Obscene amounts were being spent on military budgets and to maintain and modernize nuclear weapons at the expense of such pressing global issues as sustainable development, climate change and the refugee crisis, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) heard today.
Speaking as the Committee’s general debate entered its second week, Kenya’s representative said freeing up resources from military spending should be used to address growing inequality, the underlying economic and social causes of conflict and climate change.
Delegates also cast a spotlight on the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons, which African delegates to the Committee described as the continent’s real weapons of mass destruction. Such weapons were easy to obtain, cheap to buy and largely supplied by States to non-State actors in a dangerous game of influence and power, Angola’s representative stated.
His counterpart from CAte d’Ivoire said that small arms and light weapons continued to proliferate despite provisions in the Arms Trade Treaty that aimed at combating that trend. There were more than 600 million light weapons in the world today, including about 100 million in Africa alone, he said, adding that conflicts fuelled by such weapons had left more than 50,000 dead every year.
Underscoring the potential of a regional approach, Serbia’s representative described how an effective and invaluable cooperation mechanism in the Western Balkans to control the export of small arms and light weapons had contributed to confidence-building, knowledge transfer and best practices.
Speakers also raised related concerns. China’s delegate said the United States’ deployment of its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in the Republic of Korea would not help to achieve denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. Iran’s representative expressed concern about the inflow of sophisticated conventional weapons into the region, in particular to those actors engaged in aggression against other countries. As at previous meetings, several speakers called for the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
Also participating in the debate were the representatives of Armenia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Senegal, Myanmar, San Marino, Jordan, Estonia, Namibia, Canada, Pakistan, Mongolia and Syria also spoke.
Israel, United Arab Emirates, India, Turkey, United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Syria, China, Qatar, Jordan, Libya and Iran spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The First Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 11 October, to engage in an exchange with the Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and to continue its general debate.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to continue its general debate on all agenda items before it. For background, see Press Release GA/DIS/3545 of 3 October.
TIGRAN SAMVELIAN (Armenia), speaking on behalf of the States Members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, said a convention prohibiting the deployment of weapons in outer space should be a priority. He welcomed growing support in recent years for an international initiative in that regard, adding that such a trend was becoming a factor in keeping outer space free of weapons to bolster peace and security for all. The formation of a group of responsible States pledging non-first-deployment would build confidence while raising a political barrier to the weaponization of space. As such, he called on all States to assume political commitments on non-deployment of weapons in outer space.
JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said global peace and security could not be achieved through the spread of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction. Citing relevant General Assembly resolutions, including resolution 70/34, he called upon States to negotiate a convention banning nuclear weapons. He also emphasized the need for convening a high-level conference on nuclear disarmament and adopting resolutions calling for a nuclear-weapon-free zone to be established in the Middle East. He stressed the need for efforts to free the Middle East – including the Arab Gulf – of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, and underscored the need for all countries to implement the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
IBRAHIM AL DAIR (Kuwait) said Member States must work together in a balanced manner while emphasizing the inalienable right of States to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Stressing the importance of the Conference on Disarmament, he said the international community must break the deadlock that had existed for the past 20 years and drive forward an agenda to overcome existing challenges. Turning to the Middle East, he urged Israel to submit all its nuclear facilities to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards and called for the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region. The world must find solutions to the harmful effects of the proliferation of weapons in all their forms to avoid disaster, he said.
GORGUI CISS (SENEGAL) said that multilateralism was more than ever before the best way to achieve results. The end goal was to arrive at a world free of nuclear weapons and the one way to achieve this was through total nuclear disarmament. Concerning small arms and light weapons, which affected the social and political stability of countries, particularly in Africa, he welcomed the Arms Trade Treaty and the Second Conference of States Parties. In that vein, Senegal supported the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, which boosted cooperation and assistance among States. He expressed support for negotiations toward an agreement that would limit future production of fissile material and said States must ensure that such stocks did not fall into the wrong hands. Lastly, he welcomed the contribution of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on disarmament and called for an appropriate place to be given to them during the Committee’s discussions.
