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GA/DIS/3633
23 October 2019
Seventy-fourth Session, 14th Meeting (AM)

Concerned about Chemical Weapon Attacks, First Committee Delegates Discuss Best Ways to Identify, Bring Perpetrators to Justice

Raising concerns for the reappearance of the use of chemical weapons in places such as Syria, Malaysia and the United Kingdom, States exchanged the best ways to identify and bring perpetrators to justice, as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) continued thematic discussions on conventional arms and other weapons of mass destruction.

Saint Lucia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the use of chemical weapons leads to dire humanitarian and environmental consequences, and investigating recent attacks in a manner that holds perpetrators accountable can only strengthen existing norms against their use.

France’s representative pointed out that nearly all States have ratified the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction.  But, since reappearing in Syria, chemical weapons have been used by the regime and by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in that country, as well as in Malaysia and the United Kingdom.

To best deal with those cases, some delegates called for intensified investigations, with many largely supporting the work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the 2018 decision to expand its mandate to include identifying perpetrators who launch chemical weapon attacks.  Many commended the efforts of the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team, anticipating its first report.

Indonesia’s representative agreed, saying OPCW must perform its duties free from politicization, with impartiality and professionalism.

The Russian Federation’s delegate regretted to note divisions within OPCW due to the politicization of the Syrian dossier.  Giving the OPCW the capacity to attribute responsibilities of attacks that occurred in Syria goes beyond the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention and undermines the non‑proliferation regime, he said.

China’s delegate said that any effort to resolve the chemical weapons issue in Syria must be conducive to promoting a national political settlement process and promoting peace and stability in the region.  While opposing the decision adopted in 2018 to broaden the OPCW mandate, he said priority should instead be given to regulating the work of the Investigation and Identification Team.

The Netherland’s representative reiterated his country’s full confidence in the OPCW at a time when attempts to question its integrity are undermining its work.  Hopefully, it will be possible to agree on proposals to strengthen the Organisation, he added.  However, he and several other delegates remained concerned at the lack of progress in verifying and dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons programme. 

Syria’s delegate said some countries are misguiding the international community with fabrications and lies.  Indeed, Damascus has implemented all its commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention, eliminating its programme and destroying all production facilities.

Discussions also focused on totally eradicating existing stockpiles.  The representatives of China and the Russian Federation urged the United States to destroy its remaining chemical weapon stockpiles, pointing out that it is the only State party to the Chemical Weapons Convention to still maintain its arsenal.

The United States, in exercise of the right of reply, said that Washington, D.C., is on track to destroying its chemical weapon stockpiles by 2023 through a transparent process.

Delegates also tackled the issue of biological weapons, with some representatives raising alarm over modernization plans, radioactive and phosphoric weapons and new and emerging technologies.  Many reaffirmed the critical role played by the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction.

Later in the morning session, the Committee began its thematic debate on conventional weapons, with Guyana’s delegate, speaking on behalf of CARICOM, saying violent crime is a challenge to sustainable development.  Finland’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said that 53 million stockpiled mines have been destroyed since the entry into force of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti‑Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.

Cambodia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said its Regional Mine Action Centre was established as a regional hub of excellence to help to address the humanitarian aspects of unexploded ordnance and explosive remnants of war, and called on all States, particularly developed countries, to provide the necessary financial, technical and humanitarian assistance in ordnance clearance and the reintegration and rehabilitation of victims.

Iraq’s representative said conventional arms have the same impact as weapons of mass destruction and are impairing the development of communities, prolonging conflicts and fuelling crime.  She said explosives and all types of munitions have dire environmental consequences.  In addition, Iraq is experiencing serious challenges with landmines, which are hidden in many areas and are preventing people from returning to their homes.

The United Kingdom’s delegate said the Mine Ban Convention has delivered a significant humanitarian impact, “but we need to do more,” he said, with the upcoming Review Conference being an opportunity for States parties to reflect on progress made, reaffirm their commitment to its core obligations and renew their determination to achieve a world free of landmines by 2025.  He added that the United Kingdom is making steady progress in clearing landmines in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

The delegate of Egypt said his country is one of the States that have suffered the most from the use of landmines, with 20 per cent of the world’s landmines having been planted on its territory during the Second World War, highlighting a need to intensify efforts to tackle this major problem.

The European Union’s representative pointed at the Mine Ban Convention as a good example of effective multilateralism and international cooperation and said the bloc’s common objectives for the Oslo Review Conference are laid down in the European Union Council conclusions from earlier in 2019.  Highlighting the need to strengthen the ban, she said the European Union and its Member States are among the top donors for mine action.

