Despite talk of polarization, the international community shared the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, the Disarmament Commission heard today as it opened its 2016 session by adopting its agenda and opening its general debate.
The Commission had considerable potential to demonstrate that the existing disarmament machinery could produce results against deepening paralysis and divisions within multilateral disarmament bodies, said Kim Won-Soo, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, addressing the 193-member subsidiary body. Indeed, the Commission had made important progress towards consensus on its conventional weapons item. That had included the first-ever legally binding regulations governing the international arms trade, combatting the illicit trade in small arms and dealing with the problems posed by excessive and poorly maintained ammunition stocks.
Given the emergence of new trends and technologies that were complicating strategic relationships and stability, more remained to be done with regard to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, he stressed. As the Commission played a unique role, he hoped Member States would make use of it to engage in constructive dialogue geared towards realizing a nuclear-weapon-free world.
At the start of its general debate, delegates shared concerns as the Commission began the second year of its three-year cycle. Some called for an end to the 16-year impasse so the body could address the main items on its work programme covering nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons. Overcoming that deadlock would work towards progress on a range of concerns raised by delegates, from the development of new types of strategic weapons to a growing nexus between terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and cyberattacks, some speakers said.
Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, the representative of Indonesia noted that the Commission had been unable to agree on substantive recommendations since 2000 due to a lack of political will and inflexible positions of nuclear-weapon States. While the total elimination of nuclear weapons was the only absolute guarantee against their use, countries had the inalienable right to develop and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Other speakers elaborated on that theme. The representative of Uganda, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said there was a continued risk of total destruction to life and human civilization as long as nuclear weapons existed and that the continent had been a nuclear-weapon-free zone since 2009. Egypt’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Group of Arab States, said every effort had been made to free the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction. Expressing disappointment at the fact that Israel had refused to ratify the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), he called upon nuclear-weapon States to act more vigorously to achieve non-proliferation objectives.
In working towards a world free of nuclear weapons, China’s representative called for a step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament, with universal security as a guiding principle and strategic stability as a basic guarantee. Opposing proliferation and favouring diplomacy to resolve regional nuclear issues, he stressed that the Joint Plan of Action concluded by the P5+1 and Iran was a valuable example of resolving a major dispute through negotiations. Other speakers praised the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for its role in that regard.
Several delegates voiced support for the absolute validity of multilateral diplomacy and an incremental process towards the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. While global nuclear disarmament was a long-term effort, steps could be taken today to create conditions for achieving that shared, global objective, the representative of the United States said, citing recent examples of decommissioning nuclear weapons.
Agreeing, India’s delegate expressed support for creating an agreement on such a step-by-step process towards the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, with confidence-building measures set up to reinforce mutual trust. France’s delegate stressed the need to bolster efforts towards the universalization of the NPT.
Yet, stumbling blocks persisted, some of them being responsible for the Commission’s languishing deadlock, speakers said. Decrying hegemonic efforts in South Asia, the representative of Pakistan said real progress towards peace and prosperity was being impeded by powerful States to advance their own geopolitical objectives. As a responsible nuclear State, Pakistan’s policy was shaped by the evolving regional security dynamics, she stressed.
Varied approaches taken by States were stymying progress, said the Russian Federation’s speaker, adding that references made to outdated working methods were a smokescreen for an unwillingness to seek acceptable compromises. Warning against attempts to apply double standards in international affairs, he underscored that certain States and military alliances should abandon attempts to ensure their military pre-eminence to the detriment of other States.
Many delegates pledged support for the NPT and faith that the Commission’s impasse could be overcome with the necessary political will and flexibility. Delivering opening remarks, Commission Chair Odo Tevi (Vanuatu) said that the body was beginning its substantive work in a very challenging international environment. Despite persistent disagreements and rivalries, the Commission, with its universal membership, would play a critical role in 2016 in renewing trust between States.
In other business, the Commission elected Tigran Samvelian (Armenia) as Vice-Chair of the Commission. It then took note that Kairat Abdrakhmanov (Kazakhstan) and Bouchaib el Oumni (Morocco) would continue to chair Working Group I and Working Group II, respectively.
Comprising all United Nations Member States, the Commission was created as a deliberative body that considers and makes recommendations on various issues in the field of disarmament, usually taking up two substantive items each year. The 2016 session began 4 April and will conclude on 22 April.