WANG QUN (China) said nuclear disarmament should be pursued in a step-by-step manner, with the policy of non-first-use being universally applied. Deployment of the United States Armed Forces Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system would not help to realize the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, he added, urging that the United States and the Republic of Korea to do more for upholding peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, take seriously the legitimate concerns of countries in the region and halt deployment. More attention should be given to the absence of rules and norms in such areas as cyberspace and outer space. The three pillars of the Non-Proliferation Treaty must be promoted in a comprehensive, balanced and rational manner. Double standards would undermine its authority. China opposed the establishment of new regimes, as doing so would weaken the foundations of existing international security mechanisms. Returning to the situation on the Korean Peninsula, he said it was imperative to achieve its denuclearization and to uphold the non-proliferation regime. “Security is as precious as air,” he said. “People don’t notice it until it is gone.”
ISMAEL ABRAA�O GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said the threat posed by the existence of nuclear weapons to humanity was real and could not be underestimated. As such, nuclear disarmament and the total elimination of nuclear weapons remained one of Angola’s highest foreign policy priorities. At the same time, he expressed concern about ongoing conflicts in Africa and elsewhere. Weapons were easily obtainable, cheaply purchased through criminal networks and largely supplied by States to non-State armed groups and terrorists, in a dangerous game of influence and power. That trend was spreading destruction, anarchy and chaos. Small arms and light weapons had become real weapons of mass destruction in conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere, he said. Strengthening border security in Africa was a key factor in curbing arms trafficking. A holistic approach that embraced regional and subregional organizations should be adopted to help implement measures that would curtail conventional weapons trafficking and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
HTIN LYNN (Myanmar) stressed that the goal must be the total elimination of nuclear weapons for a safe and secure world, with the Non-Proliferation Treaty remaining the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Chemical and biological weapons were both uncivilized and inhumane. With regard to the Conference on Disarmament, he reaffirmed its relevance as the only multilateral negotiating forum for disarmament issues and stressed that it must be revitalized. On the regional level, the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone, known as the Treaty of Bangkok, helped to strengthen nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament norms that consolidated international efforts towards peace and security. During the Committee’s session, Myanmar would be tabling an annual draft resolution on practical steps leading to the total elimination of nuclear weapons, he said.
NATASCIA BARTOLINI (San Marino) said promoting disarmament and non-proliferation had never been so urgent. The burden of ongoing conflicts around the world coupled by an alarming disregard for humanitarian law had reached an unacceptable level. The growing number of terrorist attacks had made the situation even more alarming. No people or country should ever experience the devastation of a nuclear detonation and the overwhelming international support behind the Humanitarian Pledge, made at the coming out of the 2014 Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, highlighted the urgency of the issue. Protection of civilians in armed conflicts should be a priority. Regretfully, explosive weapons had been used in populated areas, causing suffering, displacement and death. In that regard, she called for an end to the use of explosive devices in populated areas so as to reduce the deaths of civilians and aid workers.
MUAZ MOHAMAD A-K AL-OTOOM (Jordan) said the Committee represented a platform of paramount importance to address the challenges facing the international community. For its part, Jordan had respected all of its obligations to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and was a member of the IAEA and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). In that vein, he called for the enhancement of nuclear security, and increased focus in particular in regard to the smuggling of nuclear materials. He stressed the need for Israel to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty and submit its facilities to IAEA safeguards. Expressing support for peaceful uses of nuclear energy, he called it a basic right needed for domestic energy production. Meanwhile, technological progress made in cyberspace was a major challenge that required efforts to prevent its use by terrorist groups, he said, adding that all international efforts should focus on regulation.
ZORAN VUJIC (Serbia) said multilateralism was necessary and achievable if Member States demonstrated readiness and commitment to work together in the spirit of cooperation and compromise. Illicit trade in conventional weapons continued to threaten regional and international security and affected the lives of millions of people all over the world, he said. A regional approach to cooperation in the field of arms export control, including cooperation in compliance with Arms Trade Treaty obligation, was very important. In that vein, the countries of the Western Balkans had established an effective regional cooperation mechanism in the field of small arms and light weapons export control, he said, calling the contribution that had been made to regional confidence-building, transfer of knowledge and best practices invaluable.
ANDRE PUNG (Estonia) said that, if left uncontrolled, emerging, raging or frozen conflicts in many parts of the world would breed terrorism that knew no boundaries. The effect of many of today’s conflicts and crises could have been mitigated had the international community acted soon, with proper mechanisms in place, and had international law and relevant conventions and regimes been effectively implemented. Any nuclear disarmament initiatives should conform with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, he said, adding that a convention banning nuclear weapons threatened to undermine that instrument. Turning to security in cyberspace, he said the Group of Governmental Efforts on the developments in the field of information and telecommunication in the context of international security could be useful not only for studying cyberthreats and possible remedies, but also for different countries to apply existing international laws, norms, rules and principles. For Estonia, international law was the biggest authority regarding the use of information and communications technology.
