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GA/DIS/3663
4 October 2021
Seventy-sixth Session, 2nd Meeting (AM)

Delegates Voice Concern Over States Engaging in Arms Race Instead of Aiding Efforts to Contain COVID-19, as First Committee Begins General Debate

Instead of racing to contain the coronavirus pandemic, a number of nations have entered a deadly arms race, delegates said today, as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) began its general debate.

At the meeting’s outset, Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, warned that the continued growth in global military spending — almost $2 trillion in 2020 — has fed into cycles of insecurity and mistrust.  Amid the current heightened tensions and conflict, the First Committee’s role is as pertinent as ever, she said, reminding members that “the solutions sought here are not utopian, but have practical, real-world consequences”.

Among great concerns are the emergence of new domains of strategic conflict, including outer space and cyberspace, and increasingly hostile relationships between nuclear-weapon States, she continued.  Nuclear risks are being driven to unacceptable heights, she cautioned, stressing:  “We must reverse course.”  The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons remains fundamental in pursuit of the total elimination of atomic bombs.

Turning to the disarmament machinery, she expressed regret that the Conference on Disarmament was unable to agree on a way to structure its substantive discussions.  Still, recent achievements include the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the extension of the New Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START) by the Russian Federation and the United States, possessors of the two largest arsenals.  However, action is needed in other key areas, from effectively controlling conventional arms to realizing a Middle East nuclear-weapon-free zone, she said.

Omar Hilale (Morocco), Chair of the First Committee, said the coronavirus pandemic offers a good lesson, as “there is no longer any option” but to progress in the area of disarmament, effectively addressing pressing issues, from the current arms race to preventing the weaponization of outer space.  He stressed that cyberspace and outer space represent new frontiers to be explored and must be safeguarded as arenas for the growth of all humanity.

During the debate, delegates pointed to bloated military budgets, the frozen disarmament machinery and potentially lethal emerging technologies that are making the world less safe while sparking and fuelling tensions.

Indonesia’s representative emphasized, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, that such challenges demand renewed efforts to resolve the current impasse over nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  Increasing global military expenditure could otherwise be spent on development needs, eradicating poverty and eliminating such diseases as COVID-19, he said.  The Non-Aligned Movement is also deeply concerned about the dismal state of affairs resulting from non-compliance by the nuclear-weapon States, he added, emphasizing the need for progress is needed on establishing a zone free of such weaponry in the Middle East, and to focus on full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme and ensuring the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.  At the same time, the disarmament machinery must play its critical role, he said, reiterating the urgent need for the Conference on Disarmament to begin substantive work on preventing an arms race in outer space.

Regional groups underlined the critical role of multilateralism in calming rising friction among some nuclear-weapon States and addressing the burgeoning illicit trade in conventional arms.

The representative of Trinidad and Tobago, speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said COVID-19 has delivered one clear message at what is perhaps the most critical juncture since the Second World War: transforming the current circumstances to realize a better world can only be achieved through effective multilateralism.  Such an approach is key in the face of regional challenges, including increased violence due in part to arms trafficking.

Guatemala’s delegate, speaking for the Central American Integration System, similarly noted that ongoing trafficking of weapons and the lack of oversight in the legal arms trade in various regions requires a balanced, transparent application of the relevant international agreements.

Ghana’s delegate, speaking for the African Group, expressed deep concern about the illicit small arms trade, reiterating members’ support for the Arms Trade Treaty and the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.  He said nuclear-weapon-free zones enhance global security and contribute to disarmament objectives.  Pledging commitment to the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty — the Treaty of Pelindaba — he expressed concern, however, that no progress has been made towards establishing such a zone in the Middle East.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine spoke for the Group of Arab States, highlighting that issue as one of its priorities.  While all Arab States remain committed to establishing such a zone in the region, Israel has refused to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which threatens regional security, he said.  Pointing to delays in implementing the related resolution adopted at the 1995 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, he emphasized the need for immediate measures to establish a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons.

Thailand’s delegate, speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), deplored the conduct of nuclear tests and called urgently for States to sign and ratify the Test-Ban Treaty.  Emphasizing that the Non-Proliferation Treaty remains the cornerstone instrument on issues related to nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful use of nuclear energy, he called upon all States parties to renew their commitments and urged them to work in good faith towards a successful Review Conference in 2022.