Also delivering statements today were representatives of Australia, Kazakhstan, Libya, Croatia, Sri Lanka, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Mexico, Bangladesh, United Republic of Tanzania, Argentina, South Africa, Ukraine, Japan, Israel, El Salvador, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Peru and Turkey.
Exercising the right of reply were the representatives of Syria, Iran and Turkey.
The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 5 April, to continue its work.
ODO TEVI (Vanuatu), Chair of the Disarmament Commission, said that the body was beginning its substantive work in a very challenging international environment. Disagreements and rivalries persisted between States, while the increasing threats of terrorism and cyberattacks presented additional global challenges. The multilateral disarmament agenda showed signs of decay and decline, as States were retreating from negotiations. The 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review had concluded without agreement on a substantive outcome document. Against that backdrop, the Disarmament Commission, with its universal membership, had a critical role to play in 2016 in renewing trust between States.
The organ was beginning its substantive work on the heels of the Open-ended Working Group on the Fourth Special Session of the General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament, known as SSOD4, which had generated positive energy. Hopeful that the special session’s constructive atmosphere would create momentum for revitalizing the work of the Disarmament Commission, he anticipated seeing a turning point in multilateral disarmament soon.
KIM WON-SOO, Under Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said the Commission was entering the middle phase of its current cycle during a time of deepening paralysis and divisions within multilateral disarmament bodies. Drawing attention to the inability to bring the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty into force and the lack of negotiations during the Conference on Disarmament, he noted that those disappointments were well known to all, from the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The Commission, however, had considerable potential to demonstrate that the existing disarmament machinery could produce results.
In recent cycles, the Commission had made important progress towards consensus on its conventional weapons item. It included the first-ever legally binding regulations governing the international arms trade, combatting the illicit trade in small arms and dealing with the problems posed by excess and poorly maintained stocks of ammunition. In addition, the international community had improved its confidence-building mechanisms in the field of conventional arms control, including the United Nations Arms Register and the Report on Military Expenditures. Continued deliberations could build upon and consolidate those gains, he said, adding that “the time has come for the Commission to finally start bringing its consideration of conventional arms to a successful conclusion”.
Yet, much needed to be done with regard to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, he said. Over the past 11 months, views had been polarized and entrenched. Despite that, work on the elaboration of effective legal measures would resume in Geneva next month, he said, adding that the Disarmament Commission continued to maintain its unique and distinct role. In that regard, he encouraged Member States to make use of the Commission to engage in constructive dialogue geared towards realizing a nuclear-weapon-free world.
Elaborating on other concerns, he said the world was now facing a rapid emergence of new trends and technologies that were complicating strategic relationships and stability. Those threats included the development of advanced new types of strategic weapons, as well as a growing nexus between terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and cyberattacks.
Turning to areas where the United Nations had made progress, he said the Organization had been addressing the challenges of outer space security and sustainability and clarifying international norms pertaining to hostile and malicious acts in cyberspace. In 2012, at the initiative of the Russian Federation, the General Assembly had established a group of governmental experts on transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities that had successfully concluded its work in 2013. Further, in October, the first-ever joint ad hoc meeting on addressing the challenges of outer space security and sustainability had been held by the General Assembly’s First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) and Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization). While that meeting had been useful, it revealed the need for further dialogue to reconcile contending visions for outer space security, he noted.
MUHAMMAD ANSHOR (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, underscored the longstanding position of the bloc regarding the absolute validity of multilateral diplomacy in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation. The Disarmament Commission, however, had been unable to agree on substantive recommendations on its agenda items since 2000 due to a lack of political will and inflexible positions of nuclear-weapon States. Meanwhile, progress had been lacking in the implementation of nuclear disarmament obligations and commitments by those States. Among other things, he welcomed the continued consideration of the humanitarian perspective, reiterating in that regard deep concern about the catastrophic consequences of any use of nuclear weapons. All States must comply with applicable international law, including humanitarian law, he said, reaffirming that the use of nuclear weapons would be a violation of the United Nations Charter and a crime against humanity.