FEH MOUSSA GONE (CAte d’Ivoire), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said there had been a disturbing increase in terrorism in recent years. No region was immune, he said, noting the 13 March attack in Grand-Bassam, which had left 19 people dead and 33 wounded. In the aftermath of that incident, the Government had adopted measures including an anti-terrorism law. Despite various treaties, including the Arms Trade Treaty, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons remained a source of concern, given the number of lives they claimed every year. Studies showed that there were more than 600 million light weapons in the world today, including about 100 million in Africa alone. Armed conflict fuelled by such weapons had left more than 50,000 dead yearly. CAte d’Ivoire, which had ratified the Arms Trade Treaty in 2015, hoped that its entry into force would help to improve regulation and transparency in the international conventional weapons trade.
ANTHONY ANDANJE (Kenya), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that despite the Secretary-General’s appeal in September, some nuclear-weapon States had not signed the Test-Ban Treaty and others listed in Annex 2 had yet to join. Military expenditures were being ramped up to maintain and modernize nuclear weapons, with an unprecedented expansion of nuclear capabilities. Spending obscene amounts of money could not be justified when higher priority issues, such as climate change and the refugee crisis, deserved attention. Disarmament and development were interrelated and each could further the other’s cause. The release of resources from military spending should be used to address growing inequality, the underlying economic and social causes of conflict and climate change.
LINDA ANNE SCOTT (Namibia), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, called for the delegitimization of nuclear weapons and the non-selective implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Namibia fully supported the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. It opposed and rejected any act that denied or violated the peaceful use of outer space for the benefit of all mankind. Namibia also reiterated the inalienable right of developing countries to use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, she said. As one of the world’s biggest producers of uranium, it was actively participating in IAEA activities to promote the peaceful use of nuclear material for cancer treatment, agricultural production and energy generation.
GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran) said that seven decades after the first use of atomic weapons, there was still no absolute guarantee that such weapons would not be used again. That was because nuclear-weapon States were not complying with their disarmament obligations. Even more disappointing, multibillion dollar programmes for modernizing and replacing arsenals and developing new types of advanced systems were underway. The lack of progress in implementing the very commitments that nuclear-weapon States had embraced had rendered the so-called step-by-step approach to disarmament ineffective, he said.
Iran, he said, was strongly committed to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and had been at the forefront of regional and international efforts to achieve the universality of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In 1974, it had proposed the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, which had been strongly supported by the international community. However, Israel was the only obstacle in the way of establishing such a zone. Nuclear weapons in the hands of the Israeli regime posed the most dangerous threat to the security of non-nuclear-weapon States in the Middle East and that situation could not continue. While he recognized the right of States to access arms needed for self-defence, he was deeply concerned about the continuous flow of sophisticated conventional weapons into the volatile region of the Middle East, in particular to those engaged in aggression against other countries.
ROSEMARY MCCARNEY (Canada) noted that after 20 years, the Conference on Disarmament remained unable to start negotiating a fissile material cut-off treaty. In that regard, Canada intended to introduce a resolution to establish a series of preparatory committees to build on the Group of Governmental Experts’ consensus report and to develop recommendations. It was important to create innovative ways to proceed that respected real differences in States’ positions. On chemical weapons, she welcomed the removal and destruction of Libya’s remaining precursors, marking the last chapter in a multi-year international effort in which Canada had played a leading role, contributing close to Can$7 million. Over a decade, Canada had also contributed Can$237 million to addressing the humanitarian impact of anti-personnel mines, cluster munitions and explosive remnants of war. She condemned the illegal use of weapons against civilian populations and objects, stressing the paramount importance of adhering to obligations under international humanitarian law.
