The world was currently witnessing the renewed use of chemical weapons, and there was no reason to think that a moral line would be drawn at the use of biological weapons, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) heard today as it concluded its thematic debate on nuclear weapons and took up its consideration of other weapons of mass destruction.
The Syrian Government’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention, said the representative of the United States, was “an act of political expediency” in the face of mounting international pressure arising from its launch of a “horrific attack” with the nerve agent sarin against an opposition-controlled suburb of Damascus. That accession, he said, had not proven to be an actual renunciation of chemical weapons. The United States was seriously concerned that the Syrian Government continued to violate the Convention’s fundamental obligations.
The representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, expressed outrage at the continued use of toxic chemicals as weapons in the Syrian conflict, and grave concern about recent reports alleging the use of sulphur mustard by a terrorist organization in Iraq and Syria. Any use of chemical weapons anywhere, at any time, by anyone, under any circumstances, was unacceptable and a violation of international law. The destruction of chemical weapons in the possessor States remained vital, she said, urging the Russian Federation, the United States and Libya to meet their targets.
The Union of South American Nations condemned the use of such weapons — of any toxic weapon, including chlorine — of the view that it constituted a war crime and crime against humanity. Speaking on the group’s behalf, the representative of Uruguay reiterated the importance of the decision by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons, as well as Security Council resolution 2118 (2013), and called on all States with chemical weapons to destroy their stocks within the agreed timeframe.
Chemical weapons were first used on a massive scale 100 years ago, said Mexico’s representative, expressing sadness that they had been used again, this time, against civilians in Syria. She strongly condemned those events, which she agreed were war crimes. Since September 2013, OPCW had shown its relevance and efficiency by supervising work in Syria, which had included a fact-finding mission to identify the systematic use of chlorine gas against the Syrian population.
Also of the view that the situation in Syria remained “worrisome” was the representative of France, who said the OPCW had already confirmed the use of chlorine gas in Syria, but it had not been able to identify those responsible for the attacks, as it had no mandate to do so. She therefore welcomed the investigating mechanism established by the Security Council, which, together with the OPCW, could put an end to impunity and the chemical threat. Proliferation of missiles capable of delivering mass destruction weapons must also be addressed.
Nothing could justify the use of chemical weapons, given their devastating humanitarian consequences, said South Africa’s speaker, as he called for total implementation of both the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions and transparent, irreversible progress towards nuclear disarmament. He welcomed progress in the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons and facilities, but expressed concern over the alleged use of those weapons by Syria and Iraq.
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking on behalf of the “BRICS” countries — Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa — attached high importance to the Biological Weapons Convention as a treaty banning an entire class of weapons. This year marked the Convention’s fortieth anniversary of entry into force, he noted, stressing that its full potential must be achieved on a sustainable basis impervious to the vicissitudes of what might lay ahead. By so doing, Member States would send a clear signal that it was possible to enhance international security through multilateral negotiations.
As the thematic debate on nuclear weapons wrapped up, the representative of the Marshall Islands said her country had experienced 67 nuclear-weapon tests between 1946 and 1958. The total tonnage of United States’ tests in the Marshall Islands was 100 times greater than that of United States atmospheric nuclear tests at the Nevada test site, and by the 1980s, the health effects of fallout and radiation exposure from a total of 67 bombs dropped on the Islands was evident, with cancer rates among the Marshallese people between two and three times higher than among United States’ citizens. She urged the world community to recognize that nuclear weapons must never again be used again under any circumstances.
Also speaking during the weapons of mass destruction cluster were representatives of Indonesia (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Oman (on behalf of the Arab Group), China, Bangladesh, Algeria, Australia, Qatar, India, Switzerland, Libya, Cuba, Republic of Korea, Spain, Ireland, Hungary, Poland, Pakistan, Indonesia (in its national capacity), Turkey and Lithuania, as well as a representative of the European Union.
Exercising the right of reply were the representatives of Japan, Syria, China, Turkey and the United States.
Speakers during the cluster on nuclear weapons were representatives of Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Iran, as well as an observer of the Holy See.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 23 October, to continue its thematic discussions.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met today to conclude its thematic debate on nuclear weapons and begin its debate on other weapons of mass destruction. For more information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3529.
Thematic Debate on Nuclear Weapons
BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan) said his delegation was ready to work with other delegations to achieve the common disarmament goals and objectives. The people of Kazakhstan suffered from the fallout of nuclear tests, and had first-hand experiences of those tests’ catastrophic outcomes. The international community had for many years been deeply divided on the issue of nuclear disarmament. Real progress in nuclear disarmament required collective commitment on a global scale, as well as genuine compromise, and not simply routine reiterations of national policies. Chronic deadlock had given rise to a loss of confidence in the whole process, and reaching a consensus on the basic goal would be a step forward in rebuilding it. A universal declaration had been pursued at the United Nations for so long that it had become part of the Organization’s identity as an institution. It could and must make all nations united. It was crucial to end the disarmament standstill and begin the journey ahead.