Also speaking today on other weapons of mass destruction were representatives of Nepal, Thailand, South Africa, Austria, Republic of Korea, Japan, Bangladesh, Algeria, Argentina, Iran, New Zealand, Spain, Turkey, Myanmar, Qatar, Malaysia, Australia, Slovenia, Hungary and Ecuador.

Also speaking on conventional weapons were representatives of Tunisia (on behalf of the Arab Group), Cambodia (on behalf of ASEAN), United States, Singapore, Jamaica, Iraq, Switzerland and Pakistan.

Representatives of Syria, Russian Federation, Israel, Iran, France and Turkey spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The First Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m., on Thursday, 24 October, to continue its thematic debate on conventional weapons.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its thematic discussion on other weapons of mass destruction.  For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3624 of 10 October.

Other Weapons of Mass Destruction

GHANSHYAM BHANDARI (Nepal), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said his country’s foreign policy is guided by peace and non‑violence.  Nepal has joined all major conventions on prohibiting chemical and biological weapons and believes in the full disarmament and total elimination of all weapons of mass destruction.  “We do not produce, possess, import or export any weapons of mass destruction or nor do we intend to do so,” he said.  Their use is a crime against humanity and perpetrators must be prosecuted.  Regretting to note that the project to rid the world of these arsenals remains unfinished, he called for efforts to focus on preventing these arms from falling into the hands of non‑State actors and terrorist organizations.  He went to call for the full implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction.  In this vein, he called on the international community to lend financial and technical support to the least developed countries to help them to comply with provisions of disarmament related treaties and resolutions.

PANGERAN IBRANI SITUMORANG (Indonesia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, urged all States not yet party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction to join without delay or preconditions.  The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) must perform its duties free from politicization, with impartiality and professionalism.  Turning to the Biological Weapons Convention, he urged the resumption of multilateral negotiations to conclude a legally binding protocol concerning all articles of that instrument.  International cooperation, assistance and exchanges in toxins, biological agent equipment and technology for peaceful purposes needs to be strengthened, he said, adding that the establishment of linkages with external agreements would create unnecessary divisions among States and hamper the instrument’s effectiveness.

COSMOS RICHARDSON (Saint Lucia), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the use of chemical weapons leads to dire humanitarian and environmental consequences.  Investigating chemical weapon attacks and holding the perpetrators accountable can strengthen the norms against their use.  He also welcomed ongoing efforts to strengthen cooperation between key stakeholders in compliance with the objectives of the Chemical Weapons Convention.  Constructive and consistent engagement on issues relating to the Biological Weapons Convention is very important at this juncture, he added, given that developments in science and technology are making it increasingly possible for non‑State actors to gain access to such arms.  CARICOM member States are mindful of the fact that their porous maritime and land borders, as well as their unique character and vulnerabilities, create additional challenges to peace and security.  In that sense, they are concerned about the growing challenges posed by terrorists and other non‑State actors, including their possession of any kind of weapons of mass destruction.  To that end, CARICOM is working, in collaboration with the United Nations, towards the elaboration of a counter‑terrorism strategy.  In addition, CARICOM is committed to fulfil their obligations in accordance with Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) regarding the non‑proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

MANASSINEE MOOTTATARN (Thailand), associating herself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the re‑emergence of incidents involving weapons of mass destruction jeopardizes international peace and security, with devastating human consequences.  Fully supporting OPCW in vigorously monitoring and verifying their alleged use, she said that while perpetrators must be held accountable, the Organisation must remain impartial, independent and properly resourced.  She also called on all States parties to honour commitments in implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention, especially the destruction of remaining stockpiles.  The world is in danger of backsliding on its steady progress towards the eradication of chemical and biological weapons, and the international community must therefore overcome political rifts and collaborate on reinforcing norms against their use.

MARTIN ERIC SIPHO NGUNDZE (South Africa) called for the expedited destruction of remaining declared stockpiles in line with the Chemical Weapons Convention.  OPCW should assist developing country laboratories to become designated, so they can be considered if chemical weapons are used or natural disasters occur in their geographical regions.  Such designations will go a long way in empowering and enabling first responders to identify quick, appropriate and scientifically informed strategic interventions.  He also highlighted the importance of promoting capacity‑building and international cooperation to benefit States parties through technology transfers, knowledge sharing, material and equipment for peaceful purposes.  He expressed concern, however, about continued polarization in the OPCW policy‑making organs, leading to the adoption of decisions through a vote rather than by consensus.  As such, he urged caution in preserving the integrity of OPCW as an objective and impartial organization.

