Nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East – First Cttee debate – Verbatim record (excerpts)

Official Records

General Assembly

Forty-ninth session

First Committee

8th meeting

Friday, 21 October 1994, 3 p.m.

New York

Chairman: Mr. Valencia Rodriguez ……………………….. (Ecuador)

The meeting was called to order at 3.20 p.m.

Agenda items 53 to 66, 68 to 72 and 153 (continued)

General debate on all disarmament and international security items


Mr. Yativ (Israel): At the outset, I wish to extend my congratulations to the Chairman on his election to his office. My delegation is confident that he and the other officers of the Committee will steer the deliberations of this Committee with the utmost wisdom, skill and competence.  I am addressing this Committee today after a year that has witnessed outstanding developments in the Middle East.  This week, in Amman, Jordan and Israel have initialled a historic peace treaty – the first treaty between Israel and an Arab neighbour since the convening of the Madrid Conference.  As a result of the Cairo agreement, signed in May this year, the Palestinian people gained control of the Gaza Strip and Jericho.  A promising dialogue is taking place between Damascus and Jerusalem. Multilateral meetings are intensively engaged in laying the ground for an infrastructure for regional cooperation. We hope, indeed we are confident that all this will generate an agenda for a new Middle East.

The multilateral talks, which constitute an integral part of the peacemaking efforts, have also produced tangible results in all their working groups. With relevance to the discussions of this Committee, I wish to refer to the Working Group on Arms Control and Regional Security. It is well known that the goal of this Working Group, within the multilateral peace process, is to complement the bilateral talks by seeking cooperative responses to security problems pertaining to our region. At a time when the bilateral talks are gaining significant momentum, it is also time to recall that the working group has proved to be the exclusive forum in which to address matters of regional security.

Confidence-building measures are at present being discussed and negotiated within the Working Group on Arms Control and Regional Security, on which the hopes of the negotiating parties are riveted. It is our view that in the unique circumstances of the Middle East, an arms control process has to begin with confidence-building measures. In this respect, a necessary sequence must be followed, one which includes measures that, first of all, do not impair the national security of the negotiating partners and that can be established on a bilateral or multilateral basis. Once agreed, they have to be tested over time in order to instil confidence. Confidence-building measures of a more pervasive nature, and certainly arms control, require that all States of the region abjure war. Such peace is, of course, contingent primarily on political accommodation.

On the relationship between confidence building and peace, the Secretary-General of the United Nations stated in his report dated 10 September 1990 on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East as follows:

"Confidence must be built on all sides: … confidence that military solutions to political problems are excluded … Most important of all, there must be progress in solving the fundamental conflicts in the region." (A/45/435, para. 110)

Regional security problems can be settled only among the States of the region. The positive developments in the peace process are conducive to building confidence among the States – a prerequisite for diminishing the levels of suspicion and hostility, and for the solution of regional problems. The process has already begun, and there is no doubt that it will contribute to enhancing peace and stability in the Middle East.

The concept of regionality is the backbone of Israel’s approach to matters of regional security and arms control.  Notwithstanding its regional approach, Israel has manifested an increasing and continuing openness in addressing global issues on arms control. We have taken part, on expert levels, in discussions and negotiations on various arms control subjects in New York, Geneva and the Hague. I should like to elaborate on several issues.

First, anti-personnel land-mines planted during times of armed conflict and left after the conflict is over have caused many tragedies for civilian populations all over the world. Addressing the worldwide effort to reduce the damage caused by the proliferation of land-mines, Israel has joined the sponsors of resolution 48/75 K, adopted at the forty-eighth session of the General Assembly, entitled "Moratorium on the export of anti-personnel land-mines".

As called for by that resolution, the Government of Israel has decided upon a moratorium of two years on the transfer of anti-personnel land-mines. In addition to the two-year moratorium, the Government of Israel offered its know-how, assistance and training in de-mining. Israel hopes that these steps, which are humanitarian in nature, will reinforce the global efforts in this field. Israel will also adopt, at this session of the General Assembly, a constructive approach on this matter.

Regarding transparency in armaments, we took part in the work of the group of experts that met in New York to examine the question of the expansion of the Register. It is appropriate at this juncture to outline Israel’s position.

