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GA/DIS/3510
24 October 2014
Sixty-ninth session, 15th Meeting (AM)

Mission to ‘Remove and Destroy’ Chemical Weapons in Syria Unprecedented, but Reports of Chlorine Gas Use Troubling, First Committee Hears

Last year’s chemical attacks in Syria “shocked an entire world” and were a reminder that the use of weapons of mass destruction remained a serious threat, heard the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) as it began its thematic debate on weapons of mass destruction.

The representative of Norway, on behalf of the Nordic countries, said the mission to eliminate Syria’s declared chemical weapons was “new and unchartered” territory for the international community, which, despite the ongoing brutal civil war, had succeeded. 

At the same time, she said, reports of recent systematic and repeated use of chlorine gas against civilians in Syria were deeply concerning.  The use of that toxic chemical as a weapon was a clear breach of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The representative of France said the fact-finding mission’s conclusion that chlorine had been used “systemically and repeatedly” as a chemical weapon in Syria in 2014 were unequivocal.  The country must assure the international community that its chemical programme was completely and irreversibly dismantled by clarifying gaps in its initial declaration and destroying production facilities.

The representative of the European Union condemned all use of chemical weapons in Syria as a violation of international law, a war crime and a crime against humanity, stressing that the perpetrators must be held accountable.

At the same time, she commended the international community for its effective and prompt response, which had led to the removal and destruction of the declared Syrian chemicals.  That was a significant step towards the complete and irreversible dismantling of the country’s chemical weapons programme, she said.

The chemical demilitarization of Syria, said the representative of the Russian Federation, was a major achievement in the field of strengthening the non-proliferation and disarmament regime.  The international community should recall that the whole operation became possible only after achieving a highly complex political agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States, and relevant intergovernmental agreements between the Russian Federation and Syria. 

As a result, he said, Syria had taken an historic decision to relinquish its chemical weapons.  He cautioned against trying to “hype this theme” again.  Of course, any evidence of the use of chemical agents against civilians should be analysed by experts as part of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.  However, until the conclusion of such investigations, any judgements passed could only be considered as a politicized and baseless conjecture.

Along with the focus on chemical weapons, speakers warned that sight must not be lost of the threat posed by biological weapons, whether in the hands of States or non-State actors. Despite efforts to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention, said the representative of the United States, the agenda had not been matched by the resources or political will needed to deliver results. 

The delegate from Japan said the universalization of the Biological Weapons Convention had become more important than ever to enhance international security because advancement in life science could increase biological threats if misused. 

Also speaking were the representatives of Indonesia (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Egypt (on behalf of the Arab Group, Barbados (on behalf of the Caribbean Community, CARICOM), Suriname (on behalf of the Union of South American States, UNASUR), India, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Cuba, Qatar and Colombia.

A panel discussion on Regional Disarmament and Security heard from representatives of the Regional Disarmament Branch of the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs; the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD), the United Nations Centre for Peace Disarmament, and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNILIREC), and the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa.

The First Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 27 October to continue its thematic discussions.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met today to begin its thematic debate on other weapons of mass destruction.  For more background, see Press Release GA/DIS/3497.

Panel, Regional Disarmament and Security

XIAOYU WANG, Officer-in-Charge, Regional Disarmament Branch, United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs, expressed gratitude to States that had made financial and/or in-kind contributions to the Regional Centres in support of their programmes.  Capacity-building was central to promoting and implementing norms and instruments at the regional, subregional and international levels.  The Centres had undertaken more than 90 activities funded from extra-budgetary contributions, focusing on assisting, upon request, Member States in building their national capacities, he said, adding that the Office for Disarmament Affairs had made progress in integrating disarmament and arms control programmes into the United Nations’ overall regional and subregional strategies, where relevant. 

He also spoke on behalf of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, noting that, since its last report, the Centre had undertaken a number of activities around promoting dialogue and confidence building; capacity-building; and peace and disarmament education.  Elaborating on those initiatives, he said the Centre had organized the twelfth UN-ROK Joint Conference on Disarmament and Non-proliferation Issues in Jeju, Republic of Korea.  With the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, it had also jointly organized an International Workshop on Information and Cyber Security in Beijing.  In May, the Regional Centre had organized a capacity-building workshop on small arms control in cooperation with the Ministry of Defence and Foreign Affairs of Myanmar, in Nay Pyi Taw. Moreover, as a pilot project, the Centre had worked with Nepal’s Ministry of Education to integrate peace and disarmament education content into existing curriculums and textbooks in Nepalese schools.