TEHMINA JANJUA (Pakistan) said South Asia’s security environment was blighted by one Power’s relentless arms build-up and refusal to engage in meaningful dialogue. Pakistan had made proposals to keep the region free of nuclear weapons and missiles, including the simultaneous application of IAEA safeguards and others, but none had been met favourably. While progress on nuclear disarmament remained deadlocked, the pursuit of selective non-proliferation measures persisted. After failing to develop consensus on an equitable and non-discriminatory fissile material cut-off treaty in the Conference on Disarmament, attempts continued to be made to move the issue outside the Conference. Pakistan would not accept recommendations by the ill-advised Group of Governmental Experts on the Treaty, and substantive work on that matter must be undertaken in the Conference. She called for addressing regional security issues through dialogue and diplomacy, including establishing a strategic restraint regime in South Asia. The safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear energy, without discrimination, was essential for economic development, she stressed, and Pakistan met the international standards to gain full access to civil nuclear technology for meeting its growing energy needs for continued economic growth.
SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia) said establishing 26 September as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons promoted accountability for disarmament obligations and enhanced public awareness and education on the threat to humanity posed by such weapons. On the Test-Ban Treaty, Mongolia welcomed the recent ratification by Angola, Myanmar and Swaziland and had itself been one of the first to ratify the instrument in 1997. The Treaty’s universalization signified an imperative step, he said, calling on States who had not ratified it to do so urgently. Mongolia advocated for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The nuclear tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were regrettable and had a negative impact on efforts to maintain international peace and security. In September 2012, Mongolia had signed a declaration parallel to the Joint Declaration on Mongolia’s Nuclear-Weapon-Free Status made by the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States).
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the majority of States had called on Israel to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but it would not join as long as the United States, United Kingdom, France, Canada and Australia were sponsoring Israel’s programme and assisted in developing and enhancing it. The failure of the 2015 Review Conference had ensured that Israel would continue to possess such weapons. He called on all States to declare the Middle East a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. States parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty also had the inalienable right to develop and possess nuclear technology for peaceful uses, he said, noting that Syria was against any interpretation of the text to reduce its scope or constrain it.
He went on to say that his Government had condemned the use of chemical weapons and had respected all obligations arising from chemical weapons treaties despite Syria’s difficult circumstances. The final report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons -United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism had accused Syria of using of chlorine and other such weapons. But, that report was full of structural gaps and inconsistencies, including the lack of physical evidence, fabricated videos and the fact that regions that had been examined remained in the hands of terrorist groups. Describing cases of the transport of toxic material to Syria from other countries, he urged States to uphold their obligations to stop smuggling weapons and ammunitions and to stop funding armed groups across borders. He cautioned that terrorism would have repercussions in other countries around the region.
Right of Reply
The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the delegate from Iran had accused Israel of committing genocide. Iran was the world’s main sponsor of terrorism and it was committing atrocities in Syria and destabilizing the region. With respect to the nuclear-weapon free zone in the Middle East, Israel had demonstrated its commitment to taking a constructive approach.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates, in exercise of the right of reply, said Iran’s claims had seemingly overlooked its own constant interference in Arab States. With regards to the United Arab Emirates’ military campaign in Yemen, that country’s legitimate Government had requested military assistance to protect its people from the continued aggression of Iran-backed Houthis. He condemned Iran’s influence in the conflict and its continued military and economic support to the Houthis.
The representative of India, exercising the right of reply, said it was a matter of record that Pakistan was responsible for blocking progress in the Conference on Disarmament.
The representative of Turkey, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the Syrian regime was not telling the truth about its stockpiles and it had hidden chemical weapons. Falsehoods stated by the Syrian Government were aimed at distracting the international community from the horrors of their war tactics. It was the international community’s moral responsibility to document such acts.
The representative of the United States, exercising the right of reply, responded to remarks made by the delegate of China. He said that the United States deployment of its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in Republic of Korea was a purely defensive measure against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s threats. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear programme posed a great threat to the United States and its allies. The defence system would not undermine China or the Russian Federation’s strategic deterrent. Responding to the statement made by the delegate from Syria, he said charges that the United States had provided toxic chemicals to terrorist groups were preposterous. With regard to chemical weapons, the United States would continue to seek accountability through the appropriate diplomatic measures, including Security Council and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The representative of Pakistan, exercising the right of reply, questioned why India had not responded to his Government’s proposals for a bilateral nuclear test ban arrangement between the two countries. India had conducted its first test in 1974 by diverting resources from a reactor that had been supplied for peaceful use and had continued to develop such weapons despite numerous proposals by Pakistan to keep South Asia free of them. Pakistan had been left with no option but to develop nuclear capabilities to restore the strategic balance in the region. India had joined the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction as a chemical weapon possessor State and had conducted a second nuclear test in 1998 after concluding the Test-Ban Treaty. India was also continuously enhancing its offensive abilities, including the introduction of nuclear submarines. Those actions had compelled Pakistan to take appropriate measures to deter all forms of aggression.