JOHN CHIKA EJINAKA (Nigeria), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, the Group of African States, the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative and the De-Alerting Group, introduced a draft resolution, titled, “African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty”, also known as the Treaty of Pelindaba, and requested the support of all Member States. The significance of nuclear-weapon-free zones lay, not just in their banning of the production and possession of those weapons in a particular region, but also in the prohibition of the stationing of such weapons within those zones. The risk of nuclear materials falling into the hands of non-State actors and the possible transfer of nuclear technology to terrorist groups remained a matter of great concern to his delegation. While some nuclear-weapon States had publicly announced reductions in their arsenals, the burden of a world with thousands of “these doomsday weapons” was unacceptable. Nigeria joined the call to ban all nuclear weapons, which were the only known weapons of mass destruction not yet prohibited by an international legal instrument.
AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that while the outcome of the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference was disappointing, it should not deter States’ resolve towards realizing a world free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was now recognized as imperative, and Sri Lanka was moving towards that goal. It was also planning support activities with the CTBT Organization (CTBTO) this year, involving a regional on-site inspection training programme. In an era where there was a distinct and dangerous possibility that non-State actors could acquire nuclear material and technology, the role of nuclear security could not be over-emphasized. He also highlighted the importance of peace and disarmament education, in particular, the initiative taken in Sri Lanka to establish the Weeramantry International Center for Peace Education and Research.
DEBORAH BARKER-MANASE (Marshall Islands), supporting Palau’s statement, said her country had experienced 67 nuclear-weapon tests between 1946 and 1958. The total tonnage of United States’ tests in the Marshall Islands was 100 times greater than that of United States atmospheric nuclear tests at the Nevada test site, and by the 1980s, the health effects of fallout and radiation exposure from a total of 67 bombs dropped on the Islands was evident, with cancer rates among the Marshallese people between two and three times higher than among United States’ citizens, according to an health survey by Dr. Rosalie Bertell and the International Institute of Concern for Public Health. The international community must underscore the importance of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and the fact-based discussions, which had been presented at the three humanitarian conferences. She urged the international community to recognize that nuclear weapons must never be used again under any circumstances; the status quo was unacceptable. Consensus had been blocked in the Conference on Disarmament for two decades. It was time for United Nations Member States to take action towards negotiating a world free of nuclear weapons, within forums that did not operate under the rigid rule of unanimity and which provided avenues for civil society’s participation.
SEYED MOHAMMAD ALI ROBATJAZI (Iran), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, drew attention to his delegation’s submission of a biennial draft resolution, titled “Follow-Up to Nuclear Disarmament Obligations Agreed to at the 1995, 2000 and 2010 Review Conferences of the Parties to the NPT”, which called for full and non-selective implementation of the nuclear disarmament obligations agreed at those conferences. The unprecedented dissatisfaction voiced at the 2013 United Nations high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament, at the 2014 Vienna Conference and the 2015 NPT Review Conference bore strong testimony to the deep frustration and the existing “piecemeal approach” to nuclear disarmament. An “outdated and erroneous” security paradigm lay at the core of the disarmament predicament, as that paradigm was premised on a polarizing world divided into two distinct camps. However, the frustration over the lack of progress should neither turn into pessimism and passiveness nor cause States to resort to actions that would lead to further division among NPT States parties.
ANTHONY SALVIA, observer for the Holy See, said that nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutually assured destruction were irreconcilable with an ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence among peoples and among States. He was painfully aware that the entry into force of the CTBT was languishing. On the other hand, he welcomed the ongoing successful implementation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between the Russian Federation and the United States and the agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme. The 2016 Nuclear Security Summit should work to constrain, not only nuclear weapon materials, but more broadly, radiological materials lest those became subjected to theft and used in dirty bombs.
Thematic Debate on Other Weapons of Mass Destruction
KAMAPRADIPTA ISNOMO (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed the need to prevent the emergence of new types of weapons of mass destruction, and supported the need to monitor and, if necessary, take international action as required. The Movement States parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention) welcomed the effectiveness of that instrument’s operation as the only comprehensive multilateral treaty banning an entire category of weapons and providing for a verification system, while also promoting the use of chemicals for peaceful purposes. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) must be ever ready to provide timely and necessary assistance and protection against use or threat of use of chemical weapons, including for the victims. The Movement’s States parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (Biological Weapons Convention) believed that treaty to be an important component of the international legal architecture related to weapons of mass destruction. He urged Member States to support efforts to prevent terrorists from acquiring mass destruction weapons and their delivery means, and to strengthen national measures.
