightened anxieties about the possibility of non-State actors misusing biological toxins, agents and related materials, he said.  Concluding the verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention, negotiated over eight years, would be a major step in strengthening that instrument and in allaying concerns over the bio-defence capabilities of some States.  Over the years, Pakistan had interacted closely with the Organisations for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and believed that sensitive technologies and materials must be adequately controlled to ensure their use for peaceful purposes only.

JOONSEOK WEE (Republic of Korea) said that the adoption of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) signified that the Council had come to a unified position on the Syrian situation.  OPCW’s contribution over the past 16 years was to be commended.  The situation in Syria was dangerous, and it was encouraging to note that initial verification activities were being conducted.  The call for the destruction of all its chemical weapons by next year was ambitious, but the Council’s resolution had made it clear that Syria should comply with all its aspects as well as with the decision of OPCW’s Executive Board, and provide full cooperation to the United Nations mission.  According to the resolution, measures would be imposed in the event on non-compliance, he noted.

Turning to the Chemical Weapons Convention, he highlighted the international community’s strong consensus that chemical weapons would not be tolerated under any circumstances, and he encouraged all States, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, to join the treaty.  The Biological Weapons Convention, likewise, was a cornerstone of disarmament, and it was important for States parties to turn its provisions into concrete measures.  Cooperation was a key building block and, summarizing initiatives of his country, he reiterated its active participation in confidence-building and transparency measures.

MARKKU VIRRI ( Finland) said that countering weapons of mass destruction and their proliferation could not be done without close national and international cooperation.  Enhancement of bio-security and countering biological threats were vital elements of the global non-proliferation agenda, and through the G-8 Global Partnership, Finland was looking at ways to enhance that security globally.  Along with non-proliferation measures, his country supported both the Biological and Chemical Weapons Convention, although their universality had not yet been achieved.  The Chemical Weapons Convention was near-universal, with 190 States parties, but more work needed to be done, as 16 years after its entry into force, 20 per cent of chemical warfare agents stockpiles still remained.

In conjunction with eliminating those stockpiles, he said, it was instrumental that implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention was carried out “even more persistently”, as the United Nations and OPCW worked together to take stock of and destroy the chemical weapons in Syria.  As OPCW’s designated laboratory, the Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention had supported efforts under way in Syria by providing laboratory assistance to the United Nations’ investigative mission.

MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ BLANCO ( Colombia) stated that weapons of mass destruction were a priority on the international agenda.  Colombia had disarmament and non-proliferation enshrined in its Constitution.  Nuclear, biological and chemical weapons were banned in the country, and that position was demonstrated on the international stage, as it was party to the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions, and other international instruments.  The recent awarding of the Nobel Prize to OPCW was a timely opportunity to commend its efforts.  He also paid particular tribute to the Secretary-General’s mission investigating the situation in Syria, as well as the work of OPCW in that country.  Events there had shown that risk of chemical weapons’ use was “not latent, but very real and possible”.  He, thus, urged universalization of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Concerning biological weapons, he highlighted the importance of that Convention, noting that Colombia had been a State party since 1983.  He spotlighted several initiatives it had taken in that field and reaffirmed its commitment to “improved practices and efforts to go beyond” obligations under the Convention.

CLAUDIA YURIRIA GARCÍA GUIZA( Mexico) said that the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions were milestones in the international disarmament and non-proliferation architecture, as they established norms and standards to prohibit the use of those inhumane agents of warfare.  In fact, the Chemical Weapons Convention had proven to be the most successful and advanced instrument of disarmament, not only prohibiting those weapons, but also ordering their destruction under a regime that had the highest verification standards in the field.

While working to strengthen multilateralism, she said it was also paramount to find a peaceful solution to disputes.  The deplorable suffering caused by chemical weapons in Syria compelled the international community to ensure that those unacceptable events were never repeated.  This year, with Syria’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the world had taken an important step forward towards universalizing that instrument, and she encouraged other countries that had not yet done so to accede.  She stressed the importance of implementing and promoting epidemiological surveillance, adding that States should share capacities in that regard.  Given the lack of a verification mechanism for the Biological Weapons Convention, confidence-building measures were of utmost importance.