First, Israel was one of the first countries to support resolution 46/36 L, by which the General Assembly established the Register and Israel has submitted its reports for the Register in accordance with that resolution.

Secondly, countries and regions face different political, military and security conditions. Although issues relating to transparency in armaments might have negative effects on its security, Israel has agreed to discuss certain measures. Such measures as the exchange of information and early notification of certain military activities are already on the agenda of the Regional Security and Arms Control Working Group.

Thirdly, there are certain observations that must be made. Some countries would like to see the Register extended to cover issues such as transparency in military holdings and procurement through national production, weapons of mass destruction, and the transfer of high technology with military applications. As conflicts in various parts of the world have a tendency to develop at different paces, the Register can only require the lowest global common denominator as far as transparency in armaments is concerned. Beyond that level, transparency in armaments ought to be dealt with in the regional context.  Hence, Israel, like other countries, continues to believe that conditions are not yet ripe for discussion of issues of transparency in armaments beyond the categories agreed upon by the United Nations. In his opening statement at the 3rd meeting of this Committee, the Secretary-General said that the Register was "intended as a cooperative exercise in confidence building". Indeed this is the raison d’être of the Register, and in the building of confidence time has an important role to play.

Fourthly, the goals of transparency in armaments cannot be achieved unless all countries in the region provide the data required for the Register. More countries, especially from our area, should contribute to the Register. Only then and following discussions in the regional framework can the matter of measures for more transparency in armaments be addressed.

Israel has expressed its support for the banning of nuclear-test explosions and has taken an active role in the negotiations in Geneva on a comprehensive test-ban treaty, following the consensus on the relevant resolution at the forty-eighth session of the General Assembly. Israel believes that the organization to be set up under such a treaty should enable each State party to exercise its rights in the various organs on an equal and non-discriminatory basis. A global and universally applicable comprehensive test-ban treaty will also play a supportive role at the regional level. Israel expects all States in the Middle East to adhere to the treaty as an important step towards regional stability and security. Israel hopes that at the forthcoming round of negotiations it will be able to participate as a full member of the Conference on Disarmament.

Israel has consistently maintained a constructive and positive attitude towards the Convention on the prohibition of chemical weapons. The Middle East has known the threat and use of chemical weapons. Over the years, Israel has called for the elimination of chemical weapons and the establishment in the Middle East of a region free from chemical weapons.

Israel was also among the original signatories of the chemical weapons Convention in January 1993 in Paris. On that occasion, the Israeli Foreign Minister, Mr. Shimon Peres, reiterated Israel’s unqualified commitment to the Convention when he said that the chemical weapons Convention must refer to our region and that the region at large must adhere to its principles and comply with its provisions. Israel is convinced that the chemical weapons Convention can be genuinely effective if it is treated solely on its merits and if its universality is guaranteed. That means that any linkage between the Convention and the nuclear or any other issue is totally unacceptable for Israel. Unfortunately, several States in the region are still currently arming themselves with chemical weapons. Therefore, the abolishing of chemical weapons and the creating of a world and Middle East free of chemical weapons are important to the achievement of comprehensive peace and stability in the region.

Israel gives unqualified support to the principle of the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and it voted in favour of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) when the Treaty was adopted by the General Assembly in 1968. Israel also supports the work of the Preparatory Committee on the extension of the NPT and took part, as an observer, in the Preparatory Committee that convened in Geneva in September of this year.

Such support, however, does not absolve Israel from assessing the conditions and realities of its region. Given the volatile nature of the Middle East, Israel advocated and continues to advocate the establishment, in due course, of a nuclear-weapon-free zone, freely and directly negotiated, including mutual verification and encompassing all States of the region.

On the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East the Secretary-General stated:

"A zone can be even more effective in this regard than the NPT, essential as that instrument and its IAEA safeguards systems are." (A/45/435, para. 109)

Sheer necessity dictates our attitude, and the volatility of our region adds caution against any precipitate renunciation of our agenda for arriving at a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. Israel’s policy on the nuclear issue is based on the following four principles.

First: comprehensiveness. The nuclear issue should be dealt with in the full context of the peace process, as well as of all the security problems, conventional and non-conventional.