MARIA CLAUDIA GARCIA MOYANO (Uruguay), speaking on behalf of the Union of South American Nations, said that through resolution 2107 (2005), those States had decided to fulfil concretely their objective to rid their region free of biological and chemical weapons. The Union strongly condemned the use of such weapons, and supported the Chemical Weapons Convention’s full implementation. As reiterated at that body’s seventh summit, it viewed the use of those weapons as a war crime and a crime against humanity, and it roundly condemned the use of any toxic chemical, such as chlorine, as a weapon. She reiterated the importance of the OPCW resolution on the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons, as approved by the Security Council in resolution 2118 (2013), and called on all States with chemical weapons to destroy their arsenals within the agreed timeframe. She highlighted the Hague Conference and the consensus approval of its final report, which reaffirmed the fundamental importance of the Biological Weapons Convention and pledged the Union’s readiness to further its full implementation. Any action against biological threats should be legally binding and non-discriminatory, and she called for the resumption of negotiations to establish its effective verification.
MOHAMED AHMED SALIM AL-SHANFARI (Oman), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group and associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the goal was to create a world free of weapons of mass destruction. During the last NPT Review Conference, the Group had expressed its support for the creation of a zone in the Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction and had shown that conviction by staking steps towards their elimination in the Middle East. The Arab Group had always supported the Chemical Weapons Convention and continued to participate actively in that regard. The Group considered that Israel’s adherence to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon State would contribute to building trust and expanding the Treaty’s universality, as well as strengthening international and regional security, as well as the credibility of the international non-proliferation regime. The Group urged the international community to step up its efforts to achieve the universality of all international treaties pertaining to weapons of mass destruction, including those concerning creation of a zone in its region. He attached importance to negotiations towards that goal, as evidenced by the working document presented by the Arab Group and adopted and endorsed by the Non-Aligned Movement. The Group aspired to a positive contribution by Israel, and reminded the international community of its political and moral responsibility towards creating a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.
TITTA MAJA (Finland), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said that the group had played a significant role in the mission to remove and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. Those agents that were removed were now almost fully destroyed. Against that background, the Nordic countries were particularly outraged by the continued use of toxic chemicals as weapons in the Syrian conflict, and were gravely concerned by recent reports alleging the use of sulphur mustard by a terrorist organization in Iraq and Syria. Any use of chemical weapons anywhere, at any time, by anyone, under any circumstances, was unacceptable and a violation of international law. She expressed concern about gaps, discrepancies and inconsistencies in Syria’s chemical weapons declaration, and called on that country to cooperate fully with the OPCW’s Declaration Assessment Team.
She said that the destruction of chemical weapons in the possessor States remained a vital task, which was far from complete. She urged the Russian Federation, the United States and Libya to expedite destruction and meet their targets. She also called on Egypt, Israel and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — the last countries that had not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention — to do so without delay. On another note, she said the Ebola epidemic in West Africa had demonstrated that outbreaks of infectious diseases were not only a matter of public health but also might precipitate humanitarian, economic and security crises. That underscored the need to build, strengthen and sustain health systems and to ensure the full implementation of the International Health Regulations and specified core capacities. She welcomed the Global Health Security Agenda, which was aimed at establishing capacity to prevent, detect and rapidly respond to biological threats, whether natural, intentional or accidental.
VLADIMIR YERMAKOV (Russian Federation), speaking on behalf of the “BRICS” countries — Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa — attached high importance to the Biological Weapons Convention as the first disarmament treaty banning an entire class of weapons of mass destruction. Welcoming the fact that 173 States parties had acceded to it, he stressed the importance of efforts to ensure its universal adherence. The Treaty’s original purpose as formulated in its preamble — “to exclude the possibility of bacteriological agents and toxins being used as weapons” — had remained relevant since 1972, and its importance was reaffirmed against the backdrop of the increasing pace of developments in dual-use science and technology. This year marked the Convention’s fortieth anniversary of entry into force, and his group shared the widespread interest among States parties to improve its implementation through a legally binding Protocol. Effectiveness could be greatly enhanced through the adoption of a universal, legally binding, non-discriminatory Protocol, dealing with all articles of the Convention, including verification, in a balanced and comprehensive manner. The Convention’s full potential must be achieved on a sustainable basis impervious to the vicissitudes of what might lay ahead. By so doing, Member States would send a clear signal that it was possible to enhance international security through multilateral negotiations and promoting the role of the Convention in reducing and eliminating the biological weapons’ threat to international peace and security.
JACEK BYLICA, representative of the European Union, said that the removal and ongoing destruction of Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile and remaining production facilities was a significant step towards the necessary complete and irreversible dismantling of that country’s programme. The European Union had contributed 17 million Euros for the joint United Nations-OPCW plan. The evidence presented by the OPCW fact-finding mission was substantial and included reports of helicopter use, which only the Syrian regime possessed. He welcomed the adoption of United Nations Security Council resolution 2235 (2015) and called for the cooperation of the Syrian authorities in a transparent way with the OPCW Declaration Assessment Team. The Chemical Weapons Convention was a key component of the non-proliferation and disarmament framework, the Union’s Member States were the largest contributors to the OPCW. It had also funded numerous projects in support of the Biological Weapons Convention, and furthering the implementation of its “wmd- [weapons of mass destruction] related” Centers of Excellence initiative, the largest such endeavour ever undertaken by the Union, which had dedicated 100 million Euros to fulfilling its aims.