Going forward, he said, the total elimination of nuclear weapons was the only absolute guarantee against the use or threat of their use. Pending that, nuclear weapon States must provide universal, unconditional, non-discriminatory and legally binding assurances against their use or threat of use. Underlining the importance of the full realization of the inalienable right of developing countries to develop, research, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, he expressed profound disappointment at the fact that the 2012 scheduled conference on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East had not been convened and strongly rejected the alleged impediments presented by the conference’s conveners. In that context, he said Israel was the only party in the region that had rejected participating in the Conference as mandated by the 2010 NPT Review. More broadly, strong and genuine political will must guide the multilateral disarmament machinery, in particular negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament, he said, encouraging that body to swiftly agree on a programme of work and overcome its long-standing deadlock.
AHMED ELSHANDAWILY (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Group of Arab States, said that peace and security were not possible as long as there were weapons of mass destruction in the world. In 2015, the Group had made new proposals on nuclear disarmament. Unfortunately, he said, two nuclear weapon States had rejected them. For its part, the Arab Group had made every effort to free the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction, he said, urging other parties to act at a time when the very credibility of the NPT was at stake.
Its recent effort on 11 March, he said, had seen the appointment of a “group of wise men” to help to restart the process of making the Middle East a zone free of nuclear weapons, one which had been stalled since 1995. Nuclear weapon States must act more vigorously to achieve non-proliferation objectives, he said, noting in particular that Israel had refused to ratify the NPT. Finally, he expressed his hope that the Commission’s current session could reach a consensus outcome.
RICHARD NDUHUURA (Uganda), speaking on behalf of the Group of African States, expressed his continued commitment to the principle and validity of multilateral diplomacy in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation. Such issues were best addressed through multilaterally negotiated, universal, comprehensive and non-discriminatory agreements. There was a continued risk of total destruction to life and human civilization as long as nuclear weapons existed, he said, underscoring the Disarmament Commission’s role as the sole specialized deliberative body within the United Nations multilateral disarmament machinery. While the body had contributed to deliberations on nuclear disarmament, it was unfortunate that the Commission had not been able to achieve a substantial outcome.
Calling for concerted efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons, he stressed the need to universalize the NPT and ensure compliance in a balanced and comprehensive manner. Establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones constituted an important milestone towards achieving nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation objectives, he continued, highlighting that the Pelindaba Treaty’s entry into force in 2009 had made Africa a nuclear-weapon-free zone. To achieve that objective, he reiterated the need for a high-level international conference to be convened no later than 2018. The Group believed that such a gathering would serve as an opportunity to make concrete recommendations. Regarding confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms, he underlined that they should be undertaken in full conformity with the United Nations Charter principles and international law.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said in South Asia, real progress towards peace and prosperity was being impeded by hegemonic efforts that were often fanned and encouraged by powerful States to advance their own geopolitical objectives. As such, there were continuing differences in approaches to pursuing an agreed disarmament agenda and new dangers on the global security horizon in areas including the hostile use of outer space, offensive cybercapabilities and the development and use of lethal autonomous weapon systems and armed drones. She expected more efforts to regulate nuclear weapons through legal, normative and political means. Despite reductions in the number of nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War, the pace had been slow. Describing the situation in South Asia, she said that, as a responsible nuclear State, Pakistan’s policy was shaped by the evolving regional security dynamics. Pakistan neither wanted to, nor was engaged in a race, yet it could not remain oblivious to the evolving regional security dynamics and arms build-up, which had obliged her country to take essential steps to maintain its security.
Mr. ELSHANDAWILY (Egypt), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab Group and the African Group, said the Commission must achieve a consensus substantive outcome to preserve its relevance to the multilateral machinery on disarmament. To reach that end, he called on nuclear weapon States and major arms exporters to display the necessary political will. With regard to Working Group I, on “Recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons”, the starting point should be the implementation of the General Assembly resolution on the Follow-up to the High-level Meeting of the Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament that had been held in 2013. Turning to Working Group II, on “Practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons”, he called for a number of elements to be included as integral components, such as subjecting production and ever-increasing stockpiles of conventional weapons in the hands of major arms exporters and producers to international inspection; mutual international accountability; and addressing protracted threats to international peace and security.
