General Assembly Adopts Resolutions Promoting Interreligious Dialogue, Continued Cooperation between United Nations, Entity Prohibiting Use of Chemical Weapons

GA/11881
22 December 2016
Seventy-first Session, 67th Meeting (AM)

General Assembly Adopts Resolutions Promoting Interreligious Dialogue, Continued Cooperation between United Nations, Entity Prohibiting Use of Chemical Weapons

Following a contentious discussion, the General Assembly adopted two draft resolutions, on the promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, and cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), respectively.

Both resolutions were adopted by recorded vote, with several delegates disputing specific paragraphs and asking for separate votes on each.

By the terms of resolution titled “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace”, the General Assembly condemned any advocacy of religious hatred that constituted incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, and emphasized that everyone had the right to freedom of expression, among other matters.  The representative of Pakistan, who introduced the text, said that conflicts fuelled by suspicion and mistrust had caused human suffering and economic loss. 

Armenia’s representative requested a separate vote on operative paragraph 9, which welcomed the Baku Declaration, adopted at the Seventh Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations in April 2016, and encouraged relevant stakeholders to continue efforts to promote mutual understanding among different civilizations, cultures, religions and beliefs. 

The Philippines’s speaker noted that the text had always been adopted unanimously in previous General Assembly sessions.  By a recorded vote of 116 against to 1 in favour (Armenia), with 4 abstentions (France, Mauritius, Nigeria, Palau), the Assembly rejected the motion to divide the resolution into two separate votes, and went on to adopt the text as a whole.

The Assembly also adopted a resolution titled “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons”, by a recorded vote of 145 in favour, to none against and no abstentions.  Prior to that, in a separate recorded vote, Member States decided to retain operative paragraph 4, which took note of Security Council resolution 2209 (2015) adopted in March 2015, by which the Council noted the first, second and third reports of the OPCW fact-finding mission concerning allegations of the use of toxic chemicals for hostile purposes in Syria.

Speaking after the vote, Turkey’s representative said that the joint investigative mechanism set up to find chemical weapons in Syria was the most sustainable mechanism of the OPCW, and that information should be added to the text as it did not yet sufficiently reflect the facts on the ground.  Meanwhile, several representatives, including those of the Russian Federation, Venezuela and Iran, noted what they referred to as the inappropriateness of referring to the Security Council resolution in the Assembly’s text because it was not directly related to the cooperation between the OPCW and the United Nations and made the issue a political one.

The representative of Syria said that it always provided cooperation to the experts of the OPCW and to the United Nations, and that any use of weapons of mass destruction and chemical weapons should be condemned wherever that took place.  The vote was a new attempt to politicize standard resolutions by introducing controversial items.  It was clear that certain sponsors of the resolution had conflated technical and political questions, and that Turkey was supporting terrorist groups by providing conventional and unconventional weapons, including chemical weapons, in Syria.

Also speaking during action today were representatives of Cuba and Ecuador.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Friday, 23 December to adopt draft resolutions on various topics and the reports of its Fifth Committee (Economic and Financial).

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Assembly first took up a draft resolution entitled “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/71/L.43), by which it would underline the importance of moderation as a value within societies for countering extremism in all its aspects.  The Assembly would condemn any advocacy of religious hatred that constituted incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, emphasize that everyone had the right to freedom of expressions and call upon Member States to consider interreligious and intercultural dialogue as an important tool in achieving peace and social stability.  Further the Assembly would encourage Member States and relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to further consider and carry out activities to support the Action Plan for the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022) adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan) introducing the text, said that it was an outcome of strong cooperation among Member States.  He also recognized UNESCO’s crucial role in promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue.  Conflicts fuelled by suspicion and mistrust had caused human suffering and economic loss.  The international community had also witnessed an increasing level of xenophobia, he said, calling on everyone to engage in a genuine dialogue to foster peaceful and harmonious coexistence within and among societies.

The representative of Armenia then requested a separate vote on operative paragraph 9.  By the terms of that paragraph, the Assembly would welcomed the Baku Declaration, adopted at the Seventh Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations in April 2016, with the theme “Living together in inclusive societies:  a challenge and a goal”, and encourage relevant stakeholders to continue efforts to promote mutual understanding among different civilizations, cultures, religions and beliefs. 

The representative of Pakistan objected to that request.

The representative of Armenia said that he had made the request to flag his objection.

The representative of Pakistan described the request as unfortunate, noting that the Baku Declaration had been adopted at a United Nations event.

The representative of the Philippines said that the text had been adopted unanimously in previous General Assembly sessions.

By a recorded vote of 116 against to 1 in favour (Armenia), with 4 abstentions (France, Mauritius, Nigeria, Palau), the Assembly rejected the motion for division of the resolution into two separate votes.

The Assembly then adopted the text as a whole.

The representative of Armenia, explaining his position after the adoption, said that his country had entered the negotiations in good faith, and had spared no effort to reach a consensus.  Given that Azerbaijan had disseminated anti-Armenia sentiments during the Forum, he disassociated himself from the text.