MARCO KALBUSCH, Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa, said that the Centre’s activities had contributed to the implementation of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, in coordination with other agencies of the United Nations System, the Kinshasa Convention on Small Arms, and the Central African Roadmap on non-proliferation and combatting terrorism.  The Centre, he said, remained active in coordination forums on peace and security issues on the continent.  On small arms and light weapons, the Centre’s activities contributed to the implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action, as well as to the African strategy and action plan for the control of small arms and light weapons and African subregional instruments. 

Turning to the Arms Trade Treaty, he noted that the Regional Centre had advocated for the Treaty’s signature and ratification and provided substantive support to regional and non-governmental organizations in their advocacy activities.  On weapons of mass destruction, he said that the Centre had worked in the past year to promote the Biological Weapons Convention in Africa, and supported States in the Convention’s implementation.

CAROLYNE MELANIE REGIMBAL, Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, said that, in addition to the long-standing small arms technical support, the Centre had been providing assistance to requesting States and this year had launched “novel projects” and “practical tools”.  In that context of the new Arms Trade Treaty, it offered an “implementation course” for Latin American States, which included a first ever regional training course in Costa Rica.  The Centre’s course complemented the resources provided by the Office for Disarmament Affairs and had been designed and developed with the support of Mexico, Germany and Spain.  It had also benefitted from the input of numerous international arms trade experts.  On small arms and light weapons, she noted that 2014 marked the completion of the Centre’s three-phased Caribbean stockpile management and small arms destruction assistance package and confirmed that all the objectives set by States were met and, in many cases, were surpassed.

VLADIMIR YERMAKOV (Russian Federation) said that yesterday’s English press release had stated that “despite a ceasefire agreement signed between Ukraine and Russia, the United States has supported an unconstitutional coup d’état in Ukraine”.  That, he said, was a gross violation of one of the main points of the statement.  It should have read: “After the Foreign Ministers of Germany, France and Poland signed last February the agreement on the settlement of political situation in Ukraine, these agreements have been totally violated the next day, and the US together with the European Union supported the armed and anti-constitutional coup d’état in Ukraine, and helped the ultra-national forces to come to power in Kiev that literally exploded the country from inside, and our world turned upside down”.  That, he said, was what had been stated in the room by the Russian delegation.  Pitting Russia and Ukraine against each other would not work.  They were two sovereign States.  They were fraternal peoples, whose histories went back and who shared family ties.

KAMAPRADIPTA ISNOMO (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said it was important to prevent the emergence of new types of weapons of mass destruction, monitor the situation in that regard and take international action, as required.  The Movement States parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention called on all possessor States parties to ensure the complete destruction of their remaining chemical weapons within the final extended deadline.  The Movement’s States parties to the Biological Weapons Convention urged the resumption of multilateral negotiations to conclude a non-discriminatory legally binding protocol, dealing with all the treaty’s articles, in a balanced and comprehensive manner to sustainably strengthen it. 

He called on all Member States to support international efforts and to take and strengthen national measures that would prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, their delivery means, and materials and technologies related to their manufacture.  Noting the Security Council resolutions on weapons of mass destruction, he underscored the need to ensure that action by the Council did not undermine the Charter, or existing multilateral treaties on the subject or international organizations established in that regard.  He cautioned against the Council’s practice of using its authority to define legislative requirements for Member States in implementing its decisions, and stressed that non-State actors’ acquisition of mass destruction weapons should be addressed in an inclusive manner by the General Assembly, taking into account the views of all Member States. 

AMR FATHI ALJOWAILY (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group and associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Group’s cardinal position was to realize a world free of weapons of mass destruction, be they nuclear, biological or chemical, with special attention to the target of establishing a zone free of those weapons in the Middle East.  The Arab Group had always supported those multilateral agreements and continued to participate in their work.  The first special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament had defined clearly and with consensus the priorities of disarmament of all nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and in that respect, priority should be given to nuclear disarmament. 

