Multilateralism and rules‑based international order are key to reducing the risks of nuclear weapons being used, whether by accident or deliberately, delegates told the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today at the opening of its general debate, with representatives spotlighting a range of threats and progress, from the use of chemical weapons to ongoing efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
“Disarmament and international security issues have remained at the forefront of public consciousness” since the Committee’s last session, driven primarily by concerns over weapons of mass destruction, said Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, in her opening remarks. At the global level, she warned, “nuclear risks will remain unacceptably high for as long as these weapons continue to exist”.
However, she cited recent progress. “Bold and patient diplomacy has moved the situation on the Korean Peninsula back from the brink of crisis,” she said, noting the historic summit between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States. Pointing out that the meeting was an important step toward complete and verifiable denuclearization, she added that the three inter‑Korea summits have already led to the implementation of confidence‑building measures.
Turning to encouraging news that the Russian Federation and the United States are pursuing a possible extension of the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START Treaty), she said this should not be a “stopping point”. More broadly, she said strong international support exists for a permanent end to the threat posed by nuclear weapons, as shown by the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. In this vein, she urged Member States to avoid “circular” debates on what needs to be solved first — elimination of nuclear weapons or the security conditions that enable their existence.
María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (Ecuador), President of the General Assembly, said that in a time of general scepticism about multilateralism and the unravelling of related systems, Member States must work together to show that the 193‑nation Organization can deliver on new agreements. Encouraging delegates to envision disarmament efforts as a means toward a greater end: peace and security for all the people around the world, she said “let us demonstrate that we can truly deliver.”
Regional groups shared their concerns about gains made, emerging threats and challenges to be discussed during the session. The European Union delegation’s representative expressed deep regret about the United States’ withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action contained in the Iran nuclear agreement. “It is a key element of the global non‑proliferation architecture and a significant achievement of multilateral diplomacy,” he said, adding the European Union members will continue to work to preserve the deal.
Several speakers highlighted the need to address the unacceptable status quo in disarmament, almost half a century after the adoption of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Many urged nuclear‑weapon States to fulfil their commitments.
South Africa’s representative, speaking on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand and his country), said that the Non‑Proliferation Treaty rested on a “grand bargain” because non‑nuclear‑weapon States legally committed themselves not to develop atomic bombs in return for nuclear‑weapon States legally committing themselves to pursuing and achieving disarmament.
The Committee also heard several regional groups support the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, with Indonesia’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, voicing its support for the instrument. Saying the use or threat of use of these armaments can never be justified on any grounds, she underlined an urgent need for a universal, unconditional, non‑discriminatory and legally binding instrument to assure all nuclear‑weapon‑free States against the use or threat of use of such weapons.
On developments in the Middle East, Egypt’s representative, speaking for the Arab Group, urged Israel to join the Non‑Proliferation Treaty as a nuclear‑weapon State and put its facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Concerning the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the region, he called for States to support its creation as well as a related draft resolution to be presented once again to the Committee during the session.
Committee Chair Ion Jinga (Romania) said, in opening remarks, that increasing tensions in international relations are worrisome, making the United Nations role in fostering dialogue and cooperation ever more crucial. As Chair, he intends to concentrate on three areas during the current session: being an honest broker in the debates; seeking consensus whenever possible; and focusing on improving the atmosphere of confidence among Member States, expressing hope that the spirit of mutual respect, understanding and consensus would prevail.
Also speaking today were representatives of Norway (for the Nordic countries), Morocco (for the Group of African States), Trinidad and Tobago (for the Caribbean Community), Philippines (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Mexico, Iraq and Austria. The United States, Syria and Egypt spoke in the exercise of the right of reply.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 9 October, to continue its work.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to begin its general debate, scheduled to run through 17 October, on all agenda items before it. For background, please see documents A/73/27, A/73/92, A/73/94, A/73/95, A/73/96, A/73/97, A/73/99, A/73/111, A/73/112, A/73/113, A/73/114, A/73/115, A/73/116, A/73/117, A/73/118, A/73/119, A/73/120, A/73/122, A/73/126, A/73/127, A/73/151, A/73/154, A/73/156, A/73/159, A/73/168, A/73/177, A/73/182 (Part I), A/73/182 (Part II), A/73/185, A/73/202, A/73/224, A/73/256, A/73/259, A/73/284, A/73/42 and A/73/91. It also had before it documents A/C.1/73/1, A/C.1/73/INF/1, A/C.1/73/INF/4, A/C.1/73/L.1, and A/C.1/73/L.2 pertaining to its organization of work.