VLADIMIR YERMAKOV ( Russian Federation) stated that his country had actively supported globalization of non-proliferation weapons of mass destruction and “unswerving and fully-fledged compliance” with treaties in that sphere.  It also vehemently condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  Such action, whoever committed it, was unacceptable, and the perpetrators should be brought to justice.  He fully shared the political assessments of OPCW and Security Council.  The Syrian State had succeeded in “stopping the rot and getting things back on the right track”.  His country called upon States to refrain from “unsubstantiated, irresponsible, and at times false” statements.  Until the investigation was concluded, only unofficial presumptions could be made as to who, from a military standpoint, had so “unprofessionally” used “homemade chemicals”.  The only fact that existed was that chemical attacks had taken place.  The rest was conjecture.

He said that the current position of the Syrian leadership was “exceptionally noble and bold”, given the extremely complex conditions.  In that context, Syria had taken a “truly historic decision” to give up weapons that were of strategic importance for maintaining national security.  The timeline for the destruction of those weapons was furthermore “unprecedented”.  Steps taken by Damascus merited respect and comprehensive support, and served as a good example to all other States in the region that remained outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions.

Against that positive backdrop, the Russian Federation profoundly regretted attempts in the First Committee to accuse and allege that it was the Syrian Government that had used chemical weapons, he said.  That was reminiscent of reprehensible statements in recent years that the 11 September 2001 tragedy was not the work of terrorists but of someone else.  He called on all to refrain from such irresponsible statements.  All statements would be thoroughly studied and, ultimately, irresponsible words would have to be accounted for.

The situation in Syria was not a struggle for a democracy; it was an insurgency, he said.  The supply of weapons had caused the situation there to spill over into one of the bloodiest conflicts in the modern day.  Everyone was aware of who, when and what weapons had been supplied to “extremists” in Syria.  Any foreign military intervention could lead to more innocent victims and escalation of the conflict beyond its borders, as well as lead to further destabilisation of the whole Middle East region and North African subregion.

Today’s world was “complex and turbulent”, he said, adding that maintaining law and order was one of the few levers for preventing international relations from spiralling into chaos.  The law was the law, and everyone was bound to it, whether they liked it or not.  Force could only be used in self-defence, or by a resolution of the Security Council.  Anything else was aggression.  All those outside the realm of NPT, and the Chemical or Biological Weapons Conventions should follow Syria’s “worthy example” and immediately accede to those instruments, without pre-conditions.

TOSHIO SANO ( Japan) expressed deep concern over the recent use of chemical weapons in Syria, which had wounded and killed many, including innocent women and children.  The use of chemical weapons was not permissible under any circumstances, and to that end, he welcomed the unanimous adoption of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013). He urged Syria to comply, and said Japan would provide thorough support and the greatest possible cooperation towards the international community’s endeavour to dispose of Syria’s chemical weapons.

He praised the continued efforts made by major chemical weapon possessor States for the destruction of their stockpiles.  With the verifiable destruction of more than three-quarters of all declared chemical weapons stockpiles, their destruction would remain the Convention’s core objective pending completion of that task.  However, in order to continuously adapt to the rapidly changing international security environment, it was high time to consider that Convention’s future.  In that regard, Japan welcomed the final report of the Third Review Conference and stressed the importance of implementing its recommendations.

The Biological Weapons Convention also had significantly contributed to promoting international peace and security, he said.  The rapid advancement of biotechnology had benefited mankind, but at the same time, bio-threats posed by the misuse or illicit use of advanced science and technology, particularly by non-State actors, was growing and, thus, the universalization of the Biological Weapons Convention had become more important than ever.  In order to strengthen it, Japan was a leading country in the field of life science as well as a member of the “JACKSNNZ” group — Japan, Australia, Canada, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Norway, and New Zealand.  It also actively participated in the various topics under discussion concerning that Convention.

ZORAN JOKOVIC (Croatia), associating himself with the European Union, said that geographical position made Croatia suitable, if it was not extremely careful, to become a transit country for the smuggling weapons of mass destruction-related materials, and based on the evaluation of possible threat, Croatia, earlier this year, had adopted a national strategy and action plan for combating weapons of mass destruction.  It could serve as a model for other countries in similar geopolitical environments.  After 1 July, Croatia’s position in the European Union Centres of Excellenceon Chemical, Biological, Radiological and NuclearRisk Mitigation had changed from beneficiary country to a partner and provider country.  With that status, it had hosted an international meeting in 2012 on the mitigation of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats in Zagreb.