Denmark’s representative, speaking for the Nordic countries, expressed concern over the erosion of the multilateral disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation architecture.  She drew attention to such issues as the nuclear weapon and missiles programmes of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the chemical weapon attack against Russian Federation activist Alexei Navalny.  Commending ongoing efforts towards a successful outcome of the tenth Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, she underlined the strong commitment of the Nordic countries to preventing an arms race in outer space and ensuring a globally accessible, free, open and secure cyberspace, among other challenges.

Also speaking today were representatives of Bangladesh, South Africa, Pakistan, Yemen, Nepal, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Georgia and Sweden.

The observer for the European Union also delivered a statement.

Representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Russian Federation, Syria and Pakistan spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The First Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 5 October, to continue its general debate.

Opening Remarks

OMAR HILALE (Morocco), Chair, said the First Committee’s work is more crucial than ever in the current context of conflict, increased tensions and war, also citing the dangers of nuclear proliferation, arms races, mistrust between States and increasing involvement of non-State actors in the illicit trading of conventional weapons or radiological, chemical or nuclear materials.  He emphasized that cyberspace and outer space represent new frontiers to be explored and must be safeguarded as arenas for the growth of all humanity.

Numerous challenges, old and new, are evident in the exceptional context of the seventy-sixth session of the General Assembly, he noted.  Stressing that it is crucial to strengthen and safeguard the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, he expressed regret that the second review conference has not been held and that the Test-Ban Treaty has not entered into force.

He said the coronavirus pandemic offers a good lesson, as “there is no longer any option” but to progress in the area of disarmament.  Describing disarmament and non-proliferation as key immutable objectives of the United Nations and Member States, he said that, more than ever, the Committee has an important mandate and major responsibility, given the numerous and changing challenges to be addressed.

He expressed optimism, however, saying weeks of preparations for the session have revealed that Member States intend to have a successful, far-reaching session.  He said he is encouraged by the significant number of delegations taking the floor, and their tendency to present new resolutions, adding that open-ended working groups are showing enthusiasm in the quest to find tangible solutions.  Member States have a collective and individual shared responsibility to “our countries and the international community”, he said.

IZUMI NAKAMITSU, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said a continued growth in global military spending has fed into cycles of insecurity and mistrust, with total global military expenditure rising to almost $2 trillion in 2020.  In these times of crisis, heightened tensions and conflict, the Committee’s role - and the pursuit of disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control more broadly - is as pertinent as ever, she noted, emphasizing: “In fact, it is essential.”  The emergence and sophistication of new technologies afford a growing number of actors the capacity to disrupt global stability, with long‑standing agreements on nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction becoming increasingly fragile amid eroding trust among major Powers, she noted.  Increasingly hostile relationships between nuclear-weapon States are driving nuclear risks to unacceptable heights, she warned.  Similarly, the intersection between nuclear weapons and advancing cyber capabilities has created further possibility of misperception and miscalculation.  “We must reverse course”, she stressed.

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons remains fundamental in the pursuit of total elimination of nuclear weapons, she continued, noting that the postponed tenth Review Conference is an important opportunity to reaffirm commitment to the norms against use, proliferation and testing.  Realizing a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction will contribute significantly to global disarmament, she noted.  Welcoming the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, she said she was also encouraged by positive developments between the two largest possessors of nuclear weapons, the United States and the Russian Federation, including the extension of the New Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START).  She went on to underline that any use of chemical weapons is totally unacceptable and a violation of international law, urging States parties to reinvigorate the Biological Weapons Convention in order to uphold its central role in preventing misuse of biology for hostile purposes.  Effective control of conventional arms is also a critical piece of the disarmament puzzle, she said.

She reported that her Office continued its partnership with the African Union in 2021, in support of its flagship “Silencing the Guns" initiative.  Describing the emergence of new domains of strategic conflict, including outer space and cyberspace, as central to disarmament efforts, she cautioned that malicious cyber activities also pose a significant risk to international security and stability.  Concerning lethal autonomous weapons systems, she stressed that human responsibility must be retained in their development and use since accountability cannot be transferred to machines.  She went on to point out that only one fourth of statements were delivered by women in the Committee’s 2020 session, and encouraged States to realize the equal, full and effective participation of both women and men in disarmament affairs.  She expressed regret that the Conference on Disarmament was unable, at the very least, to agree on a way to structure its substantive discussions for the year.  She urged the Committee to “remember that the solutions sought here are not utopian, but have practical, real-world consequences”.