ION JINGA (Romania), Chair of the First Committee, said increasing tensions in international relations are worrisome, making the United Nations role in fostering dialogue and cooperation ever more crucial. Noting that disarmament and non‑proliferation are two sides of the same coin and should be pursued in parallel, he welcomed the Secretary‑General’s agenda, which places those elements at the centre of international peace and security efforts. Regretting to note recent setbacks in that realm, including the use of chemical weapons, he called for perpetrators of such attacks to be held accountable.
At the same time, he highlighted encouraging developments, including constructive discussions in the Group of Governmental Experts on Further Practical Measures for the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space, as well as the consensus outcome document of the third Review Conference on the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. Calling for Member States to adopt a holistic approach to addressing human security, sustainable development and civilian protection, he expressed hope that the United Nations could act as a catalyst in engaging all stakeholders to address security concerns.
The First Committee is tasked with seeking collaboration on disarmament, a responsibility that comes with high expectations, he said. As Chair, he intends to concentrate on three areas during the current session: being an honest broker in the debates; seeking consensus whenever possible; and focusing on improving the atmosphere of confidence among Member States. The First Committee must operate using the highest possible standards, he said, expressing hope that the spirit of the United Nations ‑ characterized by mutual respect, understanding and consensus ‑ would prevail.
IZUMI NAKAMITSU, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that since the First Committee last met, disarmament and international security issues have remained “at the forefront of public consciousness” driven foremost by concerns over weapons of mass destruction. These concerns have been exacerbated by international tensions, a lack of accountability for the use of chemical weapons, malicious acts using digital technologies and major question marks that hang over landmark agreements for nuclear arsenal reductions and limitations. Disputes over nuclear weapons have been among the top international security concerns dominating the attention of world leaders, with no fewer than 80 States making reference to nuclear weapons during a recent high‑level segment of the General Assembly.
However, she continued, not all of this attention has been negative. The majority of Member States continue to support the preservation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action contained in the Iran nuclear agreement. “Bold and patient diplomacy has moved the situation on the Korean Peninsula back from the brink of crisis,” she said, noting that the historic summit between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States was an important step towards complete and verifiable denuclearization, and that the three inter‑Korea summits have already led to the implementation of confidence‑building measures.
At the global level, however, nuclear risks will remain unacceptably high for as long as these weapons continue to exist. The next milestone on the calendar is the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It is encouraging that the Russian Federation and the United States are pursuing discussions on a possible extension of the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START Treaty). However, this should not be a “stopping point”. As the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons demonstrated, strong international support exists for a permanent end to the threat posed by nuclear weapons.
Turning to other weapons of mass destruction, she said the use of any toxic chemical, including chlorine, as a weapon, is totally unacceptable by any party and under any circumstances. As for conventional arms, she said “enormous arsenals are being accumulated, including in the most fragile and conflict‑prone regions”, noting that the global arms trade regrettably continues to climb to near historic levels. As armed conflict moves from open fields to urban centres, it is civilians who are the victims of this massive weapons accumulation. Firearms remain a leading cause of death and an accelerant of many other forms of violence. On the impact of new warfare technologies, she recalled that the Secretary‑General encouraged Member States to use the United Nations as a platform to draw global attention to these crucial matters and nurture a digital future that is safe and beneficial for all.