He noted that Croatia, together with Poland, had recently conducted a Peer Review for the effective implementation of the Security Council resolution 1540 (2004).  Also, this year, Croatia had hosted the annual conference of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on “WMD Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation”, which was the Alliance’s largest outreach activities with partners; it had gathered senior non-proliferation officials from more than 50 countries as well as international organizations.  Croatia and the United States would co-host the “Southeast European Regional Proliferation Security Initiative Executive Table Top Exercise” in Zagreb in November.  He added that the recent “horrifying events” were a reminder that the fight against weapons of mass destruction “is not over”, nor was the threat of terrorism in that connection, to which no nation or territory was excluded. 

ASHWANI KUMAR (India), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed that disarmament was a primary goal of the Chemical Weapons Convention and should remain the priority until the complete destruction of all of those weapons was achieved.  India had completed the destruction of its stockpiles in 2009, in line with its treaty obligations.  With its large and growing chemical industry, India had the second largest number of declared facilities and had been filing chemical industry declarations in an “exemplary fashion”.

He said his country was also committed to improving the effectiveness of the Biological Weapons Convention.  Strengthening its implementation and universalization was necessary in view of the new challenges to international peace and security emanating from proliferation trends.  Those included threats posed by terrorists and other non-State actors seeking access to biological agents.  And yet, that Convention still lacked an effective mechanism for verification of compliance, which was of critical importance.  Confidence-building measures were a key transparency measure to enhance trust in implementation, but those were no substitute for a multilaterally agreed verification mechanism.

YIN HAIGANG ( China) recalled some new developments in the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, including the Third Review Conference, which he felt had gone “smoothly”.  The Somalia and Syria’s accession was a welcome development that contributed to achieving universality. At the same time, OPCW still faced major challenges with regard to the destruction of chemical weapons by both possessor and abandoning States parties. Large amounts of declared chemical weapon stockpiles and abandoned chemical weapons remained to be destroyed, and the OPCW must be ensured adequate resources for the verification of destruction of those stockpiles.  China urged States parties to complete destruction within established timelines.  In particular, complete and safe destruction of abandoned chemical weapons by Japan on Chinese territory impacted the Convention’s credibility.  Those weapons posed a great threat and caused real harm to Chinese people, their property and environment.  His country urged Japan to fully comply with relevant decisions of OPCW Executive Council.  In conclusion, he expressed his support for OPCW’s role in the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria.

USMAN SARKI ( Nigeria), like previous speakers, commended OPCW and recognised its efforts to ensure total and complete evaluation of declarations by Member States. The Chemical Weapons Convention was an important instrument, not only in preventing the proliferation of those weapons, but also in efforts to totally destroy those stockpiles.  OPCW had made giant strides in that regard.   Nigeria had signed and ratified the Convention as well as the Biological Weapons Convention, and supported meaningful action to strengthen the objectives of both.  The near-universal membership of OPCW and its phenomenal growth from 65 States initially to 190, was reflective of the organization’s noble cause.  His country had undertaken several initiatives in the area of biological and chemical weapons disarmament and non-proliferation, and remained committed to both Conventions.

BREIFNE O’REILLY, Director for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland, associating himself with the European Union, said the use of chemical weapons in Syria was “utterly reprehensible” and he thus called for the war crimes recently committed in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court.  Syria, he said, must demonstrate its commitment to the Chemical Weapons Convention by undertaking its obligations under Security Council resolution 2118 (2013), which required a scheduled destruction of its chemical weapons programme.  Syria must also fully implement OPCW’s decision of 27 September, which contained special procedures for the expeditious and verifiable destruction of its chemical weapons.  Destruction procedures had already begun; Ireland had already contributed 200,000 euros this year and would provide additional support going forward.

Noting that the Chemical Weapons Convention had held its Third Review Conference this year, said that its successful conclusion demonstrated the near-universal consensus against chemical weapons.  The six States not party to the Convention should join it as soon as possible.  The review also had highlighted the effective application of States parties’ obligations, as only comprehensive fulfilment of those measures could provide the international community with confidence that neither States, nor non-State actors were circumventing the global ban on chemical weapons.  The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to OPCW was recognition of the success of the Chemical Weapons Convention and helped to bring nations closer to the complete elimination of those weapons.