THOMAS HAJNOCZI (Austria), aligning himself with the European Union, called on all States to join and strictly implement treaties against weapons of mass destruction.  The appalling use of chemical weapons in recent years is particularly unacceptable, contravening international standards and norms.  Reaffirming Austria’s condemnation of the use of these weapons by anyone under any circumstances, he said there can be no impunity for such actions.  As a member of the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons, Austria fully supports its efforts and mechanisms, which complement international mechanisms to combat the proliferation of these arms.

YANN HWANG (France), associating himself with the European Union, said that nearly all States have joined the Chemical Weapons Convention, but since reappearing in Syria, these arms have been used in that country by the regime and by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) as well as in Malaysia and the United Kingdom.  The development of ballistic missile technology in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a matter of concern.  Multilateral arrangements must be enhanced, including the missile technology control regime and International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, known as The Hague Code of Conduct.  For its part, France will chair the upcoming Meeting of States parties to the Biological Weapons Convention, he said, adding that in its national capacity, he supports the voluntary peer review mechanism.

BAEK YONG JIN (Republic of Korea) said his delegation remains very concerned that the Declaration Assessment Team of the Chemical Weapons Convention still cannot verify the accuracy and completeness of Syria’s initial statement and urges Damascus to fully cooperate.  He reaffirmed support for the decision made in 2018 at the fourth Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties of the Chemical Weapons Convention that would allow OPCW to identify the parties responsible for the use of such weapons.  Yet his delegation is deeply concerned that the members of the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team are being denied access to the territory and necessary documents.  The Republic of Korea urges all relevant parties to extend maximum support to the team’s work.  Universal application of the Chemical Weapons Convention continues to be one of Seoul’s top priorities.  The Biological Weapons Convention needs to remain the first international framework for responses to the increased proliferation risks.  In addition, he welcomed detailed discussions on the establishment of a scientific and technological experts advisory forum.

KAZUHIRO NAKAI (Japan) welcomed the establishment of the Identification and Investigation Team and the start of its work in Syria to help bring perpetrators to justice.  To help the team, Japan assisted in upgrading the OPCW laboratory and will continue to support the Organisation’s activities.  Japan has meticulously fulfilled its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, including the destruction of abandoned chemical weapons in China, with about 57,000 of the 75,000 recovered items already destroyed.  Highlighting that the project could not have been carried out without the valuable joint efforts with China, he reaffirmed his country’s commitment to continue all possible efforts.  On biological weapons, Japan has undertaken several capacity‑building projects in partnership with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs and the Biological Weapons Convention Implementation Support Unit, having already contributed $1 million to support the implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004).

TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, called for further strengthening multilateral efforts against weapons of mass destruction and expressed concern about the possibility of them falling into the hands of non‑State actors or terrorist organizations.  Bangladesh is following the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention, he said, calling for its universalization and for those in possession of stockpiles to destroy them.  Commending OPCW efforts, he asked for its mandate and responsibilities to continue.  Highlighting the important role of international instruments in being vigilant against the proliferation of these stockpiles, he regretted to note that some countries are modernizing and upgrading their arsenals.

AMINE CHAIBI (Algeria), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said the Chemical Weapons Convention bans one type of weapon of mass destruction, yet promotes the peaceful use of chemical materials.  As such, he called for the destruction of existing stockpiles using an agreed timetable and advocated for technology transfers for the peaceful use of chemicals.  The Biological Weapons Convention remains an effective arms control mechanism, he said, rejecting any modernization plans made by some States and calling for boosted efforts regarding radioactive and phosphoric weapons.  Supporting the idea of zones free of weapons mass destruction, he commended initiatives to establish such a zone in the Middle East, calling on all Member States from the region to participate in the conference on this issue, to be held in November at the United Nations Headquarters.

ALEJANDRO GUILLERMO VERDIER (Argentina) said the use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances, is unacceptable and a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.  All those responsible for their use must be brought to justice, he said, appealing to all States to adhere to both the instrument and related OPCW decisions.  Reviewing some of the ways his country is applying provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention at the national level, he also voiced support for the Biological Weapons Convention and its obligations.

REINT VOGELAAR (Netherlands) reiterated his country’s full confidence in OPCW at a time when attempts to question its integrity are undermining its work.  Hopefully, it will be possible to agree on proposals to strengthen the Organisation, he said.  However, the Netherlands is concerned about a lack of progress in verifying and dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons programme.  He urged Damascus to cooperate with the OPCW Technical Secretariat.  The Netherlands is also pleased to see growing international awareness of the need for the Biological Weapons Convention to react to rapid advancements in biotechnology.