ROBERT WOOD (United States) said that the accession of the Syrian Government to the Chemical Weapons Convention was “an act of political expediency” in the face of mounting international pressure arising from its launch of a “horrific attack” with the nerve agent sarin against an opposition-controlled suburb of Damascus. Unfortunately, that accession had not proved to be an actual renunciation of chemical weapons, and the United States had cause for serious concern that the Syrian Government continued to violate the fundamental obligations of the Convention. The OPCW fact-finding mission had confirmed the use of such weapons in Syria a year ago, and with a high degree of confidence, had confirmed that a toxic chemical, likely chlorine, was used as a weapon systematically and repeatedly. Concerns about continued chemical use in Syria were compounded by the recent OPCW Technical Secretariat’s report on discrepancies and omissions in that country’s declaration and related information submissions.
He said that the world was currently witnessing the renewed use of chemical weapons and there was no reason to think that a moral line would be drawn at the use of biological weapons. Next year’s Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference was an opportunity to take stronger international action to confront that threat. Some Governments were calling for the negotiation of a legally binding Protocol to the Convention, but that was unfortunately “a road that goes nowhere”. Instead differences should be set aside and practical steps should be the focus. “Let’s not wait until the day when we can agree on everything.”
FU CONG (China) said his country faithfully and strictly implemented its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, making positive contributions to promoting its universality and effectiveness. With strong conviction in political settlement of disputes, China was active in international efforts to solve the Syrian chemical-weapon issue, providing experts and equipment for verification. China had always committed itself to the comprehensive implementations of the Biological Weapons Convention, and had established a comprehensive legislative framework and national implementation mechanism, exercised effective control over export of dual-use biological items and technologies, and endeavoured to strengthen bio-safety and security.
He said that during Japan’s aggression against China from 1931 to 1945, the Japanese army had built a large number of poisonous gas factories and chemical-weapon assembly plants in many Chinese cities, and had deployed chemical warfare troops. Even today, a huge amount of abandoned Japanese chemical weapons on Chinese soil still posed a grave threat to people’s lives and health. For Japan, the destruction of the chemical weapons it had abandoned in China fell under the purview of a binding international obligation under the Chemical Weapons Convention. It was disconcerting to note that Japan had failed to meet the deadline for destroying those weapons; the current pace was behind schedule.
SHAMEEM AHSAN (Bangladesh), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that despite having universal instruments like the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions, the world was not yet safe from them. Some recent occurrences were a sad reminder of that harsh reality. He reiterated his country’s unflinching commitment to general and complete disarmament and non-proliferation, which remained a constitutional obligation. In 1997, right after ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention, Bangladesh submitted the necessary information regarding chemical weapons and their production facilities. In line with its accession to the Biological Weapons Convention, Bangladesh had continued to manifest strong commitment towards total renunciation of biological and toxin weapons, both nationally and internationally. Because of the rapid advances in the field of sciences and the emergence of non-State actors, the threat of chemical or biological weapons was not receding. That was why the international community needed to redouble its efforts to ensure effective implementation of those Conventions. In that light, he hoped that the scourge of those weapons would be totally eradicated from the globe.
MARÍA ANTONIETA JÁQUEZ HUACUJA (Mexico) said that 100 years ago, chemical weapons were massively used for the first time in history, at Ypres, and she expressed sadness that they had been used again today, this time, against the civilian population in Syria. She strongly condemned those events, which were war crimes that ran counter to international humanitarian law and human rights. The Chemical Weapons Convention, established more than 20 years ago, had 191 States parties, the most of any disarmament instrument. Since September 2013, the OPCW had shown its relevance and efficiency by supervising work in Syria, which had included a fact-finding mission to identify the systematic use of chlorine gas against the Syrian population. The Biological Weapons Convention had entered into force 40 years ago, and it was important to report on confidence-building measures to ensure verification of its national implementation. The apparatus built through that treaty could be strengthened, and collectively, States could define it, not just through financial cooperation, but also through such exchanges as lessons learned, education and technical information.
MOHAMEED BESSEDIK (Algeria), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Arab Group, said weapons of mass destruction of any type were a threat to humankind. The complete elimination of those weapons, in particular, nuclear weapons was a top priority. He expressed satisfaction regarding the outcome of the Chemical Weapons Convention Review Conference. That excellent convention not only sought the elimination of chemical weapons, but also sought to promote the peaceful uses of those substances, an endeavour that his country wished to continue promoting. On the Biological Weapons Convention, he said it was essential to comply with all its provisions in order for the text to be truly legally binding. Also crucial was to work together to prevent the creation of new weapons of mass destruction. It was important to strengthen the role of the Conference on Disarmament and implement steps that could lead to the elimination of weapons that needed to be eliminated, such as those containing radiation or phosphorous. He was deeply concern at the obstacles put in the path of creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East; the total lack of progress on that key issue was worrying. Israel’s continued refusal to sign the conventions prohibiting weapons of mass destruction was a very serious threat to the region and the world.