The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, he said, had continued to make efforts to ensure that the threat of those weapons never became a reality.  Ireland supported the full application of the steps identified in Security resolution 1540 (2004), which obligated all Member States to enforce appropriate measures against acquisition of weapons of mass destruction.  Ireland also called on all States to adhere to the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, which delegitimized worldwide propagation of those delivery systems.  The Missile Technology Control Regime must actively play a part in export controls.  Ongoing work to improve transparency and confidence-building measures was important, and the recent addition of five new States to The Hague Code was welcome. “The temptation to use WMD will exist as long as the weapons themselves exist; we must redouble our efforts to remove that temptation for good,” he said in closing.

MUSTAFA İLKER KILIÇ( Turkey) said that all types of weapons of mass destruction should be urgently eliminated, and “their names should only be pronounced in discussions to remind ourselves and future generations of the catastrophes they could and have brought about, so that they were never used again”.  Chemical weapons had been used in Turkey’s “neighbourhood” three times in the past three decades, with the latest instance this very year.  The tragic events that took place in Damascus on 21 August were a horrendous crime against humanity and its perpetrators must be brought to justice.  Turkey welcomed the Framework Agreement reached in Geneva on 14 September and Security Council resolution 2118 (2013).  However, the duration of the envisaged process must not be abused.  The Security Council and the international community must vigorously follow the implementation of the Framework Agreement in line with the agreed timetable.

He said that the spread and transfer of dual-use goods and technology that could be used to produce biological weapons and the possibility of their acquisition by terrorists were major concerns for the international community.  Confidence-building measures remained important for promoting the Biological Weapons Convention.  Although considerably improved, the submission of reports by States parties had not sufficiently increased.  The Convention lacked a verification regime, which would be a very useful mechanism.  Further, regional approaches must be utilized to pave the way for universalizing both Conventions, he said, noting that Turkey had actively promoted the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.  He urged all States of the region to participate in it, in a spirit of cooperation and flexibility.

MOSTAFA SHISHECHIHA (Iran), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the use of chemical weapons in Syria had been “heartbreaking” and revealed once again the horrific nature of those weapons, proving that the international community should spare no effort to abolish them.  The use of those weapons ran counter to the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the Chemical Weapons Convention, as well as international law.  Iran had been the main victim of the use of chemical weapons in contemporary history.  As a result of more than 400 attacks with chemical warfare agents during the eight-year “imposed war by Saddam” from 1980 to 1988, more than 100,000 Iranian citizens were either martyred or injured.  That included more than 7,000 civilians as a result of nearly 30 attacks on Iranian cities and villages.  In one instance alone, sulphur mustard gas had been unleashed on the town of Sardasht.  As a result, and in addition to those killed, 5,000 civilians had been injured and continued to suffer long-term complications.

He said that “Saddam’s army” could not have produced those inhumane weapons without the assistance and support of other countries, and more than 450 companies, mostly from western countries including the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands and the United States had been involved in developing that programme.  Given that those companies were under the scrutiny of their Governments, such transfers could not have taken place without governmental “blessings”.  The use of chemical warfare agents, particularly against civilians, was a war crime and crime of genocide, and those who had helped were also responsible.

The total destruction of all chemical weapons stockpiles remained the Chemical Weapons Convention’s key objective, he said, adding that any major possessor States parties that were in non-compliance with the final extended deadline of 29 April 2012 challenged the Convention’s credibility and raison d’etre.  He also strongly called for the removal of arbitrary and politically motivated restrictions to, and the systematic denial of, the inalienable right of developing States parties to exchange equipment, materials, technology and know-how for the use of biological agents and toxins for peaceful purposes.

Statements on Outer Space Cluster

HAMAD FAREED AHMED HASAN(Bahrain), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that the use of outer space should be limited to peaceful purposes, and legal instruments to achieve that had played a positive role. However, the existing legal regime was not enough to prevent an arms race in outer space.  Accordingly, the Arab Group supported the creation of a committee to look into this issue, with a balanced programme of work to negotiate a multilateral framework specifically aimed at preventing an outer space arms race.  Placement of any weapon in outer space had negative consequences, which would adversely affect all States.  Modern life was reliant on outer space activities, with more than 300 satellites used to provide vital services in information and communications.  Notwithstanding the role of existing treaties, he reiterated the Arab Group’s strong support for legally binding instrument to prohibit placement of any kind of weapon in outer space.