Concerns over the impact of arms proliferation are never raised in a vacuum, she said, urging Member States to avoid circular debates on what needs to be solved first ‑ the concerns many share over the continued existence of nuclear weapons or the security conditions that have convinced some they still need to rely heavily on them. “Many of the fundamental axioms that underpin our national and human security rest on the solid foundations of multilateral customs, norms, agreements, arrangements and institutions,” she said, noting that she is encouraged to see many members of the international community rally around the objective of preserving the international rules‑based system. The need for stronger support to States to advance their efforts to reinforce this global rules‑based system is the very reason why the Secretary‑General launched his disarmament agenda.
MARÍA FERNANDA ESPINOSA GARCÉS (Ecuador), President of the General Assembly, said disarmament and non‑proliferation lie at the heart of a global determination to achieve sustainable development and save current and future generations from the horrors of war. Still, the many continuing conflicts show that the world has much to do to achieve peace in and among nations. Chemical weapons, cybersecurity threats, preventing an arms race in outer space are among major challenges central to the theme of the current General Assembly session: “Making the United Nations relevant to all people”. The work of the First Committee is vital and demands the highest sense of responsibility, she said, calling on delegates to build on the strong commitments expressed by world leaders earlier in the Assembly session. Other positive developments include progress in the Horn of Africa region and the rapprochement on the Korean Peninsula. Further, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was a historic step for international law, she said, calling on States to ratify the instrument and bring it into force as soon as possible.
More broadly, she said, Member States must strengthen inclusive, multidimensional approaches to promote international peace and security. Indeed, equal and inclusive societies can help to forge progress in sustaining peace, she continued, emphasizing the importance of women’s empowerment in this regard. Member States have a responsibility to pursue multilateral outcomes and avoid violence and conflict. In a time of general scepticism about multilateralism and the unravelling of related systems, Member States need to work together to show that the General Assembly can deliver on new agreements. On that note, she encouraged delegates to envision disarmament efforts as a means towards a greater end: peace and security for all the people around the world. “Let us demonstrate that we can truly deliver,” she concluded.
INA HAGNININGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed grave concern at the threats to humanity posed by the continued existence of nuclear weapons, which remains an “alarming impasse” for the international community. Nuclear‑weapon States have not made progress in eliminating those arms and their role in their security policies has not diminished. Instead, they continue to modernize arsenals, research new warheads or have announced intentions to develop new weapon delivery vehicles, as included in the United States’ 2018 Nuclear Posture Review and other nations’ military doctrines. Against the backdrop of this dismal state of disarmament affairs, the world has waited too long for the goal of total elimination of nuclear weapons to be realized. It has become obvious that the existing “step‑by‑step” approach taken by nuclear‑weapon States has failed to make concrete and systemic progress.
Voicing support for the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, she said the use or threat of use of these armaments can never be justified on any grounds. Calling on nuclear‑weapon States to adhere to all legal obligations in line with the goal of complete disarmament, she underlined an urgent need for a universal, unconditional, non‑discriminatory and legally binding instrument to assure all nuclear‑weapon‑free States against the use or threat of use of such weapons. Disarmament and non‑proliferation are mutually reinforcing and essential, she said, adding that policies related to the latter should not undermine the inalienable right of States to acquire, access, import or export nuclear materials and technology for peaceful purposes. Any attack or threat of attack against such peaceful nuclear facilities poses a grave danger and would constitute a serious violation of international law. Of additional concern are violations of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction, the acquisition of nuclear capabilities by Israel and the long‑standing failure to establish a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East.
TORE HATTREM (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said that preparing for a successful 2020 Review Conference of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty is an overarching priority. The instrument has proven to be resilient and effective, he said, noting substantial stockpile reductions, while the proliferation of nuclear weapons has been curtailed and the benefits of civilian energy and technology have been shared globally. Nevertheless, the world faces serious disarmament and non‑proliferation challenges, he continued, citing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear weapons programme and the United States’ withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
At the same time, he said, the continued implementation of the New START Treaty is crucial, encouraging the United States and the Russian Federation to extend the agreement and resolve serious concerns. Recalling the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Iraq and Malaysia, he condemned their use while underscoring the importance of tackling emerging obstacles facing the implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction. Noting the challenging financial situation facing several convention‑implementing bodies, he urged States parties to pay dues on time, in full and without conditions.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand and his country), recalled that former President Nelson Mandela’s 1998 announcement of the submission of the draft resolution “Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world: the need for a new agenda” to the First Committee for the General Assembly’s consideration as well as his call on nuclear‑weapon States to make a firm commitment to the speedy, final and total elimination of their arsenals. This year marks 20 years since the founding of the Coalition, which has advocated for the implementation of concrete, transparent, mutually reinforcing, verifiable and irreversible nuclear disarmament measures and the fulfilment of commitments within the framework of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.
