Disarmament Commission

  2010 Substantive Session

  305th & 306th Meetings (AM & PM)

Nuclear Disarmament Tops Agenda in Disarmament Commission, But Speakers Call

for Halt to Illicit Arms Trade, Creation of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Middle East

Views Exchanged on Denuclearization of Korean Peninsula; Iran Expresses

Determination to Pursue Legal Aspects of Nuclear Technology for Peaceful Purposes

Although speakers in the Disarmament Commission continued to stress the urgent need for nuclear disarmament, some speakers during today’s debate, which concluded the formal exchange of views for the session, drew attention to the scourge of small arms and light weapons ‑‑ the equivalent of “weapons of mass destruction” in Africa ‑‑ while others emphasized the need to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

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Among those from the Middle East region today lamenting the lack of progress in establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone there, Qatar’s representative, speaking for the Arab Group, expressed concern over the silence towards Israel’s nuclear system, which led to loss of faith in the concept of nuclear non-proliferation.  He noted further that all States in the Middle East had acceded to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) except Israel.

Libya’s representative added that the Middle East remained the only region that had not seen any real international efforts to rid it of nuclear weapons, which encouraged the Israeli entity to have military nuclear capabilities without any oversight.  The international community should exercise the necessary pressure on Israel to join the NPT and subject its facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguard system.

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Statements were also made by representatives of Nigeria, Dominican Republic, Switzerland, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Viet Nam, Nepal, India, El Salvador, Morocco, Venezuela, South Africa and Bangladesh.

Background

The 2010 substantive session of the Disarmament Commission met today to continue its general exchange of views, which started yesterday.  (For details, see Press Release DC/3215.)

Statements

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KHALID AL-NAFISEE (Saudi Arabia) said that the only solution to achieve a secured life for future generations was to strengthen international peace and security, and reduce the nuclear threat, through treaties and conventions on disarmament and non-proliferation.  The most effective solution would be to declare the Middle East a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, without any exceptions.  All parties must commit themselves to a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.  He stressed the importance of cooperation with the IAEA in that regard, and especially that Iran always declare the peaceful purposes of its nuclear programme.

He said that risks experienced in the Middle East from the dangers of weapons of mass destruction were fundamentally caused by the deviation from the principles of international legitimacy, the provisions of international law and the requirements of international justice.  Despite efforts in the field of disarmament, there were shortcomings in implementation and enforcement in those States not willing to dispose of their weapons or to be subjected to monitoring by the IAEA.  Ignoring the Israeli nuclear programme did not invoke the production of electricity, but produced weapons of mass destruction.  It constituted an “original sin” that stimulated some countries to “move forward in the development of their nuclear capabilities”.  That double standard was used to justify non-compliance with resolutions of international legitimacy in this regard.

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ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM MOHAMAD (Sudan) said the only way to consolidate and to contribute to international peace and security was to revitalize efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction.  It was, therefore, regrettable that several big Powers had developed biological and chemical weapons under the pretext of national security and deterrence.  International instruments could not be effective unless they were applied without double standards.  He welcomed the adoption by the IAEA of a resolution on Israel’s nuclear capability.  He hoped that issues of disarmament would be dealt with in a new perspective, taking into account the impact of the financial crisis necessitating budgets for arms to be used in favour of implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.  Climate change tended to create tensions in some regions, which could lead to conflicts and the illicit spread of small arms and light weapons.

He said that the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones was widely seen as one way of consolidating international peace and security.  Although such zones now covered 50 per cent of the globe, the Middle East region was not covered because of Israel’s refusal to subject itself to the IAEA regime.  He appealed to Member States that had not yet done so to sign and ratify as soon as possible the Pelindaba Treaty, which established such a zone in Africa.

In addition to the priority of nuclear disarmament, attention should also be paid to the issue of small arms and light weapons, which had affected many African countries including his own, he said.  Local groups often used those weapons in their competition for such resources as water and grazing lands.  Small arms and light weapons were also used in transnational-border organized crime and terrorism.  Although many countries in Africa, including the Sudan, were taking border-control measures to prevent the illicit spread of those weapons, manufacturing States also had a responsibility and should prevent their spread to non-State actors.  In conclusion, he emphasized the right of all countries to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, without any restrictions.

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NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER (Qatar), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said there was mounting international concern over the growth in nuclear weapons in the past decade.  Despite the NPT, there had been development of lethal weapons in more than one country.  There were double standards in the area of nuclear non-proliferation and the use of nuclear power for peaceful purposes and scientific advances.  He expressed concern over the lack of implementation by Israel and other Member States of the NPT-generated resolution on the Middle East.  He supported recent statements by several nuclear-weapon States to revitalize international efforts to move from nuclear non-proliferation to nuclear disarmament.  He hoped that such statements would be translated into action.

