Break Deadlock in Disarmament Machinery by Casting Aside Narrow National Interests, ‘Misguided Notions of Parity’, Speakers Tell First Committee

States must overcome narrow national interests and “misguided notions of parity” to overcome the disarmament machinery’s deadlock and lead the Conference on Disarmament to adopt a programme of work, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) heard today as its general debate entered a second week.

Speakers, including those from El Salvador and India, expressed hope for a new momentum to break the impasse in the Conference on Disarmament.  As the only multilateral negotiating forum for disarmament agreements, its 65 members had failed to agree on a work programme for almost two decades.  Disappointed to note that the proposed enlargement process at the Conference on Disarmament had been stalled for years, the representative of Cyprus stressed that its expansion would give a “new impetus to its work”.

Alongside calls to break the deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament, topics including chemical weapons, terrorism and a fissile material cut-off treaty took centre stage as delegates underscored the importance of multilateral cooperation in tackling some of the world’s most pressing disarmament challenges.  Reaffirming its support for such a unified approach, Portugal’s speaker emphasized that multilateralism, based on universal rules and values, was the most effective way to address common security challenges, manage shared disarmament responsibilities and devise collective non-proliferation initiatives.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan’s representative reminded the Committee that disarmament and peace must be pursued in parallel and founded on mutual trust.  Yet, said Turkey’s speaker, the global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation architecture was being challenged by the actions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Syria at a time of growing polarization in the area of nuclear disarmament,

No initiatives aimed at increasing safety, however, should be used as a pretext to restrict developing countries’ rights to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, said Namibia’s delegate, echoing a view held by several other speakers, including representatives of Bahrain and Jordan.

Other speakers expressed grave concerns over the looming risks of a radiological attack by terrorists and non-State actors.  To counter such threats, national measures must be adopted and international cooperation intensified, Singapore’s speaker stressed.  Striking a similar note, Saudi Arabia’s representative emphasized the importance of keeping dangerous weapons out of terrorists’ hands.  Meanwhile, Syria’s delegate condemned several States for supporting terrorist groups who were using toxic chemicals in his country.

Also delivering statements today were representatives of Cameroon, Costa Rica, Ireland, Canada, Panama, Nepal, Bulgaria and Poland.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the Republic of Korea, Syria, United States, Qatar, Libya, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 10 October, to conclude its debate on all disarmament and related international security questions.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) continued its general debate today.  For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3571 of 2 October.

Statements

MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq), Chair of the First Committee, announced that an additional meeting would be held at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, 10 October to ensure that all Member States on the list of speakers for the general debate had the opportunity to participate.

HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador) congratulated the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons for its tireless efforts and for being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  Commending the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, El Salvador had signed and ratified it, as its adoption strengthened the mechanism for disarmament.  It also complemented the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, he said, calling on parties to meet its provisions and seek consensus by the 2020 Review Conference.  Turning to current increased tensions and nuclear tests, he said renewed dialogue was the only way to ensure peace in all regions.  On the issue of small arms and light weapons, he praised the Arms Trade Treaty for being the first legally binding agreement of its kind.  Meanwhile, he expressed concerns that the Conference on Disarmament was not able to comply with its mandate, and urged for the swift commencement of its substantive work.

AMANDEEP SINGH GILL (India) said “national security interests and misguided notions of parity” had obstructed the Conference on Disarmament’s adoption of a programme of work.  India did not adhere to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, but was willing to work with its signatories in disarmament forums to prohibit the use of nuclear weapons and was ready to support negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty in the Conference on Disarmament.

For its part, India had completed its obligations on stockpile destruction under the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects.  It had also contributed to efforts for the destruction of Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpiles.  Concerned about the threat of use of biological agents for terrorist purposes, he called on States parties to effectively implement the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction.  He also called for a continued substantive mandate, adequate funding and the participation of all stakeholders in the Group of Governmental Experts discussions on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

KORNELIOS KORNELIOU (Cyprus), expressing his country’s commitment to all of the main disarmament and non-proliferation treaties, said he was disappointed to note that the enlargement process at the Conference on Disarmament had been stalled for almost two decades.  Its expansion would give a “new impetus to its work”, he said.  Condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent actions, he called for cooperation and inclusiveness in the pursuit of common goals.  For that reason, Cyprus supported the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and was examining the possibility of acceding to it, he said, expressing a commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

CRISTINA MARIA CERQUEIRA PUCARINHO (Portugal), associating herself with the European Union, said multilateralism, based on universal rules and values was the most effective way to address common security challenges, manage shared disarmament responsibilities and devise collective non-proliferation initiatives.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent testing activities underscored the urgency of achieving the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the importance of the Test-Ban Treaty, she said, reaffirming Portugal’s support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme and for the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which remained the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime.  She also expressed support for the work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the joint OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism in Syria, Arms Trade Treaty and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.