General Debate

MOHAMMAD KOBA (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, called for renewed efforts to resolve the current impasse over nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation at a time of increasing global military expenditure that could otherwise be spent on development needs, eradicating poverty and eliminating of such diseases as COVID-19.  Deeply concerned by that dismal state of affairs resulting from non-compliance by the nuclear-weapon States, the Non-Aligned Movement reiterates that convening the United Nations High‑level International Conference on Nuclear Disarmament, as decided through General Assembly resolutions, would provide an important opportunity to review progress and promote that noble objective, he said.  While citing progress, including the New START Treaty extension, he noted that roadblocks persist.  Highlighting the failure to reach consensus on an outcome document at the ninth Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Review Conference, he called upon the nuclear‑weapon States to demonstrate the necessary political will to hold a fruitful tenth review conference in 2022.

He said progress is also needed on establishing a Middle East nuclear-weapon-free zone, fully implementing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme and ensuring the entry into force of the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.  As for conventional weapons, he emphasized that major producing States must fulfil their treaty commitments.  Meanwhile, the disarmament machinery must play its critical role, he said, reiterating the urgent need for the Conference on Disarmament to begin substantive work on preventing an arms race in outer space.  Expressing deep concern at the continued lack of adequate representation of Non-Aligned Movement member States in the Office for Disarmament Affairs, he requested that the Secretary‑General and the High Representative undertake steps to rectify that situation.  He went on to underline the importance and relevance of the Disarmament Commission and expressed grave concern at its inability to convene its organizational and substantive sessions.

DENNIS FRANCIS (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the world is at a crossroads, perhaps the most critical juncture since the Second World War, with COVID-19 delivering one clear message:  transforming the current circumstances to realize a better world can only be achieved through effective multilateralism.  That approach is needed to face such challenges as the hobbling of the Sustainable Development Goals by the increasing incidence of violent crime perpetrated by sophisticated criminal networks, he said.  They are engaged in money-laundering, human trafficking and the illicit trade in small and light weapons, ammunitions and illegal drugs, he added.

Among other issues, CARICOM remains deeply concerned about the risks that the misuse of digital technology poses to national security and to the region’s socioeconomic development, he said.  CARICOM is fully engaged in the Open-ended Working Group on developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security.  He went on to say that while the international community still grapples with the goal of total elimination of nuclear weapons, CARICOM, part of the world’s first nuclear-weapon-free zone established by the Treaty of Tlatelolco, welcomes the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and anticipates a successful first meeting of States parties in 2022.  However, he expressed regret to note the persistent challenges remaining 51 years after the Non-Proliferation Treaty’s entry into force, emphasizing that the global community must seize the opportunity of the upcoming tenth review conference to build on past commitments.  CARICOM acknowledges and values the important role of civil society in the field of disarmament and international security, with partnerships being integral to advancing related goals, he noted.

SUPARK PRONGTHURA (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the international community is currently being tested by a pandemic amid mounting global security challenges, including rivalry among major Powers, the modernization of nuclear arsenals, tension on the Korean Peninsula and developments in the Middle East.  Expressing ASEAN’s strong support for multilateral cooperation to address such challenges, he underlined the regional group’s support for efforts to realize a world free of nuclear weapons.  He went on to deplore the conduct of nuclear tests, while noting that all ASEAN member States have ratified the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and calling urgently for Annex 2 States to do the same.  He reaffirmed ASEAN’S view of the Non-Proliferation Treaty as the cornerstone instrument on issues related to nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Calling upon all States parties to renew their commitments under that Treaty, he urged them to work in good faith towards a successful Review Conference.  “Every State has the right to the safe and peaceful use of nuclear technology, in particular for its economic and social development,” he said, pledging ASEAN’s continued cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  Noting the importance of nuclear-weapon-free zones - such as the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, or “Bangkok Treaty” - he stressed the importance of its full and effective implementation.  In addition, he welcomed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as a historic agreement; expressed support for the implementation of other relevant efforts, including Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) and the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament; and pledged ASEAN’s commitment to cooperation on cybersecurity and building an open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful information and communications technology (ICT) environment.