The representative of Saudi Arabia, responding to his counterpart from Iran, said the Coalition forces had intervened based on international legitimacy. Regarding an incident that had occurred two days previously, the Coalition had opened an investigation and would announce its results. Responding to the statement made by Syria, she said allegations that Saudi Arabia was supporting terrorist forces and equipping them were baseless.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in exercise of the right of reply, said the United States’ allegations against it were untrue. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had become a nuclear Power because the United States had pushed it to do so through “nuclear blackmail” and a 60-year-old hostile policy against its sovereignty and dignity. The United States had brought the first nuclear weapon into the Republic of Korea in 1967 and had increased the number of such weapons to more than 1,000 while branding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with the “axis of evil” status. The United States was now present in the east and west sea of the Korean Peninsula, conducting joint military exercises aimed at the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s leadership headquarters, nuclear facilities, strategic rocket bases and maritime resources.
The representative of Syria, exercising the right of reply, questioned whether Turkey’s representative had read Security Council reports that had addressed sarin gas trafficking on a civilian aircraft. The reports of the Security Council’s subcommittees contained abundant facts. He expressed surprise at the hypocrisy of Israel’s delegate, whose country was responsible for contributing to many forms of terrorism, including chemical and biological, and which had provided munitions to terrorist groups.
The representative of China, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, responded to a statement made by his counterpart from the United States, saying the international community should be more concerned about the issue of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system. He said China maintained its position on that strategic issue.
The representative of India, taking the floor a second time, said the biggest threat to peace and stability came from the active promotion of terrorism and the unbridled development of fissile material by State and non-State actors. Persistent violations that had increased nuclear and proliferation threats clearly were linked to Pakistan’s activities.
The representative of the United States, speaking again, said the cause of instability on the Korean Peninsula was the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The United States would not recognize the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as a nuclear-weapon State.
The representative of Qatar, responding to the statement made by Syria’s delegate, said Syria was distracting the international community from the genocide perpetrated by the Syrian Government, which had refuted allegations, flouted international law and used banned weapons. There was growing terrorism derived from that Government’s criminal policies. Religious shrines, schools and hospitals were being destroyed and humanitarian aid was not being delivered to the needy.
The representative of Jordan, responding to the statement made by Syria’s speaker, said his Government respected all international instruments. Jordan remained committed to supplying humanitarian aid under the observation of international organizations.
The representative of Libya, exercising the right of reply, said reports heard today were unfounded and that chemical weapons in his country had been under strict control since they had been disclosed and had since been removed.
The representative of Turkey, taking the floor again, said Syria’s allegations were baseless.
The representative of Pakistan, taking the floor a second time, said India’s delegate had chosen to distract the international community from its own actions. He called for India to respond to his Prime Minister’s request for a bilateral arrangement on a nuclear test ban between the two countries.
The representative of Iran responded to statements made by his counterparts from Israel and the United Arab Emirates. He said it was not Iran’s conclusion that Israel had committed war crimes against Palestine, rather, it was the view of the international community. Israel was an occupier and aggressive force in the region and that was undeniable, he said. In response to the delegate from the United Arab Emirates, he said it was ridiculous to suggest that Iran was sending arms to Yemen as that country was in a complete sea, air and land blockade. He asked his counterpart from the United Arab Emirates to explain why his Government was supporting the spread of violent extremism in the Middle East by providing arms and money to terrorists. Further, he asked why his counterpart’s country was targeting civilians in Yemen.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking a second time, said the United States had brought unspeakable suffering to the Korean people. He asked his counterpart to study the United States’ hostile policies toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Since the United States was seeking to eliminate the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s Government, his country had had no other choice but to go nuclear.
The representative of Syria, taking the floor again, said the Syrian people would not forget the bloodshed incurred because of Qatar’s support and financing of terrorist organizations. If the representative of Qatar thought those crimes would be forgotten, they were wrong. He asked why Turkey had refused to provide the international community with information about the sarin that had been confiscated, what had happened to that material and why those carrying it had not been arrested.
Source: United Nations