HEIDAR ALI BALOUJI (Iran), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, highlighted the importance of the Chemical Weapons Convention.  Iran, as the victim of the most systematic chemical weapon attacks in contemporary history, places high priority on support to OPCW, implementing the instrument and sharing experiences with other States parties.  Calling for universal implementation, he said that there is a need for the United States chemical weapon arsenals to be verifiably destroyed and for Israel to become a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention.  Stating that terrorist groups are using chemical weapons in the Middle East, he condemned all such use and called for perpetrators to be held accountable.  Turning to the Biological Weapons Convention, he called on “a certain Member State” to withdraw its objection to the resumption of negotiations for a legally binding protocol, adding that Israeli non‑adherence to that instrument endangers security in the Middle East.

DELL HIGGIE (New Zealand), associating herself with the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons, said that the atrocities witnessed in recent years in Syria, Iraq, Malaysia and the United Kingdom highlight a need for renewed focus and determination in pursuit of disarmament.  Her delegation strongly supports the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team and looks forward to its first report, she said, adding that there must never be impunity for the use of chemical weapons.  She also urged a small number of States that have not acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention to do so.

ANDREY BELOUSOV (Russian Federation) said he is in favour of a rapid, full and unconditional destruction of all chemical arsenals based on Chemical Weapons Convention provisions.  The Russian Federation has destroyed its own arsenal of 40,000 tons of this type of weapons, he said, asking the United States to do the same.  While defending the integrity of the Chemical Weapons Convention regime, he regretted to note divisions within OPCW due to the politicization of the Syrian dossier.  Giving OPCW the capacity to attribute responsibilities of attacks that occurred in Syria goes beyond the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention and undermines the non‑proliferation regime.  In addition, it will not be able to conduct a proper investigation.  Moscow favours creating an impartial international mechanism to investigate the attacks in the Middle East, yet western States are opposed, he said, pointing out that the most recent chemical attack in Syria was executed to discredit the Government.

MARIA BASSOLS DELGADO (Spain), associating herself with the European Union, voiced concern for the future of the non‑proliferation regime and recent backward strides.  However, she welcomed the success in the Chemical Weapons Convention and OPCW efforts.  Given the reappearance of chemical weapons, she said responses must be swift, adding that States must support the OPCW work towards dismantling the Libyan chemical stockpiles or attributing responsibilities of chemical attacks in Syria.  Recognizing a need for a United Nations mechanism to investigate crimes in Syria, she said the use of such weapons cannot go unpunished.  At the same time, biological weapons are real threat, leading Spain to adopt a series of protocols to comply with the Biological Weapons Convention.

MEMET MEVLÜT YAKUT (Turkey) said that following the non‑renewal of the mandate of the OPCW‑United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism, a critical step to fill a void was the decision taken at the fourth Special Session of the Conference of the State Parties of the Chemical Weapons Convention to put in place arrangements to identify the perpetrators for the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  Efforts to combat impunity include the cooperation between OPCW and the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in Syria since March 2011.  Expressing support for the OPCW fact‑finding mission and the Declaration Assessment Team, he said Turkey remains concerned about remaining gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies in Syria’s statement regarding its chemical weapons programme and stockpiles.

YE MINN THEIN (Myanmar), associating himself with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed concern about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, noting that accidents and their potential use by terrorists are growing threats.  In responding to these challenges, the international community must redouble its efforts to make tangible progress in disarmament negotiations, as heightened tensions can be reduced through constructive political dialogue and engagement.  Observing that the Chemical Weapons Convention continues to yield results in destroying all categories of such devices, he said that about 96 per cent of stockpiles have been successfully obliterated under OPCW verification.  He encouraged States to adhere to Chemical Weapons Convention provisions and establish national measures in compliance with its letter and spirit.

ROUDA FAHAD KAMAL (Qatar), associating herself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said the international community must pull together to prevent the proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction.  Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) must be upheld to prevent terrorists from exploiting armed conflicts in order to gain access to weapons of mass destruction.  Qatar rejects the acquisition and use of chemical weapons by anyone and welcomes the General Assembly’s establishment of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism.  She emphasized the vital importance of accountability to ensure justice for victims while also sending a strong signal that impunity will not be tolerated.

MOHD SUHAIMI AHMAD TAJUDDIN (Malaysia), associating himself with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said he welcomed the fact that 97 per cent of the world’s chemical weapons stockpiles has been eliminated to date, but condemned the recent re‑emergence of their use, which is morally unacceptable and a flagrant violation of international law.  Holding those responsible for such heinous acts to accountability is essential.  At the same time, she called on States to promote international cooperation through the transfer of technology, material and equipment for peaceful purposes, and to remove any discriminatory restrictions that run contrary to the spirit of the Chemical Weapons Convention.  Malaysia remains fully committed to the Biological Weapons Convention, to which it is a party, and stands ready to facilitate and engage in the exchange of relevant equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for peaceful purposes.