VANESSA WOOD (Australia) said that, despite talk of polarization, the international community still shared a goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. To reach that objective, States needed to identify concrete and practical building blocks. The best chance of success would result from addressing both the security and humanitarian dimensions of nuclear weapons, with the involvement of all States that possess such weapons. A paper that had been submitted by several States, including Australia, had acknowledged many of the central elements of a draft paper put forward by Kazakhstan, who chaired Working Group I. Those included bringing the CTBT into force, starting negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty, encouraging greater transparency on the part of nuclear-weapon States, reducing the risk of accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons and strengthening nuclear-weapon-free zones. The CTBT had succeeded in establishing a global norm against testing, but voluntary moratoria were no substitute to a permanent and legally binding commitment to end such practices. That could only come about through the Treaty’s entry into force. With regard to conventional weapons, Australia would keep working closely with States in the Indo-Pacific region to encourage the signing and ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty and would help States implement well-targeted and workable measures for addressing small arms and light weapons.
KAIRAT ABDRAKHMANOV (Kazakhstan) said the international community must break the Commission’s stalemate and revitalize the disarmament machinery’s effectiveness. Entities of that machinery, however, had not executed their mandates for the last two decades, he said, anticipating change in that situation. His country was committed to nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and security. Recognizing the key role played by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he commended its efforts to ensure nuclear security. Implementing recommendations that had been adopted at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C., in Seoul and The Hague would also have a global impact. For its part, Kazakhstan had supported the establishment of an open-ended working group to advance multilateral negotiations and would work for the conclusion of a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons. Furthermore, the IAEA and Kazakhstan had signed in August 2015 an agreement to set up a low enriched uranium bank that would contribute to guaranteeing non-discriminatory access to nuclear fuel, strengthening the non-proliferation regime and thereby reducing nuclear risks. On non-nuclear issues, he stressed that Kazakhstan had decided to accede to the Arms Trade Treaty and was currently fulfilling relevant domestic procedures.
VENKATESH VARMA (India), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Commission’s current difficulties owed to the lack of political will of States to invest in multilateral outcomes. At the recent Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C., India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi had underlined his country’s commitment to disarmament. Indeed, nuclear security would continue to be a priority for India, which was also committed to global non-discriminatory disarmament and to complete disarmament in a time-bound manner. Stressing the need to close gaps in negotiations leading to that goal, he anticipated the start of discussions in the Conference on Disarmament on a disarmament convention. In that regard, he supported global efforts, including creating an agreement on a step-by-step process towards the complete elimination of nuclear weapons and Kazakhstan’s proposal on a universal declaration on a nuclear-weapon-free world. Turning to confidence-building measures, he said a step-by-step process should unfold at a pace comfortable to all parties. While India’s priority was the Commission’s agenda item on nuclear disarmament, it would not stand in the way of a possible third item to help the international community respond to emerging threats.
IBRAHIM O. A. DABBASHI (Libya) said despite the Commission being one of the oldest components of the United Nations and having had successfully issued guidelines and recommendations while providing a platform for Member States to reach a consensus on various issues, there was a stalemate. That impasse was the result of a lack of trust and flexibility on a range of issues. Drawing attention to the existing danger of nuclear weapons and their use, he noted that banning them required a major multilateral and political commitment. Turning to the urgency of establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, he deeply regretted the humanitarian impact of such weapons and called on all Member States to comply with the international humanitarian law.
VLADIMIR DROBNJAK (Croatia) said the current deadlock was becoming more difficult to overcome with every passing year. The Commission, however, with its universal membership and consensus decision-making process, had much “untapped potential”. As there were scant prospects for finding a middle ground in the near future, he called for creative, new thinking, including through the possible inclusion of another agenda item. The process leading to a world free of nuclear weapons must be an inclusive one that leveraged the NPT, particularly since disarmament and non-proliferation were mutually reinforcing. Calling for due attention to efforts to establish the Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons, he said new ideas were needed to bring all parties to the table. On conventional weapons, he underscored the important role that practical confidence-building measures played in building transparency, cooperation and trust between States.