Secondly: a regional framework. Nuclear non-proliferation will be achieved and ascertained only by establishing a mutually verifiable nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

Thirdly: a step-by-step approach. Practicality dictates beginning the process with confidence- and security-building measures, establishing peaceful relations and, in due course, complementing the process by dealing with conventional and non-conventional arms control, where priorities are assigned to systems that experience has proved to be destructive and destabilizing.

Fourthly: the primacy of the peace process.  Negotiations on all issues concerning the security of the region have to take place in a free and direct way – as they are indeed conducted in the bilateral and multilateral talks – within the framework of the peace process.

This is an opportune moment in the history of our region. It provides an auspicious and unique opportunity for solving regional problems and achieving peace and stability. It is incumbent on us to take advantage of the momentum that is developing in order to enhance regional security. The process has already begun within the framework of the multilateral talks, in which Israel is playing an active role.

The peace process in all its facets deserves, especially at this time, the unqualified support and understanding of the international community. The General Assembly has a unique opportunity to bestow its unreserved blessings upon the peacemaking efforts and thus contribute to this historic process. At its forty-eighth session the General Assembly reacted to the new reality in the Middle East by beginning to change obsolete resolutions drafted at the height of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In the last year also we have seen a positive change in this Committee. Member States have realized that agenda item 65, entitled "Israeli nuclear armament", serves no purpose other than to single out Israel since the text contained no point of substance that was not taken up in the resolution on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. The total removal of this resolution from the agenda will be in line with the new reality that is emerging in the Middle East. It will also follow the example of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which at its Thirty-eighth Conference, in September 1994, finally resolved to put an end to years of singling out Israel and adopted a positive resolution for the restoration of technical assistance to Israel, which it had been denied ever since 1981.

In conclusion, it is Israel’s hope that the General Assembly will place itself squarely behind the peace negotiations as the only venue for the settlement of outstanding issues on the Middle East, and thus contribute to lasting peace based on understanding and reconciliation.


Mr. Tayeb (Saudi Arabia) (interpretation from Arabic): …


The significant progress and détente achieved through the Middle East peace process in which my country is an active participant, has not been accompanied, regrettably, by the existence of real feelings of security and safety among the peoples of the region. Such feelings of security have been lacking because of the lack of security imbalance as a result of Israel’s possession of destructive nuclear armaments that are not subject to any international legal control. Israel continues to ignore international calls to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and to place its nuclear facilities under the safeguards and verification regime of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  This is a stance that is not in keeping with the new vision of a peaceful Middle East and does not respond to the basic and objective requirements of peace. We therefore hope that this question will be dealt with responsibly and will be accorded the importance it deserves in a manner that would reflect the resolve and determination of international legality to free mankind of all nuclear weapons.

My country supports the creation of zones that are free of all weapons of mass destruction as this would constitute a major step towards the ultimate goal of eliminating all weapons of mass destruction from the world.

While we note with satisfaction the progress that has been achieved in this regard in Africa, South-East Asia and Latin America, as well as the adoption by consensus of General Assembly resolution 48/71 of 1993 on freeing the Middle East of all weapons of mass destruction, we call upon the parties concerned in the Middle East to take practical steps to achieve this objective in the interests of all peoples of the region. As a fundamental step in that direction, we call upon all States in the Middle East – especially Israel, the only State in the region that possesses nuclear weapons – accede to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and to place its nuclear facilities under the safeguards regime of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).


Mr. Abulhasan (Kuwait) (interpretation from Arabic): …


Kuwait has supported the idea that a denuclearized zone be set up in the Middle East. My country believes that pending the creation of such a nuclear-weapon-free zone in our region, all countries of the region, without exception and without distinction, must refrain from the production, acquisition or stockpiling on nuclear weapons. My country proposes the following steps.

First, all the countries of the region should declare that they accept the setting up of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction. That declaration should be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Second, all countries of the Middle East should declare that henceforth they will refrain from developing, producing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction on their territories or on territories under their control. Third, all countries of the region should accept international inspection of their nuclear installations in conformity with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and should allow the United Nations to play a role in developing an international monitoring and follow-up mechanism. Fourth, all countries of the region must accede to the NPT and to Conventions banning the proliferation of other weapons of mass destruction. As Israel possesses an arsenal of nuclear weapons, it is invited to respond to the need to establish peace and stability in the Middle East. Fifth, military confidence-building arrangements should be drawn up on the basis of transparency and early warning to strengthen preventive diplomacy. Sixth, the permanent members of the Security Council should provide complete, effective and unconditional assurances to all States of the region. Seventh, disputes should be settled by peaceful means, including recourse to international jurisdiction, in order to avoid endangering international peace and security.