LUIS ANTONIO LAM PADILLA (Guatemala), speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System, said the pandemic crisis underscores the importance of a multilateral response to great global challenges.  Noting the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Framework Treaty on Democratic Security in Central America, he said security challenges in the region remain complex, especially in relation to public security, which is threatened by cross-border organized crime and the trafficking of weapons.

Noting the illegal trade in conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons, and the lack of oversight in the arms trade in various regions, he called for balanced, transparent application of the relevant international agreements.  He reaffirmed the need for complete and verifiable nuclear disarmament, calling for the elimination of any role for nuclear weapons in political and security doctrines.  Guatemala is a signatory to the Tlatelolco Treaty, which established the first nuclear-weapon-free zone in any highly populated region, he said, emphasizing the importance of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation Treaty and of the inalienable right of States to research the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

MARIE-LOUISE KOCH WEGTER (Denmark), also speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries ‑ Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden ‑ expressed concern over the erosion of the multilateral disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation architecture.  Noting that efforts towards a successful outcome of the tenth Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference continue, she affirmed that the Nordic countries stand ready to continue to work for the Treaty’s full implementation, including Article VI on nuclear disarmament.  She went on to underscore the importance of the New START Treaty and welcomed its extension for an additional five years, highlighting the ongoing strategic stability dialogue between the United States and the Russian Federation.

Expressing support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, she urged Iran to return to full compliance and to address outstanding safeguard issues without delay.  She also called upon that country to return to negotiations in Vienna. Emphasizing that developments on the Korean Peninsula remain central to regional peace and development, she said the continued nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programmes of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is of the utmost concern.  Turning to the subject of chemical weapons, she condemned the assassination attempt on Russian Federation activist Alexei Navalny; she said those responsible must be brought to justice.  She went on to stress the strong commitment of the Nordic countries to prevent an arms race in outer space and to ensure a globally accessible, free, open and secure cyberspace.

HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), speaking on behalf of the Group of African States and associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons marks a watershed in the drive to rid the world of atomic bombs.  However, the failure of the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference remains a concern, he added, calling for greater commitment to producing a consensus outcome document at the 2022 Review Conference.  Noting that nuclear-weapon-free zones enhance global security and contribute to disarmament objectives, he said, pledging commitment to the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, known as the Treaty of Pelindaba.  He expressed, concern, however, that no progress has been made towards establishing such a zone in the Middle East.

Emphasizing the IAEA’s important role, he expressed serious concern about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of atomic bombs.  The African Group reiterates calls to eliminate all nuclear weapons, he said, expressing hope that the nuclear-weapon States will sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and work towards its goals, including refraining from modernizing their arsenals.  He called for the Conference on Disarmament to resume its work, while noting the lack of consensus in the Disarmament Commission.  Deeply concerned about the illicit small arms trade, particularly in Africa, he reiterated the Group’s support for the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons and the Arms Trade Treaty.  He went on to note that the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa has continued to provide support to States, deepening its partnership with the African Union.  Turning to the weaponization of outer space, he underlined the need for a legally binding treaty to prevent that.

MARJOLIJN VAN DEELEN, Special Envoy for Non‑Proliferation and Disarmament of the European Union, emphasized that today’s multipolar world calls for multilateral global solutions.  Expressing concern over the deteriorating security environment, she called upon all States to respect international norms and institute confidence‑building measures.  Recognizing the Non‑Proliferation Treaty as the cornerstone of the nuclear non‑proliferation regime, she also welcomed the Stockholm Agreement initiative as part of the review conference, and the New START Treaty as a crucial contribution to international and European security.

Underlining that the two States with the largest arsenals have a special responsibility in arms control, she called upon them to pursue further discussions on confidence‑building and risk reduction in order to lay the foundation for greater future disarmament.  China should actively contribute to those initiatives, she added.  The European Union urges all remaining States to sign and ratify the Test-Ban Treaty, without preconditions or delay, and to abide by moratoria on nuclear explosions, she said.  Stressing the importance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, she expressed concern over Iran’s recent activities, urging that State to fully implement the Plan.  She further noted that the activities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are a matter of grave concern.