PETR ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said the Commission possessed, unfortunately, characteristic problems seen in the United Nations disarmament machinery, particularly those regarding different approaches taken by States. Any reference to allegedly outdated methods of work was nothing more than a smokescreen for the unwillingness to seek acceptable compromises, he said, regretting to add that because of the positions taken by the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, the 2015 NPT Review Conference had not agreed on a final document. The key objective of the new review cycle was to consolidate international efforts to secure the efficient and sustainable functioning of the NPT regime, including the universalization of the Treaty itself. In the context of the unprecedented reduction of nuclear arsenals by the Russian Federation and the United States, other countries remained “on the sidelines”, he said, stressing the need to get other nuclear-weapon nations on board.
He went on to warn against the prioritization of humanitarian concepts over more topical issues, such as the deployment of the United States-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) missile defence system and the prevention of weapons being placed in outer space. For its part, the Russian Federation was responsibly implementing its obligations under Article VI of the NPT. However, further steps in the field of nuclear disarmament were impossible unless serious and comprehensive preparatory work was done by all interested States, including by those States possessing nuclear military potential. Any attempt to apply double standards in international affairs must be discarded, he said, adding that certain States and military alliances should abandon attempts to ensure their military pre-eminence at the expense of and to the detriment of other States. The original goal of the United States global missile defence initiative targeted the Russian Federation’s nuclear forces, he said, noting that the United States still had nuclear weapons in Europe capable of reaching his country. Such systems were also being modernized. That issue had only one solution – repatriate all non-strategic nuclear weapons to their possessor’s national territory, ban the deployment of such weapons abroad and destroy the infrastructure allowing their deployment.
SUN LEI (China) called for a step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament, with universal security as a guiding principle and strategic stability as a basic guarantee. Existing mechanisms should be fully used and States with the biggest nuclear arsenals needed to keep drastically reducing stockpiles through verifiable and irreversible means. By doing so, they would create conditions for complete nuclear disarmament. China opposed proliferation of nuclear weapons in any form and favoured diplomacy to resolve regional nuclear issues. The Joint Plan of Action concluded by the P5+1 and Iran was a valuable example of resolving a major dispute through negotiations. Turning to the Korean Peninsula, he said China hoped that all concerned parties would favour dialogue and consultation, seek an early resumption of Six-Party Talks and pursue a dual-track approach leading to denuclearization and a peace agreement to replace the 1953 Armistice.
Turning to other types of weapons, he said China had prioritized getting more countries to participate in the Register of Conventional Arms and attached great importance to fighting the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Having participated in negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty, China was looking into acceding to that instrument. Meanwhile, the international community should address concerns regarding lethal autonomous weapons systems. The multilateral disarmament machinery, including the Commission, had faced some difficulties in recent years, but China hoped that all parties would work in a pragmatic way to achieve progress.
AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that disarmament had assumed an unprecedented degree of importance in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Hopefully, resources needed for sustainable development could be diverted away from arms. It was imperative for the Commission to achieve concrete results during its current cycle, he said, reiterating support for the NPT and the key recommendations of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission. The danger of nuclear material falling into terrorist hands called for the widest possible adherence to the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and the strengthening of the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. Concluding an international agreement on the prevention of the arms race in outer space would help to address the danger of outer space becoming a source of conflict. He acknowledged the work of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific and hoped it would soon relocate its operations back to Kathmandu from Bangkok.
FEH MOUSSA GONE (Côte d’Ivoire) said that nuclear disarmament in all its forms must be a priority and the stagnation in the Commission’s work had affected its relevance and credibility. Drastic reductions in the number of nuclear weapons were welcome, but they still remained a threat, he said, calling upon States that had not yet done so to show flexibility and sign the CTBT. Agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue had shown how, with political will and trust on all sides, concrete results were possible. Having known more than a decade of crisis, Côte d’Ivoire knew the consequences of the illegal trade in light and small calibre weapons, he said, adding that the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process in his country had demonstrated how political will and the help of international partners could counter that phenomenon.
TOMAS NAPOLITANO MARTINEZ (France) said the past year had been marked by both undeniable successes and unacceptable developments in the field of nuclear disarmament. The Vienna agreement that had been reached between a number of States and Iran, if respected by all parties, would block off all pathways to an atomic weapon in that country. Stressing the need to bolster efforts towards the universalization of the NPT, he added that the issue of outer space was now ripe for discussion, including the potential inclusion of a new agenda item on that topic. Also over the past year, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had carried out a number of nuclear tests, including several hidden as “space launches”, despite the adoption of unprecedented sanctions by the Security Council. In addition, the use of chemical weapons had continued in Syria despite a number of Council resolutions. Those responsible for their use must be held accountable, he stressed, noting that the Council had created an independent mechanism responsible for identifying perpetrators. Nuclear weapons States must honour their commitments, he said, underscoring his country’s “exemplary” record in that regard.