However, he said, this Treaty is almost a half century old and efforts must be strengthened anew to address the unacceptable nuclear disarmament status quo. States must finally deliver on their commitments to eliminate their arsenals. The Non‑Proliferation Treaty, which is the cornerstone of the nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation regime, was adopted and indefinitely extended on the basis of a “grand bargain”. As such, in return for nuclear‑weapon States legally committing themselves to pursuing and achieving disarmament, non‑nuclear‑weapon States legally committed themselves not to develop atomic bombs, he recalled.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco), on behalf of the Group of African States, said there is no substitute for a multilateral approach in disarmament, as this principle is enshrined in the United Nations Charter. Highlighting recent developments, including the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he expressed worry at the slow pace of disarmament, urging nuclear‑weapon States to accelerate their efforts. Given the humanitarian and environmental consequences of deploying atomic bombs, the time has come to achieve a world free of them and other weapons of mass destruction.
The failure to reach a desired outcome at the latest Non‑Proliferation Treaty review conference remains fresh on the minds of all delegations, he said, emphasizing that the Group looks forward to positive outcomes going forward. Indeed, the setback at the review conference should be a clear reminder of the overall objectives of the Treaty. Voicing support for nuclear‑weapon‑free zones, which help to strengthen nuclear disarmament, he expressed deep concern that the 1995 resolution to create such a zone in the Middle East remains to be implemented. He also expressed concerns over the possible use of new technologies to deliver nuclear weapons, whether by accident or deliberately. Noting that many African States suffer from the impact of the illicit trade of small and light weapons, he urged all parties to work towards ending such practices.
PENNELOPE ALTHEA BECKLES (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), commended the Secretary‑General’s Agenda for Disarmament and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — “the world’s blueprint for peace and prosperity”. As small island developing States that rely on the rule of law at national and international levels to guarantee their rights to a secure, sovereign and peaceful existence, the Community strongly encourages all States to act consistently within the framework of the United Nations Charter on all disarmament and international security matters. Raising the most significant threats to the security of CARICOM members, she pointed at the prevalence of gun‑related fatalities due to the proliferation of illegal arms and ammunition, illicit drugs, money laundering, cybercrime and other dimensions of transboundary criminal activities.
Turning to other concerns, she said the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons demonstrated strong international support for a permanent end to the threat posed by nuclear arms. “It was a call to break the stalemate in nuclear disarmament negotiations,” she said, noting that there are already 69 signatory States and 19 States parties who joined the instrument. Providing a regional update, she said Guyana has already ratified the Treaty and Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are signatories, with more CARICOM countries expected to do the same shortly.
MOHAMED EDREES (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group and associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said global peace and security could not be achieved with nuclear weapons. That objective requires funnelling resources towards development. Voicing support for the Secretary‑General’s disarmament initiative, he called for prioritizing the destruction of weapons of mass destruction, particularly in the Middle East. Multilateralism, under the umbrella of the United Nations, is the only way to attain lasting progress in disarmament and international security, he said, expressing alarm by the slow implementation of related commitments. More specifically, the Non‑Proliferation Treaty is not universal and nuclear‑weapon States are not fulfilling their commitments. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons does not contradict the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, he said, highlighting that article 6 from the latter instrument was integrated into the former. A balance needs to be struck among the three pillars of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, he said.