ALICE GUITTON (France), associating with the European Union, said the issue of “other weapons of mass destruction” remained of fundamental importance to her delegation, and the situation in Syria remained worrisome. Council resolution 2235 (2015), establishing a mechanism for investigations into the use of chemical weapons in Syria, was an important development. The OPCW had already confirmed the use of chlorine gas in Syria, but it had not been able to identify those responsible for the attacks, as it had no mandate to do so. The investigative mechanism established allowed the international community to entrust that task to a neutral and independent body, and to that end, would work in close coordination with the OPCW to put an end to impunity and to the chemical threat. More generally, recent developments were another demonstration of the urgency of finding a political solution in Syria.
She noted that France was the depository of the 1925 Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare. That constituted the first text aimed at prohibiting the use of those weapons even in wartime. Also touching on the importance of the Biological Weapons Convention, she said the issue of delivery systems of weapons of mass destruction was also central, and the Iranian and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s programmes, in particular, were ongoing, in violation of Security Council resolutions 1540 (2004), 1887 (2009) and 1977 (2011) on the proliferation of missiles capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction. Missile proliferation needed to be urgently addressed, which was why the international community must step up its efforts to strengthen multilateral arrangements, including the Hague Code of Conduct Against ballistic Missile Proliferation, which France would like to see universalized.
MICHIEL COMBRINK (South Africa), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and BRICS, said that nothing could justify the use of chemical weapons, given their devastating humanitarian consequences. He called for the universal and total implementation of the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions and transparent, irreversible progress towards nuclear disarmament. He welcomed progress in the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons and facilities, but expressed concern over the alleged use of those weapons by Syria and Iraq. Turning to the Biological Weapons Convention, in addition to its obvious security benefits, he suggested the promotion of capacity-building in the containment of infectious diseases. The next Review Conference was an opportunity to strengthen that treaty. South Africa had submitted a working paper on article VII on assistance to States.
IAN MCCONVILLE (Australia) said that the international community must remain steadfast in countering the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons, as no circumstances justified their use. “Tragically, atrocities still occur,” he said, expressing deep concern about ongoing reports of chemical weapons use in Syria and Iraq, including from the OPCW that chlorine had been used as a weapon in three locations in Syria from April to August 2014. Welcoming the adoption of Security Council resolution 2235 (2015), which would enable the identification of those responsible for using weapons in Syria, he said that his country had provided $2 million towards the destruction of Syria’s chemical-weapon capabilities. In that vein, he called on the international community to redouble efforts to completely eliminate remaining chemical weapons stockpiles and production capabilities; to prevent the acquisition, production and use of chemical weapons; and hold top perpetrators accountable.
He went on to stress the need to work collaboratively to adjust policies and regulations to reflect the constantly evolving threats and technologies in the weapons of mass destruction field, including through robust export controls. Through regular meetings of the Australia Group, which the country chaired, countries collaborated on new ways to curb the spread of chemical and biological weapons. In addition, as Chair of the Western Group, his country remained committed to strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention, including working to achieve a successful Review Conference in 2016. Finally, he urged all United Nations Member States to fulfil their obligations under Security Council resolution 1540 (2004), among others, as that text remained central in combatting the challenge of weapons of mass destruction proliferation.
AHMAD BIN MOHAMMED (Qatar), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Arab Group, said that the dangers linked to the use of weapons of mass destruction were growing. Humankind remembered the atrocities and the disastrous experiences, as well as the frightful cost paid by millions because of the use of those weapons following the irresponsible decisions in contravention of international law and human dignity. Regrettably, those prohibited weapons continued to be used in certain conflicts. That should prompt all to coordinate efforts to ensure that there was no further catastrophic fallout of those weapons. Chemical weapons were widespread throughout and posed an imminent danger in the Middle East. The Convention enjoyed wide respect, governing the behaviour of parties in conflict. The chemical weapons ban had become a moral, political and legal prohibition requiring ongoing implementation. Further, the Convention was the embodiment of the conviction that use of those weapons was beyond the pale. That must be condemned and the users must be punished. Additional international instruments were needed to offset the ongoing problem of mass destruction weapons use.
ABISHEK BANERJEE (India), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and BRICS, said that disarmament was a primary goal of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the remaining possessor States should fulfil their obligations within the shortest possible time. India had completed the destruction of its chemical weapon stockpiles in 2009 within the stipulated timeframe. The use of chemical weapons anywhere and by anyone must be condemned, and the international norm against that must not be breached. The international community should remain vigilant on non-State actors and terrorist groups seeking or using chemical weapons. India was committed to maintaining the highest international standards with reference to control of nuclear, chemical, biological and toxin weapons and their delivery mean. In that regard, it had made considerable progress in its engagement with the relevant multilateral export control regimes, with a view to full representation. India had strong and law-based national export controls consistent with the highest international standards. A world without weapons of mass destruction would be a world without fear of instant annihilation.