The representative of the United States said that terrorism and violence had no basis in religion, and acknowledging the role of interreligious and intercultural dialogue in preventing extremism.  However, he expressed regret that operative paragraph 10 did not distinguish extremism from violent extremism.

Right of Reply

The representative of Azerbaijan said that the Forum in Baku had hosted more than 400 delegates from 147 countries, including Heads of States and representatives of international organizations.  It had provided a global platform to discuss challenges and to share best practices.  Describing the voting request as a senseless attempt, he expressed hope that Armenia would “learn its lesson” by looking at the outcome. 

The representative of Armenia said that during the Forum there had been a large-scale operation against Nagorno-Karabakh.  Azerbaijan had violated the basic principles of international law, disregarding the call by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group.  From the very beginning, civilians had been subjected to indiscriminate attacks.

The representative of Azerbaijan said that the representative of Armenia’s statement was full of falsifications and distortions.  Armenia had been carrying out underground work for provocative action before April 2016.

The representative of Armenia described the representative of Azerbaijan’s statement as a meaningless accusation raised against his country.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) then introduced a resolution titled “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons” (document A/71/L.46).  By that text, the Assembly would take note of the annual report for 2014 and the draft report for 2015 of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).  It also would take note of Security Council resolution 2209 (2015), by which the Council received the reports of OPCW’s fact-finding mission, which was mandated to establish the facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic.

Further, the Assembly would welcome the effective and ongoing cooperation between the United Nations and the OPCW and welcome the 20 July 2016 of the OPCW’s Executive Council on the destruction of Libya’s remaining chemical weapons, which was endorsed by Security Council resolution 2298 (2016), as well as the progress made in the implementation of that decision.

Further, the Assembly would welcome the establishment by the Executive Council of an open-ended working group on the future priorities of the OPCW, pursuant to its 14 July 2016 decision, as an information mechanism, with a view to supplying holistic, coherent, forward-looking and action-oriented recommendations for consideration by the Conference of the States Parties to Review the Operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention at its fourth special session, to be held in 2018.

Mr. Van Oosterom underscored that the text’s aim was to highlight the importance of continued cooperation between the United Nations and the OPCW.  The latter contributed to international peace and security by verifying the destruction of chemical weapon stockpiles; by working, through industry inspections, to prevent the re-emergence of chemical weapons; and by promoting the peaceful use of chemistry.  At present, 192 States were party to the Chemical Weapons Convention.  The current draft resolution was an updated version of resolution 69/13 and reflected developments that had occurred since then.  He noted that even though a vote had been requested he hoped the draft could be adopted unanimously.

A separate recorded vote was requested on operative paragraph 4 of the draft.

With 113 votes in favour, to two against (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates), and 19 abstentions, the paragraph was adopted.

The resolution as a whole was then adopted by a recorded vote of 145 in favour, to none against and no abstentions.

The representative of Cuba, speaking after the vote, said that adopting resolutions by consensus in the future would promote cooperation rather than aid attempts at politicization.  It was also not productive to refer to the Security Council resolution within the Assembly’s text, nor mention specific States by name.

The representative of Ecuador said that he voted in favour of the resolution in its entirety but abstained on operative paragraph 4, where there should have been greater flexibility on the drafting of that paragraph.  It was regrettable that draft resolutions related to a universal instrument had to have a vote due to contentious subjects, as that was not the way to preserve consensus.

The representative of Turkey said that the joint investigative mechanism that was established to find chemical weapons in Syria was the most sustainable mechanism of the OPCW.  Its third and fourth reports gave detailed accounts of how those attacks were perpetrated.  Information should be added to the text as it did not yet sufficiently reflect the facts on the ground.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that it was not appropriate to refer to the Security Council resolution in the Assembly’s text because it was not directly related to the cooperation between the OPCW and the United Nations.  The inclusion of paragraph 4 was unnecessary as some States might want to politicize everything linked to Syria.

The representative of the Syrian Arab Republic said that it always provided cooperation to the experts of the OPCW and to the United Nations, and that any use of weapons of mass destruction and chemical weapons should be condemned wherever that took place.  The vote was a new attempt to politicize standard resolutions by introducing controversial items.  It was clear that certain sponsors of the resolution had conflated technical and political questions, and that Turkey was supporting terrorist groups by providing conventional and unconventional weapons, including chemical weapons, in Syria.

The representative of Iran said that it was his wish that the resolution could be adopted without a vote, but that was unfortunately not possible because the sponsor did not take on board all views in an inclusive manner.  Iran supported the resolution as a whole but abstained on paragraph 4 because of the mention of the Security Council resolution.  The Assembly’s resolution should not have been politicized.

The representative of Venezuela reiterated his condemnation of the use of chemical weapons, noting his abstention on operative paragraph 4, because of its mention of the Security Council resolution on chemical weapons in Syria.  He also believed it was necessary that the investigation should conclude to see whether there was a violation with regard to chemical weapons.  The full aspect of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction required the active participation of all State parties.

For information media. Not an official record.