Underlying the need to establish a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East, he said that despite the Group’s new proposal to overcome the current deadlock, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States are blocking efforts. He then called on States to support such a zone in the region as well as a related draft resolution to be presented once again to the Committee during the session. He also asked delegations to support a draft decision that would have the Secretary‑General call on Member States in the region to contribute to a conference in 2019 on the establishment of a Middle East nuclear‑weapon‑free zone. Welcoming efforts by the open‑ended working group on disarmament, he expressed hope it will lead to a concerted approach to achieve nuclear disarmament. Turning to other concerns, he called for the necessary political will to break the Conference on Disarmament deadlock and to implement the Programme of Action on Small Arms to help to prevent conventional weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists or illegally armed groups.
TEODORO LOPEZ LOCSIN, JR. (Philippines), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the total elimination of nuclear weapons is the only absolute guarantee against their use or threat of use. The Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon‑Free Zone, known as the Treaty of Bangkok, must be fully implemented, he said, also noting that eight ASEAN members have signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, with two — Thailand and Viet Nam — also ratifying it. He urged Annex 2 States to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty as soon as possible. Welcoming the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s commitment to denuclearization and its pledge to refrain from more nuclear and missile tests, he reiterated the Association’s support for Security Council resolutions and international efforts to bring about a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which would contribute to regional peace and stability. On the peaceful use of nuclear energy, he said ASEAN anticipates formalizing relations with IAEA to promote greater cooperation on safety, security and safeguards.
On other weapons of mass destruction, he called for universal adherence to international legal instruments banning chemical and biological weapons and called for greater coherence and cooperation between States on intelligence sharing, capacity building and assistance vis‑à‑vis non‑proliferation regimes. He welcomed the adoption of the outcome document of the third Review Conference on the Programme of Action on Small Arms and noted the work of the ASEAN Regional Mine Action Centre in Phnom Penh ahead of the seventeenth meeting of the States parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti‑Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. For its part, ASEAN leaders adopted in April a statement on cybersecurity cooperation recognizing the growing urgency and sophistication of transboundary cyberthreats. As the Conference on Disarmament started a new three‑year cycle, he underscored the value of multilateralism in instituting a rules‑based approach to norms and as a tool for building trust.
JACEK BYLICA, European Union delegation, said the rules‑based international system is indispensable for maintaining international peace and security. As such, non‑proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements must remain viable and must be enforced. He expressed grave concern about the continued non‑compliance of some States, calling on the international community to end impunity for such violations. Turning to chemical weapons, he said the European Union is “appalled” by their re-emergence in recent years in the Middle East, Asia and now Europe. In that regard, the European Union is seriously concerned about any opposition to strengthening the capacity of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to address the issue. He reiterated condemnation of the March 2018 attack in Salisbury, recalling that the European Council agreed with the United Kingdom’s assessment, which stated it was highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible.
Turning to other issues, he expressed deep regret about the withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The agreement is a key element of the global non‑proliferation architecture and a significant achievement of multilateral diplomacy, he said, adding that 12 IAEA reports have confirmed that Iran continues to implement its nuclear‑related commitments and it must continue to do so. In that connection, work is under way towards a legal entity to allow European companies to continue their legitimate trade with Iran in line with Security Council resolution 2231 (2015). He called upon Iran to play a constructive role in the region and not to undertake any activities related to ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons.
JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico) said that the First Committee is not meeting in a vacuum, given the complex international environment surrounding disarmament and international security. Mexico welcomes the historic adoption and the opening for signature of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Recalling the devastation caused by the Second World War and the main purpose of the First Committee, he urged all States to shoulder their responsibility to take urgent and decisive action to eliminate nuclear weapons, as use of such arms will threaten the very existence of humankind. In this regard, Mexico promotes the signing of the instrument and its entry into force, he said, adding that the agreement will become robust when it is universally supported. On other threats, he said small arms and light weapons claim more lives than other weapons by way of facilitating armed violence and terrorism. As such, Mexico has prioritized the fight against the spread of firearms.
MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the main purpose for establishing the United Nations rests on the maintenance of international security. Iraq supports all relevant treaties and conventions addressing weapons of mass destruction, as such agreements are the true safeguard against the use or threat of use of such armaments. To tackle those and other concerns, Member States must adopt a multilateral approach, he said, regretting to note the impasse seen in the Conference on Disarmament, including the failure to adopt recommendations. To remedy that situation, he called on States to exert the political will to revive discussions. In addition, serious efforts must be made to achieve a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, he said, urging Israel to accede to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.
THOMAS HAJNOCZI (Austria) called for urgent action on nuclear disarmament, saying “we are confronted with a new cycle of modernization and upgrading of arsenals, development of faster delivery systems and attempts to make nuclear weapons easier to use.” After decades of a stalemate in multilateral nuclear disarmament, the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons is an important contribution to achieve the cause. It is fully compatible with and complementary to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, thus strengthening the IAEA safeguards system. Turning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he expressed deep regret over the United States’ withdrawal and reiterated Austria’s commitment to working with the international community to preserve the agreement. Meanwhile, the Arms Trade Treaty was historic in bringing the gender dimension into a security‑related convention. “We are in favour of dedicating more weight and consideration to gender aspects not only in our speeches here,” he said, “but even more so in the implementation of disarmament treaties.”
Right of Reply
The representative of the United States, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, affirmed his delegation’s support for the long‑term goal of establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East. However, the primary burden lies with regional States, not co‑sponsors of the 1995 resolution nor the international community. The new Arab Group’s initiative does none of this, therefore the United States will not support it. Practical steps are needed to build trust and promote conditions towards creating such a zone. The Non‑Proliferation Treaty review process cannot be effective for driving progress on this issue. The United States submitted a paper as an invitation to discuss what could be done to address underlying conditions that have impeded progress and will continue to support any approach that includes support from all regional States.
The representative of Syria said the OPCW‑United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism did not implement its mandate and was controlled by terrorism‑sponsoring countries. The Nordic countries are engaged in the illegitimate coalition that claims to be combating Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), but is destroying infrastructure in Syria and attacking the Syrian army to allow this terrorist group to advance and control strategic positions. Indeed, the international coalition is a cover‑up for ISIL. Syria has complied with the Chemical Weapons Convention and fulfilled all its obligations, he said, pointing out that the European Union’s representative is fully aware that its arsenal was destroyed. However, some European Union member States provide armed terrorist groups with chemical substances to be used in Syria, while some of its airports are centres for weapon and ammunition transfers to terrorist groups in Syria.
The representative of Egypt said most of the elements his counterpart from the United States referred to are already included in the Arab Group’s proposal, which calls on all countries in the region to participate in dialogue. The Arab Group wants all decisions to be taken by consensus, is not holding the Non‑Proliferation Treaty process hostage and is focused on a United Nations track. Expressing hope the United States will engage in its proposal, he said the Group is open to discussing further ideas to reach consensus on the matter.
The representative of the United States said the Arab Group’s initiative does not have the entire region’s support and does not provide a long‑term solution to the issue. Any proposal regarding a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone must be acceptable to all countries in the region. While his Government will oppose it, it is open to working with countries that present practical proposals that encourage dialogue. To his Syrian counterpart, he said the Joint Investigative Mechanism was killed in the Security Council and “we all know by whom”. Syria has not met its Chemical Weapons Convention obligations and has repeatedly used chemical weapons against its own people, he added.
The representative of Syria said the United States’ delegate was trying to divert attention away from what his administration has done — namely giving terrorists chemical agents. The United States has prevented any objective investigation in an effort to hide the truth. The United States is responsible for giving guidance to terrorist groups operating on Syrian territory that use chemical weapons. Recalling the United States’ invasion of Iraq, he said the world is familiar with their lies and knows what the country is willing to do to affect a regime change in other States.
The representative of Egypt said the Arab Group had not heard any opposition to its proposal from any country in the region. He reiterated that it is simply a call for dialogue with the aim of reaching consensus. While it was put forth by the Arab Group, the United Nations has a key role to play in the process.