PETER HORNE (Australia) said no circumstances justify the use of chemical or biological weapons.  However, the resolve of the international community in maintaining the prohibition has been tested by their use in Syria, Iraq, Malaysia and the United Kingdom by State and non‑State actors.  As a result, States parties have shown they can and will respond promptly to those who challenge the Chemical Weapons Convention.  OPCW must continue to undertake thorough, independent and impartial investigations to identify those who violate the prohibition “if we are to deter others who consider they can use such weapons with impunity”, he said.  As no one is immune from the devastating effects of chemical weapons, he said it is in the collective security interests of all to support well‑established norms against their use.  Australia is working with Switzerland and the United States towards an understanding that the aerosolized use of central nervous system‑acting chemicals in law enforcement is inconsistent with the Chemical Weapons Convention.

ONDINA BLOKAR DROBIČ (Slovenia), associating herself with the European Union, said her country joined the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons and appreciates the professional, independent and impartial work of the OPCW Technical Secretariat, its fact‑finding mission and the Declarations Assessment Team.  Voicing strong support for the implementation of the decision taken in 2018 to broaden OPCW tasks, she said the subsequently established Investigation and Identification Team will contribute to identifying those responsible for chemical weapons use in Syria, adding that Slovenia provided a voluntary contribution to its work.

GYÖRGY MOLNÁR (Hungary), introducing a draft resolution on the Biological Weapons Convention, said the current version contains a new preambular paragraph on the equitable participation of women and men within the instrument’s framework.  The updated draft resolution would have the General Assembly encourage the next Meeting of States Parties to agree on practical arrangements for the ninth Review Conference.  By adopting the draft resolution by consensus, the international community would express its strong conviction that the instrument is essential for maintaining global peace and security, while reaffirming its unequivocal support for the prohibition of biological weapons.

WEI CHEN (China) said that any effort to resolve the chemical weapons issue in Syria must be conducive to promoting a national political settlement process and promoting peace and stability in the region.  While opposing the decision adopted in 2018 to broaden the OPCW mandate, he said priority should instead be given to regulating the work of the Investigation and Identification Team.  Although remarkable progress has been made, the job of chemical weapons disarmament is unfinished and remains a priority.  Welcoming the destruction process for stockpiles by Syria, Russian Federation, Libya and Iraq, he expressed serious concern that the extended deadline of April 2012 was not met by a certain possessor State party.  He urged the United States, the only remaining State party with chemical weapons, to fulfil its obligations to complete destruction by the deadline specified in the Conference of States Parties decision.  With biosecurity increasingly important in global security governance, he said China has consistently and strictly implemented the Biological Weapons Convention.

ANDRÉS FERNANDO FIALLO KAROLYS (Ecuador) said his country’s Constitution prohibits the development, manufacture and deployment of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons alongside agricultural and experimental chemicals and substances deemed harmful to human health and the environment.  It deems the very existence of chemical and biological weapons to be as immoral as the possession of nuclear weapons.  He called for the universalization of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention and for nuclear‑weapon States to eliminate their stockpiles.

ABDULLAH HALLAK (Syria) said the use of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons, is unacceptable and immoral.  Based on its firm belief in a Middle East free of all such arms, and to prove to the world that it stands against the use of chemical weapons, Syria has implemented all its commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention, eliminating its programme and destroying all production facilities.  Syria no longer possesses any prohibited chemical materials, as per the Convention, and stands ready to keep cooperating with the OPCW on outstanding matters and issues of common interest.  Syria awaits the visit by the fact‑finding mission to look into incidents in Aleppo and elsewhere.  He added that some countries are misguiding the international community with fabrications and lies.  He condemned remarks by the Secretary of State of the United States, which accused the Syrian military of using chlorine gas.  Such shameful lies violate the authority of the OPCW, he said, adding that terrorist organizations supported by Turkey, United States, France, United Kingdom and Israel are a real threat to everyone.

Right of Reply

The representative of Syria, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said everyone in the First Committee is familiar with the lies and fabrications of the United States, including those about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  Other countries, including the United Kingdom, France and Turkey, have been involved in supplying chemical weapons to terrorist groups and training them in their use.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the United States is the only country party to the Chemical Weapons Convention that has an arsenal of around 2,000 tons of agents, such as sarin or mustard gas, and the pace of its destruction remains very slow.  Meanwhile, the United States continues to develop chemical weapons, having filed 500 patents for military applications.  Moreover, Washington, D.C., remains unconcerned about stockpiling chemical weapons in another country, has not investigated arsenals containing phosphorus left behind in Panama and has distanced itself from the case of the discovery of other chemical agents in Cambodia.  In addition, the United States has taken part in the Iran‑Iraq conflict by aiding Baghdad by supplying 4,500 chemical munitions.  Pointing out that all these incidences violate the Chemical Weapons Convention, he regretted to note that the United States has adopted a selective approach towards fulfilling obligations to international conventions.