BENNO LAGGNER (Switzerland) said that the city of Ypres had this year commemorated the hundredth anniversary of the first large-scale use of chemical weapons, and the ceremony had also reminded the world that despite OPCW efforts, the use of chemical weapons continued, as the conclusions of that organization’s fact-finding mission to examine the alleged use of chlorine gas as a weapon in Syria confirmed. Switzerland, in cooperation with Australia, carried on its informal consultations to raise awareness of central nervous system-acting chemicals, and called for a discussion on such chemicals within the Convention’s policy-making organs. He also hoped that States parties to the Biological Weapons Convention would make progress on article VII. Switzerland would organize the first in a series of workshops to continue discussions on the role, activities and designation of biological laboratories nominated to the roster of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Mechanism.
HAMZA A. B. ALOKLY (Libya), associating with Non-Aligned Movement and the Arab Group, affirmed the effectiveness of the Chemical Weapons Convention as the only instrument that prohibited the use of a whole category of weapons and helped strengthen international cooperation for peaceful purposes. Based on that principle, Libya welcomed the OPCW for its work and exhaustive report. His country was keen to discharge all of its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and noted the official declaration made by the OPCW that his country had indeed rid itself completely of all its chemical weapons, namely sulphur mustard. A ceremony had been held where the chemicals had been stored to commemorate the occasion. The harm in using biological and chemical weapons was clear, and that harm was not limited to the time and place in which they were used. Rather, there was irreversible damage on animals and human beings.
RODOLFO BENTIEZ VERSON (Cuba) said his country did not possess and would never produce any kind of weapons of mass destruction, and was committed to fully and effectively implementing instruments that prohibited them. He welcomed the successful implementation of agreements on the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria, and was impressed at the pace of the destruction of that country’s facilities, which had been possible due to the cooperation of the Syrian government. The possibility of any use of biological agents as weapons should be entirely excluded. Within the framework of that Convention, he called for international cooperation for peaceful purposes of biological material and said that for developing countries, article X was a top priority. The only way to strengthen it was to adopt a legally binding and multilaterally negotiated Protocol for its gaps. He shared legitimate concerns about terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction and said that risk could be eliminated by using a selective approach focused on horizontal disarmament.
KIM YOUNG-MOO (Republic of Korea) said that since their entry into force, both the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions had served as the core pillars of the global disarmament and non-proliferation regime, and continuously moved towards universalization. Efforts to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention should be both pragmatic and realistic, complemented by strong confidence-building measures. His country was committed to international cooperation and assistance efforts to enhance the capacity-building of States parties, which included various projects, from the construction of medical facilities to the provision of technical assistance and medical staff training. The Republic of Korea was concerned over the recent report that terrorist groups, including ISIL [Islamic State and the Levant], might have acquired chemical agents that could be used as a weapon. Considering such increased threats, the prevention of the hostile use of toxic chemicals as weapons by non-State actors should be a priority.
JOSÉ ANTONIO LATORRE REMÓN (Spain), associating with the European Union, condemned the use of toxic materials anywhere against people as an affront to humanity. He welcomed Security Council resolution 2235 (2015) setting up the joint investigative mechanism, which was a “huge leap forward” in investigating the use of chemical weapons. Those who used such weapons must be brought to justice. He emphasized the value of resolution 1540 (2004) and said that since chairing the committee for that text, Spain was working towards universalizing its implementation, aimed at building national capacity, with a special focus on Africa. The process underway for a comprehensive review of the resolution’s implementation was a key issue for Spain, and on the home front it had approved a 1540 plan of action, which also provided for preventive security measures. The Biological Weapons convention was the core of efforts to eradicate pathogenic agents and he called for compliance and implementation at the national level.
Patricia O’Brien (Ireland), associating with the European Union, said that weapons of mass destruction and their delivery means were a pressing global threat. The Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions and the NPT were vital to the global community’s efforts to a world free of weapons of mass destruction. She welcomed Syria’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013 and supported efforts to remove and destroy the Government’s stockpile of chemical weapons. Ireland looked forward to the destruction of such facilities so that those weapons would never again be used. She was “appalled” at reports of the continued use of chemical weapons in Syria and called for the matter to be referred to the International Criminal Court in light of the fact-finding mission’s report that chlorine was used systematically in that country. The Ebola crisis had reminded the world of the lethal impact that biological weapons could have. With that, she urged that a high priority be given to strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention.
Right of Reply
Exercising his right of reply, the representative of Japan responded to remarks by China and said that this forum was not meant to focus on past events but instead was for current or future use of biological and chemical weapons. The Chinese representative’s remarks were not in line with the purpose of the Committee. Japan would continue to engage actively with international efforts regarding chemical and biological weapons and would continue in a constructive and not confrontational manner.