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, spoke on behalf of the Group of Arab States, saying multilateralism provides the road to address disarmament issues.  However, the nuclear-weapon States are not respecting their obligations, he noted.  Describing nuclear‑weapon‑free zones as critical, he recalled that Israel refused to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non‑nuclear-weapon State, remains a threat to regional security and defies Security Council resolutions.  He went on to reiterate concerns about delays in implementing the related 1995 resolution adopted at the Review Conference.

Immediate measures must be taken to establish a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons, he emphasized, saying a draft resolution on that matter will be tabled in the First Committee.  The Arab Group welcomes the first session on establishing such a zone, he said, adding that he looks forward to a positive second meeting to negotiate a legally binding treaty.  He went on to stress the importance of achieving a balance among the Non‑Proliferation Treaty’s three pillars ‑ disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, calling for intensified efforts to that end by all States during the forthcoming 2022 Review Conference.

JUAN GÓMEZ ROBLEDO VERDUZCO (Mexico) noted that global gross domestic product (GDP) fell during the pandemic, but military budgets grew, with $72 billion spent on maintaining nuclear weapons alone.  That is a failure of solidarity, he emphasized, recalling that the first resolution adopted by the General Assembly, in 1946, was a call for nuclear disarmament.  Yet, more than 13,000 atomic bombs still exist today, and their possessors continue to modernize their arsenals and strengthen partnerships, he stressed.  Additionally, other weapons of mass destruction are being used once more, he noted, calling for a renewed thrust to curb the use of cluster munitions as well as biological and chemical weapons.  Furthermore, he stressed, outer space, or cyberspace, must not be the arena for an arms race or war.  Still, some signs of a safer world exist, he said, welcoming the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the renewed dialogue among States possessing atomic bombs. Mexico also welcomes the gains made on the Arms Trade Treaty and on the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, he said.

RABAB FATIMA (Bangladesh), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said her country’s commitment to general and complete disarmament remains total and unwavering.  She welcomed the entry-into-force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and called for its full implementation by all, including the nuclear-weapon States.  Reiterating concerns over the protracted impasse in the Conference on Disarmament, she also called for progress on the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty’s entry-into-force.  Reaffirming the inalienable rights of States to engage in nuclear research, including for power generation and health care, she said Bangladesh is constructing its first nuclear power plant, in compliance with the highest IAEA standards.  Concerned about the illicit transfer of small arms and light weapons, she called for implementation of the related Programme of Action.  “Stockpiles of weapons fail to save human lives,” she said, calling upon Member States to show they “genuinely mean business”.

MATHU JOYINI (South Africa), associating herself with the African Group, the Non-Aligned Movement and the New Agenda Coalition, emphasized her delegation’s concern that neither the Conference on Disarmament nor the Disarmament Commission were able to make any progress since the last session.  The total elimination of all weapons of mass destruction remains the priority, she emphasized.  Noting that nuclear-weapon-free zones are the key to nuclear disarmament, she urged good-faith participations by all regions in the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction.  She went on to stress that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action remains crucial to regional peace and security, calling upon all parties, including Iran and the United States, to return to proximity talks.  Concerned about the polarization and lack of consensus within the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), South Africa underlined the need to preserve its impartiality, she said.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the world is witnessing escalating tensions in Asia and elsewhere, a renewed and expanded global arms race and the revival of military alliances alongside erosion of the international arms control architecture.  The danger of nuclear war is growing, he warned, while welcoming the resumed dialogue between the United States and the Russian Federation - two major nuclear-weapon States.  However, a threat in South Asia is posed by a State that has occupied Jammu and Kashmir, in violation of Security Council resolutions, and unleashed terrorist activities against Pakistan and other neighbouring countries, he said.  India has spent almost $73 billion on weapons and has nuclearized the Indian Ocean, he added, noting that 70 per cent of its weapons target his country.  Pakistan, for its own part, will do whatever it takes to prevent India’s aggressions, he vowed.  Peace can be achieved by resolving India-Pakistan issues, maintaining a balance of strategic forces and establishing reciprocal measures for restraint on the use of nuclear missiles, he said, pointing out that Pakistan’s proposal for a strategic restraint regime in South Asia remains “on the table”.