KHALED ALMANZALAWIY (Saudi Arabia), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non-Aligned Movement, welcomed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  He regretted to note Israel’s rejection of efforts to create a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East and the failure of the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  Emphasizing the importance of Iran’s commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he said sanctions should be swiftly reapplied in the case of any violations.  He reaffirmed, however, the right of all countries to the peaceful use of nuclear energy under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) standards.  Calling for the implementation of conventions on biological and chemical weapons, he said accountability must be ensured for parties who had used chemical agents in Syria.  Other important issues included keeping dangerous weapons out of terrorists’ hands, activate national programmes to combat the illicit trade in small arms and ensuring outer space was used for peaceful purposes.

NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, affirmed the importance of all three pillars of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Nuclear disarmament should remain a top priority.  Reiterating the call on nuclear-weapon States to fully comply with their obligations to accomplish the immediate, total, verified elimination of such arms, he said any further development of them contradicted that goal.  All non-nuclear-weapon States must be provided with unconditional assurances against the use or threat of such arms.  Reiterating support for nuclear-weapon-free zones, universal accession to the Test-Ban Treaty, and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he said all States must comply with international humanitarian law.  No initiatives aimed at increasing safety, however, should be used as a pretext to restrict developing countries’ rights to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, he said, calling for the removal of restrictions on importing related material.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said existing nuclear arsenals and threats by nuclear-weapon States and by terrorists continued to grow and proliferate.  Meanwhile, some Member States, including those on the Security Council, were using terrorism as a political weapon.  The United States and the United Kingdom, which were absent from the 2015 Review Conference, had persisted in defending Israel and its continued possession of nuclear weapons.  Other Western States had encouraged Israel to defy international opinion and not accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, he said, calling on all Member States to help establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

Turning to the issue of chemical weapons, he firmly condemned the crime of using such arms.  Syria had acceded to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction and had honoured all its commitments.  Nevertheless, terrorist groups had obtained toxic chemical substances with the aid of intelligence services, sponsored by some States that were giving them orders to use such chemicals with the goal of accusing the Government of Syria.  The truth must come to light, he urged, adding that his delegation had sent letters expressing such fears to the Secretary-General, Security Council and Joint Investigative Mechanism and other stakeholders.

YERBOLAT SEMBAYEV (Kazakhstan) said that given current tensions, disarmament and peace must be pursued in parallel and based in mutual trust.  Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation were main foreign policy priorities, he said, expressing deep concerns that nuclear-weapon States were not fulfilling their Non‑Proliferation Treaty obligations.   Those States must further reduce arsenals until they were fully eliminated, he urged, adding that nuclear weapons were no longer an asset, but a danger.  Further, nuclear-weapon-free zones played an important role in regional stability and every effort must be made to create such areas around the world, he said.  The early entry into force of the Test-Ban Treaty was in the basic interest of all, as was negotiating a fissile material cut-off treaty.  Also critical was the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the upcoming meeting on the Biological Weapons Convention.

RAUF ALP DENKTAŞ (Turkey) said the global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation architecture was being challenged by the actions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Syria at a time of growing polarization in the area of nuclear disarmament.  Highlighting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as an example of the success of multilateral diplomacy in advancing the Non‑Proliferation Treaty’s objectives, he said Turkey was fully committed to the total elimination of nuclear weapons.  Recognizing the lack of an “easy shortcut” to a nuclear‑weapon‑free world, he said Turkey strongly supported the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and would not support any action that could undermine it.  At the same time, Turkey attached great importance to the Chemical Weapons Convention, as the use of such weapons constituted a crime against humanity.  To prevent the use of such weapons, the international community must ensure that there was no impunity for perpetrators.