The representative of Israel, noting that her country has signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, said being part of such instruments but not complying, such as the cases involving Iran and Syria, is not relevant.  Israel supports OPCW, acting in the spirit of all these conventions and sharing its values, unlike others in the Middle East region who are part of the instruments, but fail to respect provisions.  As an example, she said Iran is a serious violator of its treaty obligations.

The representative of Iran, responding to a baseless claim made by France, said his country’s ballistic missiles are designed for defensive purposes with conventional weapon capabilities.  “ Our ballistic capacity is designed to promote stability in the region and deter actions against us,” he said.  France must understand that among the most destabilizing actions that also violate several international conventions is the irresponsible transport of chemicals to the Middle East in order to hand it to actors involved in conflict situations.  He also rejected assertations made by his counterpart from Israel.

The representative of the United States responded to comments made by the Russian Federation’s delegate, saying that Washington, D.C., is on track to destroying its chemical weapon stockpiles by 2023 through a transparent process.  He said to “be careful what you hear; I wouldn’t give it much credibility”.  Pleased to note that Moscow completed the destruction of remaining stockpiles in 2017, he pointed out that the United States provided $1 billion towards this process, adding “you are welcome, Russia”.  Turning to concerns about Syria, he said Damascus has a flare for prevarication.  Highlighting that there is no debate on whether or not President Bashar al‑Assad used chemical weapons against his own population, he asked all Member States to not believe Syria’s representatives when they deny their Government’s involvement in this kind of attack.

The representative of France said Iranian missiles can be used in an offensive manner, and to say they are defensive does not correspond with the facts.  Iran’s ballistic missile programme is sophisticated and diversified, with applications that go beyond defence.  Turning to chemical weapons, he said no one in the Committee has denied the use of chemical weapons in Syria; the issue is whether such crimes should go unpunished.

The representative of Turkey said Syria’s representative is repeating baseless allegations while also abusing the Committee’s time.  The Syrian regime lost its legitimacy a long time ago and it will eventually be held accountable for its crimes.

The representative of the Russian Federation, in a second intervention, said his country’s elimination of chemical weapons was carried out transparently in compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention and certified by OPCW experts.  As for the $1 billion the United States contributed to support that process, Washington, D.C., spent about one half or more on administrative costs and other items in no way related to destroying the Russian chemical weapon stockpiles.

The representative of Syria said Israel has violated several Security Council resolutions on counter‑terrorism by supporting terrorist groups operating in his country.  Turkey’s representative is attempting to divert attention from his regime’s involvement in terrorist organizations acquiring chemical weapons.  He highlighted the use of chemical weapons by the United States, including in Viet Nam where babies have been born with deformations, and requested France to cease extending assistance to terrorists.

Conventional Weapons

MEGAYLA ULANA AUSTIN (Guyana), speaking on behalf of CARICOM, said violent crime is a challenge to sustainable development for the Community’s 14 member States.  In the region, more than 70 per cent of people who die a violent death are killed by a gun, even though members do not manufacture, export or re‑export small arms and light weapons, nor do they import them on a large scale.  The situation is especially challenging given the Caribbean’s porous borders, financial constraints and limited capacities.  She urged those Member States that have yet to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty to urgently do so.  CARICOM strongly supports the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, its accompanying International Tracing Instrument and the United Nations Firearms Protocol.  It hopes that in the short term, Member States can summon the political will to address all aspects of the illegal trade in small arms and light weapons, including their ammunition.  Welcoming the growing attention given to the gender dimension in disarmament processes, she called for greater understanding of the way in which such processes feed into realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.

JARMO VIINANEN (Finland), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said the advantages of women’s participation in disarmament and arms control are clear, with the Committee doing its part by improving gender balance throughout its activities.  The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction entered into force 20 years ago and has led to the destruction of nearly 53 million stockpiled mines.  However, established international norms are under pressure, with non‑State actors using improvised landmines as tools of war and terror.  Norway’s priority, as President of the fourth Review Conference in Oslo on 25 to 29 November, include the protection of vulnerable communities and groups, including internally displaced persons and refugees.  Poorly regulated small arms and their ammunition are key enablers of violent conflict, he said, welcoming the convening of a group of governmental experts in 2020 on problems arising from the accumulation of surplus conventional ammunition.  The Arms Trade Treaty, a high priority for the Nordic countries, has proven its value, with the number of States parties growing.  Strict adherence to international law, particularly international humanitarian law, must remain the cornerstone of all weapons use, including lethal autonomous weapons systems.  He called on States parties that have yet to do so to pay their assessed contributions and arrears to the Arms Trade Treaty, Convention on Cluster Munitions and other multilateral agreements in full and without delay to ensure their continued functioning.