He said that the recently announced agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation to reduce their nuclear arsenal was a step forward towards earnest comprehensive international nuclear disarmament.  Despite that and other positive developments, some nuclear disarmament commitments were not taken seriously.  The most glaring evidence of that was the continued cooperation of some countries with Israel in the nuclear field.  Some NPT members gave exemptions to non-NPT members.  The failure by some international parties to implement the outcomes of the NPT Review Conferences jeopardized the NPT’s credibility.  The indefinite extension of the NPT would not have been achieved without consensus on setting a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

He expressed concern over the silence towards Israel’s nuclear system, saying it made people lose faith in the concept of nuclear non-proliferation.  He supported moves to reduce nuclear weapons in a verifiable and irreversible manner, while emphasizing the need for a legally binding formula to ensure the safety of non-nuclear-weapon States.  He stressed the right of States to acquire nuclear technology as inalienable under the NPT’s article IV.  The only way to achieve universality of the NPT was for all Member States to accede to it and implement article III, which called on them to develop comprehensive safeguard systems in accordance with the IAEA.  All States in the region had acceded to the NPT except Israel.  The international community must recognize the anxiety of the Middle East region over Israel’s nuclear capabilities.

As the international community prepared to declare 2010 the start of the fourth Disarmament Decade, the initiatives and elements agreed upon must reflect the permanent priority of nuclear disarmament, reducing arms and non-proliferation in a universal, balanced and non-discriminatory manner, he said.  The treaties creating nuclear-weapon-free zones in Central Asia and Africa were positive, important steps to bolster nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  He reminded delegations that the Middle East resolution was part of the package agreed at the NPT Review and Extension Conference in 1995.  Israel’s occupation of Arab territories was supported by major arms exporters.  Some were helping Israel to develop weapons used in those territories.  That discouraged Israel from accepting the hand of peace extended by the Arab Group.  He called for full compliance with the United Nations Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons.

SIHAM MOURABIT (Morocco) said the Commission was meeting with a feeling of uncertainty, despite a glimmer of hope stemming from recent statements by some nuclear-weapon States.  There was a need to overcome the negative legacy of the United Nations disarmament machinery.  Welcoming the decision of the United States and the Russian Federation to sign a new START agreement, she said the accord was a historic step towards achieving complete nuclear disarmament.  With today’s growing threats of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear terrorism, the entry into force of the CTBT, a fundamental instrument in the international architecture for nuclear disarmament, was a priority.  She appealed to all countries that had not yet done so to accede to that Treaty.

Calling for respect for article VI of the NPT, she urged States to conclude an international convention for the total elimination of nuclear weapons and to create a subsidiary body on nuclear disarmament.  Regarding the draft declaration for the 2010 Fourth Disarmament Decade, she said her country would welcome the inclusion in it of recommendations for both nuclear disarmament and conventional weapons disarmament, particularly of small arms and light weapons, as those were a threat to development efforts in Africa.  The lack of regulations regarding those weapons contributed to their proliferation.

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IBRAHIM DABBASHI (Libya) underlined the need for a balanced and non-discriminatory approach in considering the three pillars of the NPT.  Restricting the peaceful use of nuclear technology caused concern and doubt about the Treaty’s credibility.  Libya, which had voluntarily renounced its programme for weapons of mass destruction, emphasized that the NPT remained the cornerstone to achieve nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

He said the NPT’s credibility could only be realized by the commitment of all its parties, especially the nuclear-weapon States, to fulfil all their obligations.  Although he acknowledged the statements of the United States and the Russian Federation regarding their intention to conclude a new START agreement, he was awaiting the translation of those declarations into practical measures that would realize the reduction of nuclear arsenals in a verifiable and transparent manner.  It was necessary to strengthen efforts to universalize the NPT and to seek application of the IAEA safeguard system in a non-discriminatory manner.  With the approach of the NPT Review Conference, the time had come to strengthen the NPT through enhancing the Treaty’s text itself, he said, announcing that Libya had prepared a working paper that included amendments for the text.

While welcoming the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones in Africa and Central Asia, he said that, regrettably, the question of such a zone in the Middle East was still at a standstill as a result of the Israeli intransigence.  The Middle East remained the only region that had not seen any real international efforts to rid it of nuclear weapons, which encouraged the Israeli entity to have military nuclear capabilities without any oversight.  The international community should exercise the necessary pressure on Israel to join the NPT and subject its facilities to the IAEA safeguard system.  He emphasized that confidence-building measures must be balanced and take into consideration the right of Member States to self-defence and to resist occupation.  The situation in the Middle East underlined that confidence-building measures could not be implemented unless the Palestinian people exercised all their inalienable rights.

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Closing Statement

In concluding comments, the Commission’s Chairman, JEAN-FRANCIS RÉGIS ZINSOU (Benin) highlighted the concerns and views expressed by delegations and welcomed the finalization of the agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation on reducing their nuclear arsenals, which would be signed on 8 April.  The signing would mark a clear turning point away from the immobility that had characterized disarmament deliberations during the past decade.

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Document symbol: DC/3216
Document Type: Press Release
Document Sources: General Assembly
Subject: Arms control and regional security issues
Publication Date: 30/03/2010