He said the Arab Group was translating that conviction into practical measures by, among others, seeking to rid the Middle East region from all weapons of mass destruction in line with the Plan of Action adopted at the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.  There was no doubt that the universalization of the NPT required Israel’s accession as a non-nuclear-weapon State.  While the Arab Group abided by its obligations, Israel continued its position of rejecting adherence to the NPT.

The Iraqi delegation had submitted a report to the Secretariat on the activities and efforts of the Arab Group, he said, and it was now incumbent on the remaining parties to resume their responsibility towards establishing a zone in the Middle East.  The Arab Group welcomed all efforts that sought to accelerate efforts in that regard, and had deposited official letters with the Secretary-General reflecting that commitment.  He was convinced that the First Committee would play its role by helping to ensure the majority adoption of “L.2”.

JULIETTE BABB-RILEY (Barbados), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the capabilities and tactics of terrorists were becoming ever more sophisticated, posing an ever evolving and asymmetric threat to national and international peace and security.  Terrorists’ acquisition of weapons of mass destruction was a very real possibility and must be met with firm political will, constant vigilance and international collaboration.  Member States must take and strengthen national measures to prevent that occurrence.  In that, cross-sectoral partnerships between Governments, industry and communities were essential.

She said the recent use of chemical weapons in Syria represented a timely reminder of the urgent need for the international community to deepen its commitment to eliminate them, as well as all nuclear, radiological and biological weapons and their delivery systems.  CARICOM States continued to commit considerable resources to implement legislation, attendant regulations and administrative controls to prevent the transhipment, transit, import, export, and brokering of dual-use materials and other strategic goods, which could be used to produce weapons of mass destruction.  In particular, they continued to focus on the development of adequate export control infrastructure, control lists governing strategic items, as well as the training of enforcement and operational personnel to detect, identify, and interdict those prohibited commodities and to prosecute violations where appropriate.

MAY-ELIN STENER (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said last year’s terrible chemical attacks in Syria “shocked an entire world and reminded us that the use of weapons of mass destruction continues to be a serious threat”.  The elimination of Syria’s declared chemical weapons, in line with Security Council resolution 2118 (    ) was not “almost completed”.  It was essential to remove those weapons from Syria to ensure they would not be used again against the civilian population or fall into the hands of militant groups.  The international mission to remove and destroy those weapons was unprecedented.  Despite the ongoing brutal civil war, the international community had succeeded in removing Syria’s declared weapons in a peaceful manner.  “This is the first time a country’s arsenal of weapons of mass destruction has been removed in such a way.”

Commending the international cooperation on that mission and the countries and organizations that had assisted it, she said that, in many ways, the operations represented new and unchartered territory for the international community, from which lessons should be learned.  The Nordic countries were deeply concerned that the fact-finding mission of the Organisation on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had confirmed reports of recent systematic and repeated use of chlorine gas against civilians in Syria.  The use of that toxic chemical as a weapon was a clear breach of the Chemical Weapons Convention.  All perpetrators must be held accountable, she said, voicing support for the OPCW’s continued mission.  Its latest information was “clear-cut”, and had included reports from witnesses that attacks were invariably linked to the use of helicopters; only the Syrian regime possessed the capability to use helicopters in that way. 

More broadly, she said that destruction of chemical weapons in possessor States was a “vital task, and is far from completed”.  In that connection, the Nordic countries urged the Russian Federation, the United States and Libya to expedite destruction of their arsenals, and urged all countries not party to the Convention to accede and become members of the “OPCW”.  Fostering international cooperation in the peaceful uses of chemistry and the prevention of terrorism were also important goals.  Turning to the Biological Weapons Convention, she said biotechnology was a rapidly evolving science, and ambitious and forward-looking initiatives were required to strengthen the Convention.  Ongoing efforts to reinforce it should include strengthening the Secretary-General’s investigative mechanism for alleged use of biological weapons. 