MOEZZ LAOUANI (Tunisia), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, associated himself with the statement to be delivered by the Non‑Aligned Movement.  Noting that some Governments supply terrorists and illegal armed groups with conventional weapons in order to ensure protracted conflicts, he highlighted the importance of the Programme of Action on Small Arms in preventing this trend.  However, any measures taken must not run counter to the legitimate right of States to self‑defence.  In addition, there is a need to differentiate between the illegal trade and imposing politicized or discriminatory restrictions on the supply of weapons based on the views of a given Government.  On the Programme of Action on Small Arms, he said international cooperation and technical assistance for its implementation — especially in the areas of border control and stockpile management — must be promoted.  Provision of such assistance must lead to a reduction of official development assistance (ODA), which could affect the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  The primary focus should be on bridging gaps that prevent the effectiveness of multilateral efforts before looking into the question of ammunition, he added, calling for a thorough expert study into the consequences of any proposals in that regard.

ANNE KEMPPAINEN, European Union delegation, pointing at the Mine Ban Convention as a good example of effective multilateralism and international cooperation, said the bloc’s common objectives for the Oslo Review Conference are laid down in the European Union Council conclusions from earlier in 2019.  Highlighting the need to strengthen the ban, she said the European Union and its Member States are among the top donors for mine action.  Regarding the unregulated flow of arms and ammunition, she said members advocate for an integrated approach, with prevention at its core, to target the root causes, and called upon all Member States to join the Arms Trade Treaty.  The European Union has launched capacity‑building projects in support of small arms control in the Western Balkans, Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean.  It has also contracted more than €100 million to small arms and light weapons control projects in a number of countries.  Turning to the indiscriminate use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas, she said the European Union and its member States were among the 133 nations that attended the Vienna Conference on protecting civilians in urban warfare.

SOVANN KE (Cambodia), speaking on behalf of ASEAN, said the proliferation of conventional arms contributes to violence and instability, perpetuating poverty and undermining human welfare.  Noting that the use of small arms in conflict situations causes more than 200,000 civilian casualties each year, he highlighted the importance of effective weapon regulation and control in realizing peace, stability and sustainable development, among them the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the Secretary‑General’s new agenda for disarmament.  ASEAN has been diligently working to reinforce the disarmament machinery in its region and beyond, addressing arms smuggling through its Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime and its Regional Forum.  The ASEAN Forensic Science Institute helps to promote the exchange of information on forensic investigations related to illicit arms.  The Association’s Regional Mine Action Centre was established as a regional hub of excellence to help to address the humanitarian aspects of unexploded ordinance and explosive remnants of war, he said, calling on all States, particularly developed countries, to provide the necessary financial, technical and humanitarian assistance in ordnance clearance and the reintegration and rehabilitation of victims.

ROBERT WOOD (United States) said responsible State use of conventional weapons contributes to global and regional security, but in the wrong hands, are a source of destabilization.  The international community must cooperate to reduce the risks posed by illicitly traded small arms and light weapons, including man‑portable air‑defence systems and related ammunition.  The United States is prepared to continue to work in the Group of Governmental Experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems.  The United States military has robust programmes to implement international humanitarian law, he stated, adding that advanced technologies have been shown to improve civilian protection in armed conflict.  However, an effort to ban or stigmatize the use of explosive weapons is impractical and counterproductive as it can hamper efforts to protect civilians from actors such as ISIL or encourage them to use human shields or hide in urban areas.  For its part, United States has contributed more than $3.4 billion to more than 100 countries to reduce excess arms and ammunition from State stockpiles, improve security and remediate explosive hazards.

SAMANTHA GOH (Singapore), associating herself with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, regretted to note that every year more than half a million people die due to armed conflicts and armed violence, with a key factor being the widespread availability of firearms.  This issue must be addressed urgently, she said, outlining Singapore’s commitment to international efforts to curb the illicit weapon trade and to the Programme of Action on Small Arms, which must be fully implemented.  She urged countries to work collectively towards a consensus outcome during the seventh Biennial Meeting of States Parties to the instrument, to be held in 2020, asked Member States to strengthen their export control regimes, cross‑border controls and relevant legislation.  Raising other concerns, she said Singapore recognizes the grave impact of the indiscriminate use of anti‑personnel mines, cluster munitions and conventional weapons have on innocent lives, calling on States to fulfil their international obligations to curb illicit trade and the indiscriminate use of these weapons.