ABDULLAH ALI FADHEL AL-SAADI (Yemen), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said his country supports all initiatives to curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons and to create an atomic-bomb-free region.  While all Arab States have joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty and engaged in establishing a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, Israel refuses to follow suit, thus exacerbating instability and speeding a regional arms race, he pointed out.  Welcoming the 2019 session on establishing a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East, he expressed hope that the second session will produce a legally binding document, and for a fruitful 2022 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.  Turning to national concerns, he said the Houthi militia are receiving support from Iran, which is destabilizing the region.  Having joined the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction - known informally as the Ottawa Treaty, the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, or the Mine Ban Treaty – he added, Yemen remains concerned about the ongoing arbitrary deployment of landmines and their continuing harm to women and children.  He went on to welcome the recent meeting of States parties to the Programme of Action on Small Arms, while calling for greater attention to addressing the spread of illegal weapons.

AMRIT BAHADUR RAI (Nepal) expressed concern about the deterioration of international peace and security, pointing to the nearly $2 trillion in military expenditure during 2020 despite the urgent need to allocate resources to contain COVID-19.  Expressing Nepal’s strong support for elimination of all weapons of mass destruction ‑ including nuclear, radiological, biological, and chemical weapons ‑ and the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, he called upon the nuclear-weapon States to fulfil their legal obligations in that regard.  He went on the condemn the use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world and emphasized the need for cross-border cooperation and assistance to prevent the illicit trade in and transfer of small arms and light weapons.  Nepal firmly stands for preventing an arms race in, and weaponization of, outer space, he stressed.  He also called upon States to agree on a global regulatory framework for a peaceful information and communications technology environment and safe cyberspace, and to include gender perspectives in disarmament frameworks.

CRISTIAN ESPINOSA CAÑIZARES (Ecuador) predicted that despite calls for solidarity, the current session will witness an increasing number of requests for recorded votes.  In 2020, consensus was reached on just under 23 per cent of draft resolutions, he recalled, inviting all delegations to reverse that trend.  Emphasizing that Member States must deploy every effort to consolidate nuclear-weapon-free zones, including in conflict areas and in the Middle East, he expressed regret at the lack of compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty by the nuclear-weapon States.  Rejecting all planning of nuclear tests, he also associated Ecuador with other States working to stop the financing of cluster munitions, describing them as particularly inhumane.  He went on to note the escalating rhetoric, stressing that Member States have a responsibility to “send a different message out” and to work towards living in peace like good neighbours.

OSAMA ABDELHKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt), expressing concern about rising tensions and the return of the arms race, noted the lack of political will among Member States to fulfil their commitments.  Resistance to legally binding instruments for regulating strategic and emerging technologies is morally and politically unacceptable, he said.  Emphasizing the need to address the lack of progress on nuclear disarmament, he said implementation of the 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons should be a priority.  To that end, Egypt calls upon the international community to support its draft resolution on the Establishment of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Middle East and the Arab Group’s draft on the Risk of Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East, he said.  He welcomed the first convening of the first session of the Conference on the Establishment of a Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East under Jordan’s chairmanship, Looking forward to the second session, he said Egypt will also table a draft resolution titled “Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world: accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments”, together with the New Agenda Coalition.  Alongside Sri Lanka, Egypt will present another draft resolution on preventing an arms race in outer space.

ASHISH SHARMA (India), reaffirming his country’s commitment to universal, non-discriminatory and verifiable nuclear disarmament, highlighted its proposed step-by-step approach to that end, contained in the working paper submitted by his delegation to the Conference on Disarmament in 2007.  As the world’s single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum, that Conference needs the requisite political will to agree on a comprehensive and balanced programme of work, he emphasized, calling on it to start negotiations on legally binding instruments.  As a responsible nuclear-weapon State, India is committed to maintaining credible minimum deterrence through its no-first-use and non-use against non-nuclear-weapon States posture he stressed.  He went on to express support for the full and effective implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, strengthening of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and institutional strengthening of the Biological Weapons Convention.

KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia) highlighted the remaining security challenge in his country’s Russian-occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia, citing recorded attempts to smuggle nuclear and radioactive materials through those regions, and calling for an international presence in the occupied territories to conduct verification activities on the ground.  He further pointed out the excessive militarization in the Black Sea region, in violation of international law.  “Military aggression by the Russian Federation against Georgia and Ukraine not only represents a fundamental threat to our countries, but endangers the wider European security,” he warned.  Noting that Georgia has been subjected to disinformation and cyber-attacks, he called for a proper international assessment of the ongoing illegal activities against his country.

ANNA KARIN ENESTRÖM (Sweden), associating herself the European Union and the Nordic countries, said much is at stake as the world approaches the tenth Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.  “We must reaffirm the continued validity of previous commitments made and advance implementation on all three pillars,” she emphasized.  The Stockholm Initiative for Nuclear Disarmament ‑ launched by Sweden in 2019 alongside 15 other non-nuclear-weapon-States ‑ aims to build political support for a pragmatic, results-oriented disarmament agenda ahead of that conference, she said, inviting all States parties to align themselves with the initiative’s proposals.  She went on to stress the importance of preventing an arms race in outer space and called for the adoption of voluntary norms of responsible behaviour in that regard.  Meanwhile, she called upon the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to formalize its denuclearization commitments in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.  She went on to express support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme and condemned the attempted assassination of Alexei Navalny, who was poisoned in the Russian Federation with the chemical nerve agent Novichok.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, rejected statements made by the speakers from Denmark and the European Union.  He said three decades have passed since the end of the cold war, but the Korea Peninsula remains fraught with tensions, rooted in hostile military threats by the United States.  Not a single foreign military presence exists in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, but foreign troops operate in the Republic of Korea, with the United States continuing to stage military exercises, he noted.  The international community must not overlook the fact that the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are still technically at war, he emphasized, warning that the possible outbreak of a new war on the Korean Peninsula remains.  Pyongyang is working to deter attempts at a military invasion, he said.  Indeed, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is building up its capabilities to ensure peace in the face of the increased number of threats, he added, demanding to know why those countries professing to be interested in peace remain silent in the face of continued military exercises and nuclear deals with Australia.

The representative of India, noting that his counterpart from Pakistan made unsubstantiated statements about Jammu and Kashmir, said that territory was and is part of India.  Calling upon Pakistan to vacate areas under its illegal occupation, he said that country orchestrates hatred for India, but the world can see through its deceit.  As a responsible State, India abides by its commitments under international treaties and does not need advice from Pakistan, he emphasized, saying that country has exported nuclear technology and terrorism, destabilized the region, and continues to block negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty in the Conference on Disarmament.  The First Committee is not a forum in which to address bilateral or regional issues, he stressed, saying members should condemn Pakistan for trying to hijack its work.

The representative of the Russian Federation said his counterpart from Georgia did not convey the real history of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  Citing that country’s provocation in South Ossetia, he said the Russian Federation provided assistance when asked to provide it.  He emphasized that a political settlement must be negotiated in the relevant forum, not in the First Committee.  Regarding Mr. Navalny, he said the Government offered its assistance, adding that his delegation rejects the accusations made by Sweden and Germany.

The representative of Syria, responding to Denmark’s statement, said some Nordic countries committed to an alliance that claims to be fighting Da’esh but instead attacks Syria’s armed forces bases and destabilizes security.  Regarding the OPCW decision, he said there was no consensus and the process was contrary to existing decision-making mechanisms, adding:  “This is a hostile plan against Syria.”

The representative of Pakistan, responding to India’s delegate, noted that country’s extremist ideology and hegemonic pretensions, warning that its history of aggression against neighbours and refusal to engage in discourse endanger not only Pakistan, but regional and international security.  India’s “illegal actions” in Jammu and Kashmir contravene Security Council resolutions, he said, emphasizing that those issues are completely relevant to the Committee’s work.  State terrorism will not dampen the indomitable spirit of those seeking their inalienable right to self-determination, he added.  Stressing that Jammu and Kashmir is neither an integral part of India’s territory nor an internal Indian matter, he affirmed that it is internationally recognized as a disputed territory.  Noting India’s unmerited claims of support for the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, he said that his own delegation’s position is guided by national security concerns.  Pakistan is willing to go along with negotiations that include existing stocks within their scope, he added.

For information media. Not an official record.