Concerning chemical weapons use, the numbers quoted by China were based on incomplete statistics, as he had stated. The Government of Japan did not have concrete records to confirm the chemicals used by the former Japanese army in the Second World War. The number used by China was questionable and could be exaggerated because it could include battles where the former Japanese army was not involved. The whole picture was not clear.
Regarding abandoned chemical weapons in China, Japan had taken its Chemical Weapons Convention obligations seriously and was committed to the destruction of all chemical weapons in China. The project was making steady progress, and was completed in Nanjing, for example, in 2012. That was a significant step forward for the abandoned chemical weapons project, which was unprecedented and challenging and could only be carried out through close cooperation between Japan and China. He reaffirmed his commitment to continue the fullest efforts to advance the project with China. According to bilateral discussions and the OPCW, China did not have any concerns about the ongoing joint efforts with Japan. Regarding the safety issue of China’s inhabitants, several accidents concerning abandoned chemical weapons had occurred since the war. Those were extremely regrettable, and he expressed sympathy to the victims. Japan had taken preventive measures such as publishing and distributing brochures to Chinese residents, and continued to make progress leading to the prevention of such accidents.
The representative of Syria, exercising his right of reply, reiterated his strong condemnation of the horrific use of chemical weapons against Syria’s citizens and soldiers and his commitment to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Some statements had referred to the OPCW fact-finding mission findings, and quoting one fallacy from it, meant siding with its biased mission that lacked transparency and professionalism. The fact-finding mission had visited Syria once only and yet was able to produce three reports filled with scientific shortcomings. It did not conduct any field visits to any of the sites mentioned, and resorted to working from Turkey, which was deeply involved with terrorist actors. The mission had been located in an area far from where attacks happened, and its findings were not based on scientific evidence. Its methodology ran contrary to the established practices for sample collection. It had not presented samples of so-called barrels used in the attacks and ignored all evidence presented by the Syrian Government. Those were just a few of the many shortcomings in the mission’s reports, and yet some were still keen on depending on them. Everyone had seen the result of the accusations of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The United States’ delegation and others preferred policies that caused destruction and chaos in the Middle East instead of multilateral approaches to enhance peace and stability.
The representative of China, exercising his right of reply and responding to remarks by Japan, said that regarding incomplete statistics, the true figure would only be larger. Those were the statistics available now and new statistics would be available in the future. Once all were available, the casualties would only be bigger. The Japanese delegation was employing its usual tactic of denying history. He advised the Japanese delegate that it was of no use to try to cover up war crimes or to play victim. The only way out was to repent and seek the forgiveness of countries against which it had committed horrendous atrocities.
Regarding abandoned chemical weapons, he said, according to the Chemical Weapons Convention, all such weapons should be destroyed no later than 10 years after the Convention’s entry into force, which was 1997. The 10-year period had long passed. In 2006, a resolution had been adopted that extended the deadline for the destruction of Japanese abandoned chemical weapons to 29 April, 2012, but that deadline was again missed, and the executive council had to take a decision to extend the deadline once more. Given all those missed deadlines, he had to question the sincerity of the Japanese Government in meeting their obligations.
He did not know what Japan was doing concerning Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he said, adding that the only way to look into the future was to face up to the past.
Also speaking in right of reply, the representative of Turkey said he categorically denied allegations made by Syria, which had lost all its legitimacy. That country was recognized as a State sponsor of terrorism, condemned by the international community and had a record of providing a safe haven to terrorists.
Also exercising his right of reply, the representative of the United States said Syria was responsible for the chaos in the region, by carrying out barrel bomb and other attacks. It should comply with its commitments and cooperate with the fact-finding and joint investigative missions. To put blame on the international community for its problems was a fallacy. It should cooperate with the international community so it could deal with the impact of those horrific attacks.
In a second intervention, the representative of Japan said that throughout its post-war history, the country had based its actions on feelings of deep remorse, and had upheld the principles of the United Nations Charter and followed the path of a peace-loving nation. As part of such contributions, Japan had earnestly addressed the disarmament of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Its record spoke for itself and was widely recognized by the international community. During the former Chinese President’s visit to Japan, leaders of the two countries had agreed to issue a joint statement, in which the Chinese side had expressed its pleasure over the Japanese contribution. Thus, China had already made clear that it had a positive view of Japan’s actions in an agreed document.
The representative of China, in a second intervention, said that regarding Japan’s feelings of remorse, worshipping Class A criminals of the Second World War was not remorse. Trying to amend its Peace Constitution was not a peace-loving country’s normal behaviour.
Thematic Debate on Other Weapons of Mass Destruction
ZSOLT HETESY (Hungary) introduced a draft resolution, titled “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction”. It retained all elements of the resolution adopted by consensus in 2014, he explained, along with some substantive changes, including an update on the number of States parties, which now stood at 173. Hungary wished to remain the sole sponsor, he said, expressing hope the text would be adopted by consensus, as in past years.