My country hopes that it will continue to play an effective role in the United Nations with the aim of conducting further consultations with countries of the region so that speedy steps may be taken to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, since that would heighten the possibilities of bringing peace to the region at a time when we are on the verge of a solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict.

The issues of peace, security, disarmament and the settlement of disputes by peaceful means should be addressed on the basis of the fundamental principles of peaceful coexistence, non-interference in the internal affairs of States and the non-use of force or threat of force at any time.

My country welcomes the progress made in the Middle East peace talks. We hope that further progress will be made on all tracks so that a new chapter, the chapter of peace, can begin in our region and so that we may take advantage of our economic and human resources in working for development.


Mr. Azwai (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) (interpretation from Arabic): …


We hope that the Committee will reach an understanding that takes into account the concerns of all States parties to the Treaty with regard to the question of extending the Treaty. In this connection, my delegation wishes to reiterate the fact that we see a number of difficulties regarding any indefinite extension of the Treaty because of the following substantive reasons: and in terms of the loss of lives of thousands of human beings, and of cattle.

First, the continuing security imbalance in the Middle East region which arises from Israel’s possession of a nuclear capability;

Second, the disparity in the positions of the Arab States and Israel in adherence to the non-proliferation regime as reflected in accession to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the conclusion of a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA);

Third, the absence of any credible security guarantees to the non-nuclear States because nuclear-weapon States have not fully carried out their commitments in the field of effective measures of nuclear-weapon disarmament;

Fourth, the lack of any progress in establishing a non-proliferation regime in the Middle East, including the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction; and,

Fifth, the restrictive export policies still applied by the exporters of nuclear technical equipment for peaceful purposes to the developing countries that are parties to the Treaty.


As for transforming the Middle East into a zone free of weapons of mass destruction, we welcome that very much indeed, but wish to draw the attention of the international community to the fact that this dream, noble as it may seem, will not be possible to realize unless the whole world bravely stands up to the Israelis, who possess a large arsenal of nuclear weapons, in excess of 200 warheads. Even if the Israelis accede to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), this will not be sufficient to transform the Middle East into a zone free of weapons of mass destruction. As we have pointed out before, the Israelis possess a large arsenal of nuclear weapons that threaten the peace and security of all the countries of the region and regrettably, the Israelis receive every support and encouragement from the major Western Powers, in particular the United States of America, which pursues a policy of double standards. This leads us to wonder whether the international community is serious in dealing with this issue especially when we recall that certain countries, led by the United States of America, raised a hue and cry over a small pharmaceutical, and, I repeat, pharmaceutical plant in my country intended for the production of medicines, while those same Powers turn a blind eye to the means of mass destruction possessed by the Israelis. What sort of justice is this?

As for the so-called peace process in the Middle East, my country wishes to warn the Jews before the Arabs that this peace will not endure because it is not just and not definitive. Those who encourage them to seek such peace want to get rid of the Jews before the Arabs, whereas we, who want the Jews to live in peace, wish to point out that peace between them and the Palestinians cannot be just or lasting unless it is based on the establishment of a democratic State in which Jews and Arabs alike live together as equals, following the example of the just, democratic and non-racialist solution achieved in South Africa. Also such peace will not exist unless the Israeli nuclear arsenal, which threatens all the countries of the region, is destroyed. That arsenal makes any peace achieved under such condition fragile indeed and dooms it to failure, as it would be a peace of surrender and of bowing to a fait accompli. History is full of examples of the failure of fait accompli policies to generate durable peace. We in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya wish to proclaim this fact to all reasonable Jews and Arabs alike and to all reasonable people the world over and to warn them, before it is too late, that whatever is based on falsehood will never endure.


The meeting rose at 7.05 p.m.

Document symbol: A/C.1/49/PV.8
Document Type: Meeting record
Document Sources: General Assembly
Subject: Arms control and regional security issues
Publication Date: 21/10/1994
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