‘Put Aside Inflexible Positions’ to Restart Stalled Disarmament Regime, Delegates Say, as First Committee Concludes Debate, Begins Action on Draft Texts

GA/DIS/3589
26 October 2017
Seventy-second Session, 23rd Meeting (PM)

‘Put Aside Inflexible Positions’ to Restart Stalled Disarmament Regime, Delegates Say, as First Committee Concludes Debate, Begins Action on Draft Texts

Calling for States to “put aside their inflexible positions” and resume the proper functioning of disarmament machinery, delegates sought common ground on nuclear disarmament as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) concluded its thematic debate segment and began action on draft texts.

Iran’s representative said that in the absence of political will, even the best disarmament machinery would be totally ineffective.  Certain nuclear‑weapon States were unwilling to agree on a balanced, comprehensive and priority‑based programme of work.  If they put aside their intransigent positions, the machinery would work properly and efficiently.

Canada’s representative said the United Nations disarmament machinery had made progress when Member States engaged and agreed on a course of action.  However, for many years, success had been elusive, with the machinery’s structure becoming atrophied and discussions growing stale and repetitive.  One way it had fallen short was its tepid acceptance of gender inclusiveness and impact, he said, emphasizing the need for women’s representation and participation.

While sharing frustration about the current deadlock, Ecuador’s delegate looked for areas of progress.  The First Committee was part of the disarmament machinery and although there had been inertia and repetitiveness in the debates, the new session had brought new ideas, he noted.

During the ensuing action on draft resolutions related to nuclear weapons, delegates shared divergent views on how to move towards a nuclear‑weapon‑free world and the best, most direct path to take.  Belgium’s representative said he favoured concrete measures toward the shared goal of nuclear disarmament but feared growing divisions that were complicating that journey.  Nevertheless, he stood ready to cooperate to overcome divisions to move forward on nuclear disarmament initiatives.

Conversely, the representative of the Russian Federation said that when looking at the nuclear weapons cluster, one could not help but feel depressed.  The nuclear disarmament agenda was now fragmented.  Instead of a nuclear arms race, there was now a useless race of nuclear draft resolutions that ignored the fundamental basis of disarmament.

The Committee also heard the introduction of draft resolutions on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and on the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East.

Speaking during the thematic debate on the disarmament machinery were the representatives of Morocco, Kuwait, Myanmar, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Russian Federation, Ireland and Malaysia.

Speaking in explanation of position were representatives of Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Singapore, Austria, France, Netherlands, Germany, United Kingdom, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Israel, Cuba, Japan, Guatemala, Ecuador, Brazil, United States, Republic of Korea, China and South Africa, as well as the European Union.

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Friday, 27 October to continue its consideration of all draft texts before it.

Background

The First Committee met this afternoon to conclude its debate on disarmament machinery and take action on all draft resolutions and decisions before it.  For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3571 of 2 October.

Disarmament Machinery

AHMED NOURI SALIMI (Morocco), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said current challenges stemmed from terrorist groups undermining security and from certain States developing nuclear weapon programmes.  Progress must be made.  The prolonged impasse in the Conference on Disarmament had exacerbated new security‑related challenges.  Inclusive dialogue, renewed national commitments and new actions must revitalize the disarmament machinery.

IBRAHIM ALDAI (Kuwait), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, called for a strengthened political will to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.  Expressing disappointment regarding the continued lack of progress in the Conference of Disarmament, he stressed the need for Member States to break the deadlock in light of the increasing threats of the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  Welcoming the convening of the fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament, he called for international efforts to continue with a view to achieving results.

HTIN LYNN (Myanmar), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said meaningful and verifiable disarmament and non‑proliferation measures were effective tools for maintaining international peace and security, with the disarmament machinery playing an instrumental role in achieving those goals.  The Conference on Disarmament was the world’s only permanent multilateral disarmament treaty negotiating body and had successfully negotiated major disarmament and non‑proliferation instruments.  Expressing frustration at the impasse, he said he understood there were national security concerns, but flexibility and political will were needed to put the Conference on Disarmament back on track.

JULIO HERRÁIZ (Spain), sharing Member States’ frustration about the blockage in the disarmament machinery, said complacency must be avoided and an innovative spirit was needed.  With patience and political will, it was possible to overcome past failures.  Member States must not turn institutions into unjustified victims of apathy because of the inability of Member States to reach an agreement.  The Conference on Disarmament must focus on its mandate to negotiate treaties and should not ignore technical debates taking place on the sidelines, he said, emphasizing that it must be inclusive and reflect the interests of all States.

JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico) welcomed the Disarmament Commission’s adoption of recommendations on confidence‑building measures in the field of conventional weapons.  However, he regretted to note that it had not overcome its paralysis and had not completed its mandate.  The lack of action contravened the constructive spirit of multilateralism.  While the Conference on Disarmament had made contributions in the past, it was operating under the philosophy of the cold war.  He supported discussions around disarmament in other forums, including the Disarmament Commission, but expressed disappointment that not all countries were represented in the Conference on Disarmament and there was a lack of participation of civil society.

The representative of Argentina, highlighting the Disarmament Commission’s recent successes, said multilateralism offered compromise and a win‑win solution for all.  A renewed commitment was now needed for further progress, she said, noting past milestone achievements, including the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction.  In that vein, she expressed support for efforts to reactivate the work of the Conference on Disarmament.

VLADIMIR YERMAKOV (Russian Federation), calling for strengthening the efficiency of the disarmament machinery, said the Disarmament Commission, Conference on Disarmament and the First Committee were united in a common objective of maintaining international security.  The proposed convention to combat acts of chemical and biological terrorism aimed at complementing the existing framework for countering the spread of weapons of mass destruction.  With a proposal for the draft text still on the table, he said the way to achieve consensus consisted of keeping the working group open to all participants.  Turning to the Conference on Disarmament, he said Member States must work towards ending the current deadlock.  The Disarmament Commission’s work had demonstrated a positive path forward, with its newly adopted recommendations.  He called on all Member States to ensure the right conditions to achieve positive results in the First Committee, Disarmament Commission and Conference on Disarmament.

Mr. DAVISON (Canada), speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said the United Nations disarmament machinery had made progress when Member States engaged and agreed on a course of action.  However, for many years, success had been elusive, with the machinery’s structure becoming atrophied and discussions growing stale and repetitive.  One way it had fallen short was its tepid acceptance of gender inclusiveness and impact, he said, emphasizing the need for women’s representation and participation.  International organizations must represent society at large, he said, adding that the way disarmament issues were dealt with was affected by who participated in the discussions.  Welcoming the inclusion of gender perspectives in several First Committee draft resolutions, he said outcome documents from meetings of States parties, as well as disarmament instruments, should also seek to capture gender perspectives.

Ms. KEANE (Ireland), welcoming progress in women’s participation in disarmament and non‑proliferation initiatives, said a recent study funded by his country had highlighted the need for greater engagement of women in multilateral disarmament negotiations.  Pointing to the evident imbalance in the First Committee, she noted studies demonstrating that diversity made group problem‑solving more effective.  It was essential that the voices of all were heard as security goals were pursued.  Greater women’s participation could also rejuvenate disarmament discussions, she said, encouraging States to consider what could be done to redress the gender imbalance in disarmament meetings.

Mr. BAKHSHI (Iran), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, underscored the vital importance and continued validity of the disarmament machinery.  In the past, the Conference on Disarmament and the Disarmament Commission had formulated landmark universal instruments, which had proven the relevance of their mandate and effectiveness of their rules of procedure.  Although there had been attempts to mask the true nature of the current impasse, what had initially appeared to be procedural problems were in fact political ones.  Nothing was wrong with the structure and rules of procedure of the machinery, he said, noting that calling it ineffective was nothing but a shift in blame.  In the absence of political will, even the best disarmament machinery would be totally ineffective.  Certain nuclear‑weapon States were unwilling to agree on a balanced, comprehensive and priority‑based programme of work.  If they put aside their inflexible positions, the machinery would work properly and efficiently.

DELFINA JANE ALOYSIUS DRIS (Malaysia), introducing a draft resolution on “follow‑up to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons” (document A/C.1/72/L.57), said it had been updated to acknowledge the milestone adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  The draft text’s updates reflected the need to call on all countries to fulfil their article VI obligations under the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, as was called for by the advisory opinion.  Any other movement on nuclear disarmament had been hampered by the States parties’ non‑fulfilment of article VI obligations.  In supporting the draft text, Member States would share in the conviction that the Court’s opinion was an important and positive development in nuclear disarmament through the multilateral process.