DAMIAN PRZENIOSŁO (Poland) said he hoped that the last two chemical weapons production facilities in Syria would be verified as destroyed at the end of the month, and that evidence would be presented on the elimination of chemical weapons precursors in Syria by the end of the year. There remained, however, serious concerns: the fact-finding mission, established by the OPCW, had confirmed “with a high degree of confidence” that chlorine was used as a chemical weapon in some attacks in Syria. The General Assembly must consistently condemn any use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances, and it was of the utmost importance that the fact-finding mission continue its work of collecting and analysing relevant information. Poland hoped that the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism would be allowed to identify perpetrators of chemical weapons use. Reports regarding the use of toxic chemicals by non-State actors in Iraq added a sense of urgency to the transformation of OPCW into an agency capable of decreasing the chemical threat.
TEHMINA JANJUA (Pakistan), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that sensitive technologies and materials should be adequately controlled to ensure their use solely for peaceful purposes. However, that objective could not justify practices and cartels that hindered the legitimate trade in chemicals, equipment and technology among States parties for demonstrably peaceful purposes. It was vital to restore balance and even-handedness in the implementation of the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions, and Pakistan remained fully committed to ensuring their full implementation. Regarding the OPCW, a sub-regional Assistance and Protection Center had been established in Pakistan to serve as a centre of excellence in the region. Hers had been among the first countries to support the National Authority Mentorship Programme.
She added that the malicious use of bio-sciences could kill humans, animals and plants, trigger wars, and disrupt infrastructure. A coordinated approach needed to be developed to prevent such misuse. However, a balance had to be struck between addressing new threats and keeping avenues for cooperation and assistance open. New discoveries in biological sciences that might make their application simpler and cheaper should be widely available for developing countries. The absence of a dedicated verification mechanism to ensure compliance with the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention remained a source for concern.
KARTIKA HANDARUNINGRUM (Indonesia), speaking in his national capacity, said the Chemical Weapons Convention was a model treaty for the abolition of other weapons of mass destruction. While her delegation supported the elimination of chemical weapons, it also supported the right of States to use chemicals for peaceful purposes. She stressed the need to promote international cooperation in verifying the peaceful uses of biological substances. A framework for an integrated approach to bio-security and bio-safety would not only strengthen implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention, but also the World Health Organization (WHO) regulations. The threat of terrorist acquisition of mass destruction weapons and their delivery means had become more imminent than ever, and she urged all States to address that threat. Efforts to resolve that issue must be inclusive, such as through the General Assembly and other international and multilateral forums.
RAUF ALP DENKTAŞ (Turkey) said that the existence of chemical weapons in the Middle East had been a cause for concern for his country and the world. Unfortunately, those weapons had been used in three conflicts in the region, the most recent, in Syria. The OPCW fact-finding mission had clearly indicated the use of chlorine gas as a weapon systematically and repeatedly in a 10-day period in April 2013. It was clearly established that the perpetrators had continued their campaign against their own citizens, and that had led to the adoption of Security Council resolution 2235 (2015) and establishment of the joint investigative mechanism. He hoped that the mechanism would address the OPCW fact-finding mission’s reports without delay, and that the perpetrators be brought to justice.
Regarding allegations voiced against Turkey and others earlier today, Syria had been categorized as a State sponsor of terrorism, was a safe haven for terrorists and was “not in a position to lecture anyone in this room” on counter-terrorism. Turkey was combatting groups such as ISIS and “PKK”, or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, and had always done so in line with human rights standards.
Regarding biological weapons, he said that the easy attainment, spread and transfer of knowledge that could be used to produce such weapons was a major concern for the international community. Confidence-building measures would help promote the Convention and related reports would generate mutual understanding and transparency. The international community should do its best to avoid the acquisition of those weapons by non-State actors and, in some cases, irresponsible States.
DOVYDAS ŠPOKAUSKAS (Lithuania), associating with the European Union, said that in August 2013, the use by the Syrian regime of sarin gas in Ghouta had left hundreds of Syrians dead and many more injured. A rare consensus by the international community then emerged, which had led to the destruction of a vast majority of Syria’s declared chemical weapons. While verification of its declaration was ongoing and some very important questions remained, efforts by the international community and the OPCW-United Nations Joint Mission deserved special gratitude. Yet, despite that work, that attack in Ghouta was not the last time that chemical weapons were used in Syria. He looked forward to receiving the Mechanism’s first report, but said that while it was an important step, it could not be the last, because the perpetrators of those atrocious acts must be brought to justice.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Syria said that a simple Google search would reveal millions of entries showing the link between Turkey and ISIS. Turkey was providing terrorist groups with chemical substances that were used against Syrians as well as members of the Syrian army. The Turkish representative was denying that that was affecting not only Syria but also its European neighbours. The centre where ISIS leaders were residing was not actually in cities in Syria or Iraq, but in Ankara; those were undercover agents that were working in Syria and Iraq. He reiterated that the main leaders of ISIS and other terrorist groups were in Turkey, and not in Syria and Iraq.