NICOLE HEW A KEE (Suriname), speaking on behalf of the Union of South American States (UNASUR), strongly condemned the existence of chemical and biological weapons, and reiterated that their use was both a war crime and a crime against humanity.  She reaffirmed the Union’s commitment to the prohibition of the development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons, and to their total elimination, as agreed in the Chemical Weapons Convention.  She expressed concern about the possibility that chlorine gas was used on civilians in Syria, and condemned the attack against the Convention’s fact finding mission there.  She welcomed Syria’s accession to the Convention and acknowledged its progress on eliminating its chemical weapons programme.

She called on States that had not yet acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention to do so promptly, and to eliminate those stockpiles, asking that any States’ parties’ possessors of those weapons destroy their arsenals within the agreed timeframe.  Regarding biological weapons, she reaffirmed the Union’s readiness to advance the implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention, and shared the idea that effective international action against biological threats needed to be universal, legally binding and non-discriminatory.

CLARA GANSLANDT, representative of the European Union delegation, condemned all use of chemical weapons in Syria as a violation of international law, a war crime and a crime against humanity, stressing that the perpetrators must be held accountable.  The effective and prompt response by the international community leading to the removal and destruction of the declared Syrian chemicals was a significant step towards the needed complete and irreversible dismantling of the country’s chemical weapons programme.  Noting the Union’s contribution of 17 million euros to that effort, she said that the strict application of the Chemical Weapons Convention must be guaranteed.  She further called on States parties to the Biological Weapons Convention to meet the requirements set by successive review conferences.

She said that international cooperation was also vital to prevent non-State actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.  The Union had adopted projects in support of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004), including assistance to third countries in their compliance efforts, and would support the adoption of the biennial First Committee resolution “Preventing the acquisition by terrorists of radioactive sources”.  Expressing concern at tests of short- and medium-range missiles recently conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran “outside” all transparency and pre-notification schemes and in violation of Council resolutions, and about the Syrian Government’s use of hundreds of ballistic missiles, called for universal adherence to the Hague Code of Conduct and noted the importance of export controls to prevent proliferation.

VENKATESH VARMA (India), associating with Non-Aligned Movement, said his delegation attached high importance to the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions as examples of non-discriminatory disarmament treaties aimed at the total elimination of specific types of weapons of mass destruction.  He reaffirmed that disarmament was a primary goal of the Chemical Weapons Convention and should remain the priority until the complete destruction of all stocks.  India had completed the destruction of its chemical weapon stockpiles in 2009 within that Convention’s stipulated timeframe.  The use of chemical weapons anywhere and by anyone must be condemned and the international norm against the use of chemical weapons must not be breached.

India, he said, had contributed to international efforts in line with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for the destruction of Syria’s declared chemical weapon stockpiles.  Further, India remained committed to improving the effectiveness of the Biological Weapons Convention.  It was critical for the success of that treaty that its obligations were fully and effectively implemented.  India attached high importance to the full and effective implementation of its article X.  India had filed a report in relation to Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) as well as submitted periodic updates.  His country was also committed to maintaining the highest international standards with reference to the control of chemical, biological and toxin items.  In that regard, it had made considerable progress in its engagement with the Australia Group and other export control regimes with a view to seeking full membership.

YOUNG-JIP AHN (Republic of Korea) said that in order to prevent the use of chemical weapons, universal adherence to the Convention must be achieved.  The Biological Weapons Convention was the first to ban a whole type of weapons of mass destruction; however the regime faced unique challenges with advances in biotechnology and life science and the widespread availability of that technology.  In light of increasing potential threats, that Convention needed to be reinforced if it was to adequately address those challenges while still guaranteeing the peaceful use of biotechnology.  Efforts to strengthen that Convention’s regime should start with an effective implementation of the Convention, including by enacting and enforcing appropriate national legislative measures.  Universality of the Convention was another pillar for a stronger regime.  In that regard, he welcomed Myanmar’s recent progress in the ratification of the Convention.

CLAUDIA YURIRIA GARCÍA GUIZA (Mexico) said that a system for international peace and security should not be maintained on the basis of weapons of mass destruction, but rather on the basis of social development, international justice and the implementation of the rule of law.  She said that major progress had been made in global disarmament and non-proliferation, but more was needed to rid the world of those weapons.  She praised the “OPCW” for the critical role it played in Syria, particularly those in the field carrying out the programme.  Those weapons’ complete destruction before the deadline was an historic event in efforts to build a world free of weapons of mass destruction.