NINA DJAJAPRAWIRA ( Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, stressed the importance of the use of outer space for peaceful purposes only.  The Movement was concerned about the implications of deploying ballistic missile systems in space, and underlined the importance of strict compliance with relevant disarmament agreements and the existing legal regime concerning space use.  Additional measures for verification were needed to prevent an outer space arms race, and he called for a universal, comprehensive and non-discriminatory approach to the issue of missiles, under United Nations’ auspices, which took into account the security concerns of all states and their peaceful right to use of those technologies.  Any proposal on outer space should be pursued within the competent United Nations bodies and agreed by consensus.  Space technologies and their application, such as satellite detection mechanisms, were indispensible for viable, long-term solutions for sustainable development, and could contribute to the development of all countries and regions, thereby improving lives and enhancing preparedness for the consequences of disasters.  Space science technologies should be made available to all nations.

CLARA GANSLANDT, a representative of the European Union delegation, reiterated its member States’ longstanding position in favour of the preservation of a safe and secure space environment, as well as its peaceful uses.  Preventing outer space from becoming an area of conflict was essential for strengthening strategic stability.  Space assets offered the world enormous benefits, unimaginable just a few decades ago.  At the same time, such benefits were accompanied by significant challenges, among which were the dangers of orbital debris, as well as the threat of “deliberate disruption”.  Emphasizing the need for confidence-building measures, she highlighted several initiatives by the Union, among them, a proposal for a “space code of conduct”, which supported the notion of “voluntary rules of the road” to strengthen norms of behaviour in space.

AMR FATHI ALJOWAILY(Egypt) said that preventing an arms race in outer space rested on four key benchmarks:  outer space was the common heritage of mankind and no space-faring country should try to restrict or curtail its full access or utilization; any unilateral declarations, bilateral agreements or common positions should only contribute to building confidence and did not nullify the need for a multilaterally legally-binding agreement on the prevention of an outer space arms race; a legal body governing the prevention of an arms race was missing from the global framework, as was a legally binding multilateral treaty prohibiting the placement of any kind of weapon in space; and military applications in space, such as for communication and navigation, must not be used to legitimize or facilitate the realm’s weaponization.  Any such treaty must be universal, verifiable, equitable, and have the same obligations and benefits for all States parties.

MARIE-GAELLE ROBLES (France), associating herself with the European Union, said that space had become an essential part of modern life.  Alongside its countless peaceful applications, it was fundamental for international security. France was true to its long-standing position of preservation of peace and security and the development of space activities for peaceful purposes.  In that regard, her country was concerned about avoiding an arms race in outer space.  At the same time, a new and legally binding instrument would only truly advance security if it were comprehensive, precise, universal and credible.  Drawing up such an instrument would be a lengthy process, whereas problems encountered in outer space activities required pragmatic and prompt solutions for immediate action.  The growing number of players as well as the rapid expansion of activities risked the security of objects placed there, in particular, because of the proliferation of space debris.  It was of common interest to develop resources to meet those challenges, and France was playing an active part to that end.  It supported the draft international code of conduct for outer space, which was a “comprehensive initiative” governing space activities.

JEFFREY L. EBERHARDT ( United States) stated that in the half century since the adoption of the Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, nations and peoples had seen a “radical transformation” in daily lives due to the use of space.  That environment was becoming increasingly congested, contested and competitive.  Furthermore, threats to space services were likewise increasing, as disruptive and destructive counter-space capabilities were developed.  It was essential for nations to work together in the face of those challenges to adopt approaches for responsible activity in space.  Welcoming the Group of Governmental Experts on Outer Space Activities, he highlighted the recommendations contained in its report, in particular, efforts to pursue a multilateral code of conduct to encourage responsible use of space.  That study’s findings deserved States’ “careful consideration”, since they served as the basis for a range of commitments and measures that could be implemented voluntarily.  He drew attention to bilateral transparency and confidence-building measures undertaken by the United States with a number of space-faring nations, and emphasised the importance of the United Nations in fostering cooperation among States.