AIDAN LIDDLE (United Kingdom), associating himself with the European Union, expressed strong commitment to the Arms Trade Treaty and welcomed China’s intention to begin its accession process.  Turning to other treaties on conventional weapons, he said the Mine Ban Convention has delivered a significant humanitarian impact, “but we need to do more,” with the upcoming Review Conference being an opportunity for States parties to reflect on progress made, reaffirm their commitment to its core obligations and renew their determination to achieve a world free of landmines by 2025.  The United Kingdom is making steady progress in clearing landmines in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).  He encouraged all States to accede to the Convention on Cluster Munitions and welcomed progress made this year by the Group of Governmental Experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems.  The United Kingdom has long been at the forefront of global efforts to counter the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition, a transnational problem that it will continue to work on with individual States, regional organizations, industry and civil society.

MOHAMED ELHOMOSANY (Egypt) said the Middle East and Africa face severe threats from the illicit flow and international transfer of small arms and light weapons to terrorists and illegal armed groups.  “It is obvious that this unprecedented flow is conducted with the direct support of a few States that resort to arming terrorists as a tool of their foreign policies, in a clear violation of the United Nations, international norms and several Security Council resolutions,” he said.  The Arms Trade Treaty’s various shortcomings largely undermine its effectiveness and make it possible to abuse this treaty as a tool to manipulate and monopolize the legitimate weapons trade in a politized manner, while ignoring the prevention of international supplies to unauthorized recipients, such as terrorists and illegal armed groups.  Egypt reiterates its call on States parties to ensure its implementation.  Egypt is one of the States that have suffered the most from the use of landmines, with 20 per cent of the world’s landmines having been planted on its territory during the Second World War, he said, highlighting a need to intensify efforts to tackle this major problem.

DIEDRE NICHOLE MILLS (Jamaica) said her country is struggling with the devastating impact of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.  Neither a manufacturer nor importer of small arms, Jamaica continues to see high homicide rates, the majority of which involve the use of firearms.  A proliferation of illicit ammunition being used to perpetuate these crimes can be seen in increased ammunition recovery and seizures by the police.  Jamaica has been ensuring that requisite national legislative and policy frameworks are in place to address trafficking concerns and engaging private security companies to avoid the diversion of legal arms into the illicit market.  Adding that border control is a major challenge for the country, with about 145 unofficial ports, she said this issue has become a major Government priority.

ZENA AL KHALIL (Iraq), associating herself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said conventional arms have the same impact as weapons of mass destruction and are impairing the development of communities, prolonging conflicts and fuelling crime.  In addition, they are used by terrorists.  As such, the illicit commerce of small weapons must be eradicated.  She looked forward to the seventh Biennial Meeting of States Parties to the Programme of Action on Small Arms, adding that States must show flexibility and political determination to develop a programme of work and enhance the role of the United Nations in disarmament.  Turning to other weapons categories, she said explosives and all types of munitions have dire environmental consequences.  In addition, Iraq is experiencing serious challenges with landmines, which are hidden in many areas and are preventing people from returning to their homes.

LAURENT MASMEJEAN (Switzerland) expressed concern that armed conflicts increasingly occur in urban areas, posing major challenges in protecting civilians.  It is therefore crucial for all parties to conflicts to rigorously implement international humanitarian law.  His Government has spent years ensuring that ammunition stockpiles are safely and securely managed to prevent their diversion.  He cited the training and validation of experts in the field by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs and the Ammunition Management Advisory Team.  Despite progress made by the Group of Governmental Experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems, he said it must intensify efforts to circumscribe the challenges they pose.  Noting that artificial intelligence can alter the means and methods of war, increasingly enhancing human decision‑making on the battlefield, he said the repercussions of such developments must be considered in relation to legal obligations and practical application.

USMAN JADOON (Pakistan) said the level and scale of global military expenditures tops the list of worrying trends on the conventional weapons horizon.  In South Asia, one State’s military spending is fuelling instability and jeopardizing a delicate regional balance.  Growing transfers of conventional weapons, especially in volatile regions, are inconsistent with the maintenance of peace and security, he said, adding that a policy of double standards in South Asia must be eschewed.  Pakistan neither wants, nor is engaged in, an arms race in the region.  However, India, a State party to the Convention on Cluster Weapons, recently used cluster munitions in populated areas in Jammu and Kashmir, resulting in civilian death and injury.  Pellet guns were also used against unarmed protesters in Jammu and Kashmir in violation of the basic tenets of international law and humanitarian principles.  He underscored Pakistan’s commitment to implementing the Programme of Action on Small Arms, adding that it is keeping its potential access to the Arms Trade Treaty under review.

For information media. Not an official record.