JOHN BRAVACO (United States) said while his delegation believed global nuclear disarmament was a long-term effort, steps could be taken today to create conditions for achieving that shared, global objective. Having hosted the fourth Nuclear Security Summit, the gathering had contributed immeasurably to international security. Highlighting another recent development, he said the IAEA had verified that Iran had completed its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. For its part, the United States remained committed to the NPT and bilateral nuclear reduction efforts with the Russian Federation were an essential part of his country’s comprehensive, full-spectrum approach to disarmament.
The United States embraced a realistic and practical approach to nuclear disarmament, he said, noting that “we can never separate disarmament from the global security environment or strategic stability considerations, or divorce it from our security commitments to friends and allies”. In December 2014, the United States had launched an initiative to form an international partnership for nuclear disarmament verification that would build on prior efforts to seek practical solutions to future arms control and disarmament technical challenges. It would also aim at building capacity in the field of nuclear disarmament verification, for without such a capacity, global nuclear disarmament would never be achieved, he concluded.
JOSÉ ALBERTO ANTONIO SANDOVAL COJULÚN (Guatemala), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said his region was at the forefront of the fight against nuclear weapons. “We must show that we will not waiver in our firm commitment to complete and verifiable nuclear disarmament,” he said. Far from being discouraged by the failure of the latest NPT Review Conference, he said that failure should serve as an impetus towards progress. The objective of the Treaty was the elimination of nuclear weapons, not the indefinite maintenance of the status quo. Guatemala was committed to the Treaty’s universalization. Non-nuclear-weapons States had complied with their commitments, he said, urging nuclear-weapons States to do the same. Guatemala was proud to be a party to the Tlatelolco Treaty, which had established Latin America as a nuclear-weapons-free zone. Given the risk posed by those weapons, it was critical to maintain the moratorium on nuclear weapons tests until the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty came into force. Underscoring the importance of transparency and confidence-building instruments, he stressed that it was crucial to continue to bolster those tools.
CLAUDIA GARCÍA (Mexico) noted frustration among a great number of States over the paralysis of the Disarmament Conference, as well as the fact that the Commission had, in 17 years, generated no substantive recommendations. The latter, she said, had become a space for reiterating positions in the view of maintaining consensus. With regard to conventional weapons, the picture was more encouraging, with the Arms Trade Treaty representing a historic agreement, she said, emphasizing that her country would keep working towards its universal ratification and implementation.
FAIYAZ KAZI (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that despite polarization over nuclear disarmament, it was broadly understood that the status quo was far from desirable. Complementary or alternative platforms had emerged, but the Commission remained the sole body to address the issue. Leadership and courage were needed to turn political will into action. Recalling how nuclear arsenals would undercut the 2030 Agenda, he said disarmament and non-proliferation needed to be pursued as matching priorities. Bangladesh supported negotiations for a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons. It also called for legally binding assurances that nuclear weapons States would not use, or threaten to use, such weapons.
TUVAKO MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania), associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said nuclear risks such as accidents or strategic miscalculations posed threats to humanity. Rejecting the “false logic” that somehow those weapons were a guarantee of peace, he said that, in an unstable global environment in which non-State actors sought the elimination of Governments, the Commission had a responsibility it could not evade. Noting the long-standing deadlock within the body, he said “the inability or unwillingness of the Commission to provide credible recommendation to the General Assembly illustrates a deeper sense of mistrust”. Nuclear facilities must be safeguarded within or above the highest degree of IAEA systematic safeguards. Underscoring the right to use peaceful nuclear technology, he called on States to take appropriate steps to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of any kind in their respective countries.
GABRIELA MARTINIC (Argentina), associating herself with the statement to be delivered by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Non-Aligned Movement, said frank dialogue would allow the Commission to identify measures to move forward with nuclear disarmament. In that regard, she called upon all States to adopt a pragmatic approach with a view to a fruitful session.