The speaker commended the Biological Weapons Convention as a fundamental pillar for the international disarmament regime, noting that the current situation in West Africa due to Ebola was a warning to the international community about questions concerning global public health.  On that issue, she said it was crucial for the Biological Weapons Convention develop synergies with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health to complement its efforts.

ROBERT A. WOOD (United States) noted that last year, the Security Council had welcomed the decision of the OPCW that legally mandate the complete elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons programme.  Those decisions were “an historic and unprecedented achievement”.  However, serious concerns remained, including Syria’s use of chemical weapons in direct contravention of its obligation under Security Council resolution 2118 (2013), the Chemical Weapons Convention and the decisions of the OPCW Executive Council.  On 10 September, the latter body’s fact-finding mission had confirmed the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  The mission’s second report contains a “compelling set of conclusions and evidentiary findings implicating the Syrian Government in deadly chemical weapons attacks” during April and May.  The mission expressed a high degree of confidence that chlorine gas was used as a weapon, “systematically and repeatedly” in northern Syria.  The mission emphasized that “`in describing the incidents involving the release of toxic chemicals, witnesses invariably connected the devices to helicopters flying overhead’.”  It was well known that “only the Syrian military possesses the capability to use helicopters in such attacks”. 

He said that the use of chlorine was a clear breach of both the Convention and resolution 2118 (2013) and it raised serious concerns about Syria’s willingness to comply with its treaty obligations not to possess chemical weapons. The United States was also concerned about “gaps, discrepancies and inconsistencies” in Syria’s declaration, which gave rise to important questions and concerns about his accuracy and completely.  Syria must provide the international community with “credible evidence to support its assurances that it has fully abandoned its chemical weapons programme”.  Complete and accurate declarations must be provided, and destruction of Syria’s remaining chemical weapons production facilities must be completed “The Syrian CW file remains open and will not be closed until all of these issues are addressed”. 

At the same time, he said, sight must not be lost of the threat posed by biological weapons, whether in the hands of States or non-State actors.  The Biological Weapons Convention embodied “an aspiration as profound as that of the CWC:  to completely exclude the possibility of biological agents and toxins being used as weapons”.  The United States strongly supported the Biological Weapons Convention, and despite efforts to strengthen it, the agenda had not been matched by the resources or political will needed to deliver results.  Even absent agreement on how to go about it all, there is agreement on the need to find ways to strengthen confidence that the parties to the Biological Weapons Convention were living up to their obligations.

VLADIMIR ERMAKOV (Russian Federation) called on all partners in the Chemical Weapons Convention to fully fulfil its provisions and create national legislation and organizations to do so.  He also called on all States that had not signed that Convention to do so forthwith.  A major achievement in the field of strengthening the non-proliferation and disarmament regime was the chemical demilitarization of Syria.  The international community should not forget that the whole operation became possible only after achieving a highly complex political agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States, and relevant intergovernmental agreements between the Russian Federation and Syria.  As a result, Syria was in a highly complex international political condition and had taken an historic decision to relinquish its chemical weapons.

In short order and in full compliance with its commitments, Syria had abandoned its chemical arsenal, he said.  Official resolutions from the United Nations and the OPCW repeatedly stressed the high level of cooperation from the Syrian Government.  As a result, the elimination of the emergency dimension of the so-called Syrian chemical dossier had been achieved.  Now it should be considered under regular procedure under the OPCW.  In that sense, he cautioned against trying to “hype this theme” again.  Of course, any evidence of the use of chemical agents against civilians should be analysed by experts as part of the OPCW.  However, until the conclusion of such investigations, any judgements passed could only be considered as a politicized and baseless conjecture.

Turning to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, he said it was “no secret” to anyone that many achievements in the field of biotechnology had potential for dual use.  The main weak point for that treaty was the lack of a way to control and monitor the compliance of commitments.  It was clear that the Convention had not grown any stronger.  All knew that, by itself, it did not contain a direct ban on the use of biological weapons, and in that regard, drew on the authority of the Geneva Protocol; that should be further strengthened by universalizing it and by the lifting by States of their earlier reservations for allowing for retaliatory use of chemical and biological weapons.  He commended Portugal for lifting its national reservations on the Geneva Protocol, and called on all States concerned to follow that example.