Mr. ALTIDJU (Cameroon) said the international threat posed by the use of nuclear weapons remained high and the non-proliferation regime was not yet complete.  On the issue of conventional weapons, he said small arms and light weapons fed armed violence in Cameroon, which was committed to the idea that the efforts to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world must be expanded in all areas, including chemical, biological, conventional and ballistic missile proliferation.  Yet, for developing countries like Cameroon, a priority was controlling small arms and light weapons and addressing the threat posed by terrorism and violent extremism.  Efforts to silence guns by 2020 would be helped by the entry into force of the Central African Convention for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and All Parts and Components That Can Be Used for Their Manufacture, Repair and Assembly (Kinshasa Convention).  Among other concerns, Boko Haram remained a serious regional threat despite collective efforts among the countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, he said, asking for the international community’s assistance and “solidarity” in coping with that terrorist group.

JOHN KHOO WEI EN (Singapore), endorsing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed grave concern over the escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and the looming risks of a radiological attack by terrorists and non-State actors.  Earlier in 2017, regional authorities had made arrests in connection to a theft of iridium-192, a radioactive material used to make dirty bombs.  To counter such threats, national measures must be adopted and international cooperation intensified.  For its part, Singapore had passed a terrorism bill in May and ratified the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism in August.

JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed appreciation for the role of the United Nations in promoting stability in a number of regions.  He called for the universalization of the Test-Ban Treaty and for the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon-free zone in the region, urging Israel to submit its nuclear arsenal to IAEA safeguards.  He expressed support for Security Council sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, but affirmed the right of States to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  Speaking of the need to prevent the militarization of outer space, he said Bahrain was committed to working with other States toward that objective.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica) said the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons represented a milestone of hope and closed a legal gap by categorically banning those arms.  Inaction was not an option, he said, noting that the status quo would lead humanity close to its own annihilation.  Achieving strength through weapons was a false premise, he said, calling on States to accede to the new treaty.  Pointing to the scant progress in implementing Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, he reminded nuclear‑weapon States that compliance in reducing their arsenals was compulsory.  Condemning nuclear-weapon States for spending billions of dollars on the continued development and modernization of their arsenals, he said such actions undermined the spirit of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Ms. O’HALLORAN (Ireland), aligning himself with the European Union and the New Agenda Coalition, said the Nobel Peace Prize that had been awarded to the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons had emphasized the urgency of the First Committee’s work.  The Korean situation, in addition, had demonstrated the urgency of Test-Ban Treaty’s entry into force, she said, calling on all remaining Annex II States to sign and ratify the instrument.  Further, momentum must be regained on establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East and other States should follow Ireland’s example in swiftly acceding to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  Expressing grave concern at the confirmed use of chemical weapons in Syria, she welcomed the recent announcement by the Russian Federation of the verifiable destruction of their arsenal.  Expressing support for all international instruments designed to minimize harm from conventional weapons, she raised several concerns, emphasizing that compliance with international humanitarian law must be strengthened in the matter of explosive weapons in populated areas.  She finally affirmed the importance of the participation of civil society, women and representatives of least-developed countries.

Ms. ROSEMARY MCCARNEY (Canada) raised concerns about the reckless actions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and called for greater pressure on that country, especially through better sanctions implementation.  Canada remained unconvinced that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons would be effective, she said, adding that the Non-Proliferation Treaty was the cornerstone for progress towards a nuclear-weapon-free world.  Emphasizing that a fully implemented Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was in everyone’s interest, she called on Member States to consider making voluntary contributions to IAEA efforts to monitor and verify its implementation.  Voluntary measures that solidified international norms of behaviour were the most practical ways to develop confidence and transparency with regard to space security and the peaceful use of outer space.

LAURA ELENA FLORES HERRERA (Panama), condemning the nuclear and missile tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said her country supported a range of disarmament measures and had subscribed to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  Raising several other concerns, she regretted to note that the Test-Ban Treaty had not yet entered into force.  For its part, Panama placed great importance on the Non-Proliferation Treaty and was a member of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone, lending support to all efforts to achieve related goals.  Disarmament was a fundamental component of development, not only to peace and security, she said, expressing support for taking a multidimensional view of security while considering human rights and development.