ISRAIL U. TILEGEN ( Kazakhstan) said a number of space actors and stakeholders had, in diverse ways, made the space environment hazardous, which required the international community’s urgent attention.  He endorsed the treaty drafted by the Russian Federation and China on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space, however, political hurdles and the impasse in the Conference on Disarmament blocked its realization.  While the international community agreed on the need to stipulate space security measures, he saw the “different emphases” in the non-binding transparency and confidence-building measures.  He called for both approaches: a strong unequivocal treaty, and transparency and confidence-building measures to enforce it.

He urged that norms be established for responsible behaviour in space and, at the same time address some of the national security concerns of space-faring nations.  Weaponizing that fragile environment must be avoided at all costs, as exclusivity would create distrust and suspicion; that had occurred with the secret proliferation of nuclear weapons.  “History must not repeat itself,” he said.

YADIRA LEDESMA HERNÁNDEZ ( Cuba) stated that her country recognised the common interest of humankind’s exploration of space for peaceful purposes.  Reaffirming the right of all State in that regard, she voiced Cuba’s support for the prevention of an arms race in outer space, as well as confidence-building measures.  An outer space arms race would pose a serious threat to international peace and security, and, thus, efforts to build transparency and confidence were important.  The Conference on Disarmament should play a leading role in reaching a multilateral agreement on that subject.  Cuba acknowledged contributions made to prevent an outer space arms race by agreements on international measures such as prior notification, verification and follow-up, as those promoted transparency in space activities.

ABDULAZIZ ALAJMI( Kuwait), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Arab Group, said science in the field of outer space activities was a key element for development, with a view to improving living conditions, including through long-term solutions.  Space had become essential to modern life, and the best way to explore it would be through a multilateral approach under United Nations’ auspices.  The shift should be away from unilateral approaches that would lead to an arms race with disastrous repercussions and a potential damaging impact on development; those would also undermine trust.  There were gaps in the legal regime governing space, and despite the existence of the 1993, 1967 and 1979 treaties, negotiations must be opened for a legally binding global instrument outlawing the placement of weapons in outer space.  He supported the establishment of a commission to address the issue in the Conference on Disarmament.

JEAN-FRANCOIS JUNEAU ( Canada) welcomed practical initiatives in the pursuit of transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space, as well as those that protected continued access and use of the space environment.  An international code of conduct for outer space activities could set out global norms for responsible behaviour and include a promise to mitigate the creation of space debris that could undermine future space operations.  Such an instrument would be an important step towards the development of internationally recognised “rules of the road” for outer space activities.  The upcoming open-ended consultations in Bangkok was an opportunity for Canada to work with others to improve such a code.

JOÃO MARCELO GALVÃO QUEIROZ ( Brazil), concerned about the possibility of an arms race in outer space, said it was in the best interests of the international community to start negotiations on a legally binding instrument to prevent the placement of any kind of weapon in space.  NPT alone was not sufficient since it did not explicitly cover conventional weapons or technological advances.  The use of satellites impacted people in their daily activities, and their interruption would cause a major global collapse.  It was regrettable that a lack of consensus had precluded adequate consideration of that fundamental issue by the Conference on Disarmament.  Of utmost importance was to preserve the principle of the use and exploration of outer space exclusively for peaceful purposes.  Accordingly, Brazil intended to jointly present a draft resolution at the sixty-ninth General Assembly session to ban weaponization of outer space.

He said that transparency and confidence-building measures could foster cooperation among States, however, those were no substitute for legally binding norms.  He welcomed the finding of the Group of Governmental Experts on Outer Space and highlighted Brazil’s participation in discussions on the European Union’s international code of conduct initiative.  That initiative would benefit from a multilateral approach, as well as from a specific mandate.  No voluntary measure could entirely reflect the complexities of outer space security, which would be better addressed through a legally binding instrument.  Of particular concern in the latest draft was the continued reference to the notion of self-defence, which caused serious difficulties, since it could allow for the justification of the use of force in outer space.  Brazil could not accept that.  Hopefully, the Conference on Disarmament could adopt a work programme that would pave the way for a legally binding instrument to prohibit the placement of any weapons in outer space.

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