EPHRAIM LESHALA MMINELE (South Africa), associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, called on all delegations to show flexibility. The fact that the Conference had made no progress since 1999 was a growing concern, but hopefully the next two weeks would see genuine political will and good faith. He quoted his country’s President as saying that the failure of the NPT Review Conference was a major setback, and reiterated its call for nuclear-weapons States to eliminate their arsenals and enter into negotiations in good faith. Nobody could be complacent about the lack of progress. Regarding conventional weapons, he said South Africa urged all States that had not yet done so to report all their arms transfers promptly.
ANDRIY TSYMBALIUK (Ukraine) said his delegation believed the use of nuclear weapons was the most serious threat that humankind faced and considered the total elimination of those devices to be the only absolute guarantee against the scourge of nuclear warfare. Ukraine demonstrated a proactive approach and set an example by abandoning its nuclear capability and acceding to the NPT in November 1994. However, his country was concerned that the Russian Federation had deployed nuclear weapons on the temporarily occupied territory of Crimea. Russian occupants were restoring Soviet-era nuclear storage facilities and had deployed nuclear weapons delivery systems, such as warships and combat aircraft. Occupation of Crimea and ongoing Russian aggression had left Ukrainian nuclear sites and material located there beyond national control. As a result, Ukraine could not exclude the illicit trafficking and malicious use of such materials by terrorists. Despite being subjected to Russian aggression, Ukraine remained a reliable partner that continued to fulfil its obligations under the NPT. The only way to protect the world from nuclear proliferation was to make the Ukrainian renunciation of nuclear weapons a success story. Otherwise, it would become increasingly difficult to convince any country to refrain from developing a national nuclear programme. Ukraine supported the establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East.
SHIGETOSHI NAGAO (Japan) expressed concern that the rift between the nuclear-weapon States and non-nuclear weapons States seemed to have widened. His country assigned great importance to practical concrete measures in the field of disarmament, including: enhanced transparency of nuclear forces; deeper reduction of all types of nuclear weapons by all States possessing them and the eventual multilateralization of nuclear weapons reduction negotiations; the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty; the early commencement and conclusion of negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices; and the promotion of the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification. Japan fully and directly understood the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and it had long worked to spread awareness of the devastation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Despite repeated calls by the international community, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had conducted the fourth nuclear test in January and launched ballistic missiles in February and March. Such acts were serious violations of relevant Security Council resolutions, he said, demanding that they be immediately and fully implemented.
MICHAL SEHAYEK-SOROKA (Israel) expressed support for a vision of a Middle East free from wars, hostility, weapons of mass destruction and delivery means. Arms control and disarmament processes needed to be built on durable and sustainable confidence-building measures and formulated in a way that addressed relevant circumstances, challenges and threats in the region. Since the Commission’s last deliberation, the Middle East had been further destabilized and radicalized, with terrorist groups overrunning a number of territories. Chemical weapons were still in use. Iran remained the most significant threat to the security of the region and beyond, she said, adding that the country’s recent ballistic missile test indicated that the threat had not diminished. Against that backdrop, it was clear that any arms control disarmament process could not be detached from reality. A more secure and peaceful Middle East required direct and sustained dialogue based on the principle of consensus. Israel had participated in all five multilateral meetings in Switzerland to discuss the arrangements and conditions necessary for convening a conference on the establishment of the Middle East as a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction and means of delivery, but a sixth round of consultations had not taken place due to the disengagement of Arab States and others.
RUBÉN IGNACIO ZAMORA RIYAS (El Salvador) maintained its firm commitment to support all initiatives and actions geared towards disarmament, non-proliferation and a culture of peace. Describing nuclear weapons as an immense threat to the environment and survival of the human race, he noted that there was lack of action by the international community, and stressed the need to move towards the objective of achieving a world free of such devices. With the signing of the Treaty of Tlatelolco, Latin America and the Caribbean had become the first nuclear-weapon-free zone. Warning against the security and humanitarian dimensions of nuclear weapons, he underscored the need to invest in confidence-building measures in order to mitigate tensions among States. Concluding, he urged all nuclear-weapon States to comply with international law.