DURGA PRASAD BHATTARAI (Nepal), underscoring the importance of the General Assembly’s convening of a high-level conference on nuclear disarmament in 2018, said establishing nuclear-weapon-free-zones was a critical step towards giving disarmament genuine meaning.  Nuclear weapons could never be a useful deterrent and a legally binding instrument regarding negative security assurances by nuclear-weapon States would be an important step towards disarmament.  Noting that the worldwide humanitarian and development impacts of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons had reached a menacing proportion, he said regional mechanisms could play greater roles in promoting non-proliferation, general disarmament and confidence-building measures.  In addition, United Nations regional centres for peace and disarmament should be further strengthened and funded.

Mr. MANITAH (Jordan), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non-Alignment Movement, said Member States must ensure that the First Committee’s work proceeded fruitfully.  The adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons would enable progress in the disarmament process, he said, calling on States to sign and ratify the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  On that latter instrument, he recalled the need for Israel to join it and allow the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  Countries needed nuclear energy for sustainable development purposes and such endeavours must be subjected to IAEA safety and security standards.  Jordan had been among the first countries to ratify the Test-Ban Treaty, he said, calling on States to follow suit.  Citing several merging concerns, he said accelerated progress in technology had created a need for creating a mechanism that would stop terrorism in cyberspace and prevent militarization of outer space.

GEORGI VELIKOV PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria), associating himself with the European Union, called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to stop its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, which constituted a threat to global peace and security.  The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action had demonstrated that a very complex issue could be resolved through diplomatic means, he said, encouraging all parties to continue to strictly abide by its terms.  A world without nuclear weapons would not be achieved by simply prohibiting them, he said, underscoring that progress was only possible within the framework of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Bulgaria also fully supported the work of the Joint Investigative Mechanism and the OPCW fact-finding mission.

MARCIN WRÓBLEWSKI (Poland), associating himself with the European Union, said despite different views on the pace of the Non-Proliferation Treaty’s implementation commitments, all States parties shared its objectives.  Poland’s chairmanship of the Preparatory Conference for the 2020 Review Conference would therefore focus on upholding the instrument’s integrity and credibility, creating the environment for an open, inclusive, mutually respectful and transparent dialogue, and ensuring that the meeting would be as efficient as possible and serve as a practical step towards the 2020 Review Conference.  Among other things, he voiced concern about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent nuclear test and urged that country to refrain from further provocative actions.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Republic of Korea, speaking in exercise of the right to reply, said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s military provocations spoke for themselves.  “No Government will sit back and wait” when its own security was at stake, she said, adding that “we will continue to speak out” until the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea nuclear programmes ended.  Any further provocation would be met by the entire global community.   The window of opportunity was closing, she said, emphasizing that the Republic of Korea was committed to a peaceful resolution of the issue.

The representative of Syria said the United Kingdom should allow the Scottish people to express their right to independence, to leave the colony of Gibraltar and to resolve its problems with the European Union and focus on their internal problems instead of interfering with other countries.  Asking the United Kingdom to apologize for the invasion of Iraq, he emphasized that, in the twenty‑first century, that country still occupied territories.

The representative of the United States said evidence had shown the repeated use of chemical weapons in Syria.  Using chemical weapons by any party in Syria violated international norms and standards and was a serious concern for the entire international community.  The United States must protect its national interests and act as necessary to protect victims.

The representative of Qatar rejected accusations from his counterpart from Syria.  The Syrian regime had used chemicals as weapons in the battlefield and on civilians, as multiple United Nations reports had shown.

The representative of Libya said his country no longer had any kind of usable chemical weapons.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea reiterated his country’s position on maintaining nuclear deterrence.

The representative of Turkey said he categorically denied the allegations made by his Syrian counterpart.  The use of chemical weapons was a crime against humanity and a war crime and those responsible must be held accountable.

The representative of Syria said the regime in Saudi Arabia had spent millions of dollars to finance terrorist groups in Syria, and Qatar was a known sponsor of terrorism.  Responding to the delegate of the United States, he recalled that according to WikiLeaks documents, secret messages had been exchanged between the Department of State and the United States ambassador in Damascus concerning a regime change.  For its part, Syria had implemented all provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The representative of Saudi Arabia said his counterpart from Syria was shirking his responsibility.  Syria had failed to comply with Security Council resolutions, he said, adding that the fifth report of the Joint Investigative Mechanism had proven the Syrian regime’s responsibility for three chemical attacks.  He appealed to the international community to stand side by side with the Syrian people and to hold accountable those who had committed crimes against them.