FERNANDO LUQUE MÁRQUEZ (Ecuador), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and Canada, expressed frustration about the current deadlock.  The First Committee was part of the disarmament machinery and although there had been inertia and repetitiveness in the debates, the new session had brought new ideas.  Citing gains and challenges, he commended the more stable financial situation of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), but noted that the Conference on Disarmament had been unable to agree on its programme of work for two decades, and that it had not been possible to reach a consensus on nuclear disarmament in 2017.

Action on Draft Texts

The representative of Kazakhstan, making a general statement on the draft resolution “International Day against Nuclear Tests” (document A/C.1/72/L.36), said 29 August was a day of important significance around the world.  In approving the draft text, all countries would resolutely agree that there was no future for nuclear testing, he said, expressing gratitude to Member States for their support.

The representative of Belgium said he favoured concrete measures toward the shared goal of nuclear disarmament but feared growing divisions that were complicating that journey.  The Committee’s voting pattern had illustrated that unity was further eroding, he said, emphasizing that Belgium did not view the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as an effective path for progress.  The instrument had lacked support from its main stakeholders and was a distraction from the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty.  Nevertheless, Belgium stood ready to cooperate to overcome divisions to move forward on nuclear disarmament initiatives.

The representative of the European Union delegation said it was committed to a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East, as set out in the 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons resolution, and considered it valid until its goals and objectives were achieved.  She regretted to note that the planned 2012 Helsinki conference had not been convened.  Dialogue and confidence‑building were the only ways forward.  The European Union was ready to lead the process toward the establishment of such a zone and had held several gatherings to help bring the process forward.  She called on all States in the region to accede to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, Chemical Weapons Convention, Test‑Ban Treaty and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction.  Subscription to the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation would also be helpful toward goal of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East.

The representative of Pakistan introduced an oral amendment to the draft resolution “Conclusion of effective international arrangements to assure non‑nuclear‑weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons” (document A/C.1/72/L.10/Rev.1).  With that amendment, contained in preambular paragraph 1, the draft text had reverted to its original version, which the General Assembly had adopted in 2016, he said, apologizing for the late amendment and calling on Member States to support “L.10/Rev.1”.

The representative of Singapore, emphasizing that the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons had demonstrated the will of the majority of States, said his delegation supported all draft texts related to the new instrument.

The representative of Austria introduced a resolution on “Humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons” (document A/C.1/72/L.5), hoping for broad support.  On the draft resolution “Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations” (document A/C.1/72/L.6), he said the 2016 session’s version of it had led to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  That new instrument had been the result of an open, inclusive and constructive manner involving civil society and represented a historic breakthrough as the first multilateral disarmament treaty adopted after an almost two‑decade‑long stalemate.  In that vein, he called on all States to vote in favour of “L.5” and “L.6” to show support for the common objective of a world free of nuclear weapons.

The representative of France said her delegation would reject all resolutions that mentioned the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, including the following draft resolutions: “Establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the region of the Middle East” (document A/C.1/72/L.1), “Reducing nuclear danger” (document A/C.1/72/L.22) and “Convention on the Prohibition of the Use of Nuclear Weapons” (document A/C.1/72/L.47).

The representative of the Netherlands reaffirmed his delegation’s commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons.

The representative of Germany, sharing a commitment to a nuclear‑weapon‑free world, expressed concern about the devastating impact a detonation would have on humans and the environment.  While nuclear arsenals had been reduced over the past two decades, more needed to be done.  Germany had not signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons because it did not believe in taking a shortcut.  Concrete steps agreed upon with nuclear‑weapon States and a step‑by‑step approach that considered the security environment was needed.  In the meantime, progress needed to be made on the Test‑Ban Treaty and the establishment of a fissile material cut‑off treaty.

The representative of the United Kingdom said he was committed to the 1995 resolution on creating a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East and remained prepared to facilitate a regional dialogue on arrangements for a conference on the issue.  All States in the region needed to put forward concrete measures with a view to overcoming current differences.  Concerning language in preambular paragraphs of “L.1”, his delegation did not accept that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was included in a list of initiatives that the draft text would have the General Assembly welcome.

The representative of Iran said nuclear weapons were the greatest threat to international peace and security and their total elimination was a priority.  Recent alarming trends of a nuclear arms race and the modernization of arsenals represented an unpromising future for disarmament initiatives, and challenged collective security.  Israel’s elimination of its nuclear arsenal was of utmost importance, given the volatile situation in the Middle East, he said, expressing support for the universality of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.  He then introduced the draft resolution “Follow-up to nuclear disarmament obligations agreed to at the 1995, 2000 and 2010 Review Conferences of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons” (document A/C.1/72/L.4).