IVIAN DEL SOL DOMINGUEZ (Cuba), associating with Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated its appeal for general and complete disarmament.  She condemned the use of chemical weapons, irrespective of who used them or where they were used, and reiterated the need for all States to comply with their obligations of non-proliferation of all mass destruction weapons.  On chemical weapons, she said it was urgent to adopt a plan of action towards the implementation of article XI of the Chemical Weapons Convention.  She also urged the international community to assist Syria in the implementation for the Convention and praised the destruction of its chemical weapons arsenal, which was implemented in a tight timeframe and under challenging conditions.  The total destruction of chemical weapons should remain a principle objective of that Convention, she said, adding that the objectives could be better achieved through the negotiation of multilateral agreements.

On the Biological Weapons Convention, she said her delegation supported all efforts towards its universality, and emphasized that more needed to be on implementation of its article X.

TOSHIO SANO (Japan) said it was essential to strengthen efforts to universalize the Chemical Weapons Convention and also to provide incentives, including expertise and technical assistance, to encourage States to join it.  His country participated in and supported the OPCW’s mock industry inspection in Myanmar in August, sharing its experiences as a State party, which received industry inspections daily.  It was important to destroy the Syrian chemical weapons materials and their production facilities as soon as possible.  Japan had contributed about $18 million to the United Nations and the OPCW for that effort.  The second report of the fact-finding mission concluded that activities contravening the Convention had been carried out repeatedly and systematically in Syria.  His delegation could not overlook such a serious issue.

On the destruction of abandoned chemical weapons in China, he said Japan invested enormous human and financial resources in that unprecedented and extremely challenging undertaking, which could only be carried out through close cooperation and coordination with China.  Regarding the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, he said its universalization had become more important than ever to enhance international security because advancement in life science not only brought enormous benefits but also could increase biological threats if misused.  In that connection, he welcomed Myanmar’s recent announcement of its intention to ratify the Convention.

Ms. ABDULRAHMAN AL-THANI (Qatar), associating with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said the issue of disarmament and non-proliferation was of great importance to the international community.  The previous decade had shown the dangers of weapons of mass destruction; the world could better learn from the experiences of the two World Wars, which resulted in millions victims.  To avoid those dangers, the international community had deployed tremendous efforts to “raise” international instruments.  The region to which her country belonged was full of political struggle, and the threat of weapons of mass destruction had motivated Qatar’s participation in any effort to remove the use or the threat of use of those weapons from the region and to strengthen international peace and security in the area.  The answer was not an arms race, but rather strong economies that could provide prosperity and a dignified life for the people.

JEAN-HUGHES SIMON-MICHEL (France), associating with the European Union, said the conclusions of the fact-finding mission that chlorine had been used “systemically and repeatedly” as a chemical weapon in Syria in 2014 were unequivocal.  It would be unacceptable for the perpetrators of those crimes to benefit from impunity, he said, adding that Syria must assure the international community that its chemical programme was completely and irreversibly dismantled by clarifying gaps in its initial declaration and destroying without delay its chemical weapons production facilities.  In this context, France supported the OPCW and called on States that had not yet done so to join the Convention.

Within the framework of the Biological Weapons Convention, France had proposed setting up a peer-review mechanism.  That proposal aimed to increased trust and transparency between States parties, as well as the sharing of best practices regarding the treaty’s implementation.  On the issue of delivery systems of weapons of mass destruction, he said that missiles were an issue of concern that must be urgently addressed.  That said, the international community must step up its efforts to increase the effectiveness of multilateral agreements, particularly The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation and the Missile Technology Control Regime.  In that regard, France supported efforts towards the universalization of the Code.

MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ (Colombia) said that the weapons of mass destruction were not designed for self-defence, which was the reason why his country was a party to both the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions.  He praised the support of the European Union to establish a national authority in charge of ensuring their effective implementation.  He also acknowledged the support of the Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America as well as that of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs.  He called on States that had not yet joined the Convention on Chemical Weapons to do so as soon as possible.  He reiterated his country's support for the OPCW as well as for Security Council resolution 1540 (2004), which completed the existing regime.

For information media. Not an official record.