SARAH TELFORD (United Kingdom) said that her country had a strong record on nuclear disarmament and meeting its obligations as a member of the NPT. Her State had reduced the size of its own nuclear forces by well over 50 per cent since. By the mid-2020s, it would reduce its overall nuclear weapons stockpile to no more than 180 warheads, meeting the commitments set out in the 2010 Review. Disarmament verification had to be addressed if the world was to obtain, and remain at, total global nuclear disarmament. It was important that nuclear and non-nuclear weapons States work together so that in the future, verification could take place safely and securely, and provide all States with high confidence in actions taken towards disarmament. Regarding conventional weapons, the United Kingdom believed that the Arms Trade Treaty had the potential to change the lives of those most affected by the unregulated and illicit trade in arms. The United Kingdom remained committed to combating the threats posed by small arms and light weapons, which were the single most significant contributor to conflicts, violence and crime.
RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said a sense of comfort with the status quo would defeat the purpose of the present session. Despite the failed NPT Review Conference, the three pillars of the Treaty must continue to guide the work of the international community. Some diplomatic successes had been seen recently, he said, citing Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) endorsing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action reached with Iran. Calling for the commencement of multilateral negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention, he said the proposals submitted by his country and Costa Rica could serve as a basis for the establishment of a world free of nuclear weapons. Turning to conventional weapons, he expressed commitment to the establishment of stringent national laws to restrict the flow of arms. The opportunity existed to narrow the gap between divergent views of the membership in that field.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), associating himself with the Non-Aligned movement and CELAC, said the proliferation of small arms and light weapons was a major challenge for societies. Such weapons contributed to violence when in the hands of criminals. Peru was part of the international regimes on arms control, including the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons. The Arms Trade Treaty was particularly important, he said, recalling that his country had recently deposited the instrument for its ratification. On nuclear issues, he reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the NPT and underscored the inalienable right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Peru had been one of the first States to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty in 1997, he said, underscoring the importance of that instrument’s swift entry into force.
GÜVEN BEGEÇ (Turkey), while acknowledging the important role played by the Disarmament Commission, said that the body had not submitted any substantial recommendations to the General Assembly. In the face of current security challenges, he supported the revitalization and expansion of the Commission’s agenda based on relevance, competency and efficiency. While taking note that there had been a growing interest in the humanitarian dimension vis-à-vis nuclear disarmament, he stressed that chemical and biological weapons had humanitarian consequences as well. The international community had been witnessing that reality at every chemical weapons attack in Syria. The use of such weapons by the Syrian regime constituted a breach of international humanitarian law and the Chemical Weapons Convention. That could not be disregarded by the international community, he said, describing the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons as the competent international body in attributing responsibility to the perpetrators.
Right of Reply
The representative of Syria, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, described Israel’s statement as “baseless allegations”, noting that that country’s delegate had misled the meeting. In fact, Israel was the sole possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Turning to the statement by Turkey’s representative, he stressed that Eren Erdem, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) member in Turkey, said that terrorists of ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham] had received all necessary materials to produce Sarin gas via Turkey. Further, he had accused Ankara of failing to investigate Turkish supply routes used to provide terrorists with toxic gas ingredients. Drawing attention to the criminal case number 2013/120 opened by the General Prosecutor’s office, he noted that the investigation had revealed that a number of Turkish citizens had taken part in negotiations with ISIS on the supply of Sarin gas. The Parliament member had confirmed that the Turkish Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation, as well as the Turkish Minister of Justice, Bekir Bozdag, had also been involved.
The representative of Iran, also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the Israeli delegate had made ridiculous allegations against his country. However, he could not create a “smokescreen” to hide Israel’s continuing violations against the Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian people under the guise of a hypothetical Iranian threat. Indeed, his country was not threatening anyone. The existence of nuclear weapons in the hands of the Israeli regime had foiled all attempts to establish a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, and posed a threat to neighbouring and other States. The members of the Non-Aligned Movement shared that view and had expressed concern over the acquisition of nuclear capabilities by Israel. They had also condemned Israel for developing and stockpiling nuclear arsenals.
The representative of Turkey said the nature of the declarations of the Syrian regime were inconsistent and contained gaps and discrepancies. “We all know what it amounts to,” he said, calling it “false information”. The regime must come clean to United Nations investigators or it would not be taken seriously.