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea expressed opposition to the following draft resolutions: “Compliance with non‑proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments” (document A/C.1/72/L.7), “Towards a nuclear‑weapon‑free world: accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments” (document A/C.1/72/L.19) and “Follow‑up to the 2013 high‑level meeting of the General Assembly on nuclear disarmament” (document A/C.1/72/L.45), as they were against his country’s supreme interests.  “L.45” did not deal with the hostile policy of the United States against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  As such, it would vote against those draft texts.

The representative of Israel said his delegation would vote against “L.6” and other resolutions that promoted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  Israel did not participate in the negotiations on that instrument and had voted against draft resolutions in 2016 and 2017 preparing for that process.  Among his delegation’s reservations on those draft texts, he said the arms control process had failed to give due regard to the security context and had thus hindered rather than reinforced disarmament efforts and global security.  Such negotiations should not undermine national considerations.  Further, they did not create or contribute to the development of customary international law and did not reflect legal norms, nor altered alter existing rights and obligations upon states that had not joined the Treaty.

The representative of Cuba, having co‑sponsored several draft resolutions in the nuclear weapons cluster, such as “L.22”, “L.47” and “Conclusion of effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons” (document A/C.1/72/L.10).  On “L.10”, she said an internationally legally binding instrument was needed to ensure universal and unconditional security assurances to non‑nuclear‑weapon States and called on nuclear‑weapon States to abandon deterrence policies.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that when looking at the nuclear weapons cluster, one could not help but feel depressed.  The nuclear disarmament agenda was now fragmented.  Instead of a nuclear arms race, there was now a useless race of nuclear draft resolutions that ignored the fundamental basis of disarmament.  “We need meticulous consensus‑based work to achieve a truly nuclear‑weapon‑free world,” he said, adding that the nuclear weapon‑related draft resolutions presented to the First Committee were important, but compared to what happened in the world today, they were detached from reality.

The representative of Japan said that a revision to draft resolution “United action with renewed determination towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons” (document A/C.1/72/L.35) had added a phrase to operative paragraph 21.  As a whole, the draft text sought to find common ground among States by promoting practical and concrete measures by cooperation among nuclear- and non‑nuclear‑weapons States.

The representative of Israel, explaining his country’s position, said it had joined consensus on “L.1” despite reservations regarding the modalities outlined in the draft resolution.  In the past, the authors had shared the draft text with Israel prior to its submission, but that practice had ceased several years ago.  Nevertheless, the draft text recognized the importance of a credible regional security process as an imperative in the attainment of a Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction.  Such a process was essential to address concerns of all States in the region and to establish confidence‑building.  The eventual establishment of any nuclear‑weapon‑free zone must be based on arrangements freely agreed upon by all States in the region, and was an incremental process that must be done in a sustainable manner.

The representative of Pakistan concurred with the primary purpose of the draft resolution “The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East” (document A/C.1/72/L.2), but as his country was not a party to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, it was not bound to its provisions.  As such, Pakistan would vote against preambular paragraphs 5 and 6, while supporting the draft as a whole.  His delegation would abstain from voting on “L.4” as whole and on its preambular paragraph 6.  Turning to “L.5” and the draft resolution on “Ethical imperatives for a nuclear‑weapon‑free world” (document A/C.1/72/L.17), he said Pakistan was committed to the goal of a nuclear‑weapon‑free world and was mindful of the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons.  Yet, the discourse must examine security concerns of the States that possess them, he said, noting that his delegation would abstain from voting on those draft texts.  On “L.6”, Pakistan was committed to achieving a nuclear‑weapon‑free world through the conclusion of a convention negotiated in the Conference on Disarmament.  As the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons did not contribute to the development of customary international law, Pakistan would abstain from the vote on “L.6”.

He also expressed reservations on “L.7”, saying compliance must be in accordance with relevant treaties.  On the draft resolution “Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty” (document A/C.1/72/L.42), he emphasized that recent nuclear tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea called for greater efforts in that area.  Drawing attention to his country’s proposal on non‑testing between Pakistan and India, he expressed strong support for the Test‑Ban Treaty and would vote in favour of preambular paragraph 6, while abstaining on preambular paragraph 7.  His delegation would vote in favour of “L.47”, noting that such a convention should address the security concerns of States.

The representative of Guatemala said his delegation was in favour of “L.35”, as the text was in line with its position to strengthen the universality of the non‑proliferation of nuclear weapons and the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  He was pleased with the text about creating an environment for additional measures toward universal disarmament and supported the establishment of new nuclear‑weapon‑free zones.  However, Guatemala had not co‑sponsored the draft, as it did not include language on the Treaty on the Prohibition on Nuclear Weapons.  The inclusion of such references would have opened up the door for more sponsorship and would have sent a stronger message to the international community.

The representative of Austria said his delegation would abstain from voting on “L.35”.  While Austria had previously voted in favour of the draft text, the current version had been substantially changed and the consensus language had been replaced.  Austria was a strong supporter of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, but the draft text was incompatible with language of previous Non‑Proliferation Treaty conferences.  The new draft offered a new narrative and was prone to hinder instead of discourage nuclear disarmament.

The representative of Ecuador said that his delegation would not support “L.35”.  Despite differences among States as to the way forward, there was a common element shared by all — the priority of nuclear disarmament and realizing a world free of nuclear weapons.  The text submitted during the current session was “not very ambitious” in terms of search of its objective and “dangerous” because it had changed the language and eliminated the priority of nuclear disarmament.

Citing a number of reservations, he said preambular paragraph 12 failed to mention nuclear disarmament.  Further, operative paragraphs 2, 3 and 10 had, respectively, omitted a reference to article VI of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, excluded references to the attention of non‑complying nuclear‑weapon States and called on all States to ease international tensions to further reduce arsenals, rather than to eliminate them.  “The introduction of new language created mistrust, not the new Treaty,” he said, noting that, for instance, operative paragraph 19 referred to the moratorium on nuclear tests and the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea while only calling on that State, and therefore omitting the draft text’s tradition of appealing to Non‑Proliferation Treaty Annex 2 States.

The representative of the Netherlands shared the goal of the new Treaty on the prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, but could not support it because of provisions that were irreconcilable with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members.  Expressing doubts about the new instrument’s effectiveness and its competition with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, he said his delegation could not support any language in draft resolutions that mentioned it.

The representative of Brazil said his delegation would abstain from voting on “L.35”, as the draft text did not mention the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  It was inconceivable not to refer to an international legally binding instrument adopted by a majority of States and supported by civil society.  Noting other reservations, he said the mention of article VI of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty had been deleted from operative paragraph 2.  In operative paragraph 28, he reiterated that the language should fully reflect outcomes of the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  The draft text should have been more ambitious and included that a treaty on fissile material should cover existing and future stocks.

The representative of the United States said his delegation would vote against “L.2”.  Establishing a Middle East free of nuclear and weapons of mass destruction could only be achieved through a direct and consensus-based dialogue among the States in the region.  The United States would also vote against “L.5” and “L.17”.

He said the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons risked creating a less secure world, would not eliminate those arms and would deepen the divide among States parties to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.  An approach that addressed the international security challenges was the only way to combine general disarmament goals with the principles of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.  His delegation would vote against “L.6”, as the United States had not participated the negotiations because they were premised on a false presumption that nuclear deterrence was unnecessary.  For those and other reasons, the United States strongly opposed the new instrument.

The representative of the Republic of Korea said his delegation supported a progressive approach to disarmament under the existing regime based on the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and on the consideration of the legitimate security concerns of States.  As such, his delegation could not support any references in draft texts that welcomed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The representative of Iran, expressing his delegation’s support for “L.1” and “L.2”, said the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East had been proposed by his country in 1974.  While adhering to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty was the most essential requirement of creating such a zone in the region, Israel continued to reject joining the instrument.  Member States must place the utmost pressure on Israel to compel it to accede to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and all other instruments banning weapons of mass destruction.

The representative of China said it would vote against “L.35” as it did not agree with updates to the draft text.  With respect to preambular paragraph 20, he underscored that the Conference on Disarmament was the appropriate forum to negotiate a fissile material cut‑off treaty.

The representative of South Africa said his delegation did not support “L.35”, which reflected a serious deviation of the text that had been tabled during previous sessions.  He was concerned about its impact on the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and the early entry into force of the Test‑Ban Treaty.  Its language had watered down existing commitments and could lead to States questioning their current obligations, thereby undermining existing instruments.

For information media. Not an official record.