Approving 3 Drafts, Disarmament Committee Addresses Chemical, Biological Weapons Treaties, How Best to Keep Terrorists from Acquiring Weapons of Mass Destruction

Report
from UN General Assembly
Published on 04 Nov 2019 View Original

GA/DIS/3641

GENERAL ASSEMBLY FIRST COMMITTEE
SEVENTY-FOURTH SESSION, 23RD MEETING (AM)

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today approved three draft resolutions on other weapons of mass destruction, including one on the importance of identifying perpetrators of chemical weapon attacks in Syria, while also hearing delegates reflect on action taken on nuclear‑weapon‑related issues.

The Committee approved, by a recorded vote of 147 in favour to 7 against (Cambodia, China, Iran, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria, Zimbabwe), with 24 abstentions, the draft resolution “Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction” (document A/C.1/74/L.10). Prior to this, the Committee approved by recorded vote the retention of five paragraphs.

By the terms of “L.10”, the General Assembly would condemn in the strongest possible terms that chemical weapons have since 2012 been used in Iraq, Malaysia, Syria and the United Kingdom, including as reported by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)‑United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism. It would also stress the importance of implementing a decision made in 2018 by the States parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention to establish arrangements to identify the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Delegates highlighted the rupture of consensus and the politization of OPCW regarding its fact‑finding mission to find the perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria. Poland’s delegate said her delegation had tabled the draft resolution in past years when it had a consensual character. With the Chemical Weapons Convention facing fundamental challenges, she said, the international community must send a strong and clear message in support of its full implementation.

Explaining his delegation’s vote against “L.10”, the Russian Federation’s representative said several provisions are weak on counter‑terrorist aspects of chemical weapons. There is also a rift within OPCW that sees Washington, D.C., and its allies rejecting the decades‑long practice of consensus by putting every issue to a vote. Denying allegations that Russian citizens were involved in the chemical incident in Salisbury, he said it is unacceptable to turn a draft resolution into a means to settle scores with certain States.

France’s delegate said he voted in favour of “L.10” because the language reflects the international community’s deep concerns about the use of chemical weapons, especially after their reappearance in places like Syria, Malaysia and the United Kingdom. Indeed, the vote results is a test for the international community, he said, adding that the issue should not be politicized.

Acting without a vote, the Committee approved the draft resolution “Measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction” (document A/C.1/74/L.16), by which the Assembly would call upon all Member States to support international efforts to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. Also without a vote, the Committee approved the draft resolution “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction” (document A/C.1/74/L.44).

At the outset of the meeting, delegates explained their national positions on nuclear‑weapon‑related draft resolutions the Committee approved on 1 November. (For details on voting results, see Press Release GA/DIS/3640.)

A number of delegates delivered statements on the draft resolution “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” (document A/C.1/74/L.12), which would have the Assembly welcome those States that have signed, ratified or acceded to the instrument and call upon all others to do so as early as possible.

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of China, France, Russian Federation and United States, said he voted against the draft resolution for several reasons, including that the instrument, which ignores international context, adds nothing to build inter‑State trust and transparency and creates divisions. In this vein, he called on States pondering on whether or not to sign the instrument to carefully reflect on its implications on international peace and security.

Japan’s delegate said he voted against “L.12”, as all States must work together towards nuclear disarmament on the basis of a clear understanding of both humanitarian and security factors. With this in mind, he said all States should focus on disarmament, regardless of divergent views.

The First Committee heard a range of national positions on the draft resolution “Joint Courses of Action and Future‑oriented Dialogue towards a world without nuclear weapons” (document A/C.1/74/L.47). The representative of Belarus said his delegation voted in favour of the draft, as it reflects calls to create new nuclear‑weapon‑free zones, which are among main components of achieving an atomic‑bomb‑free world.

Ecuador’s representative said that while his delegation supports the idea of a nuclear‑weapon‑free world, it abstained because the language is not ambitious enough and does not provide elements of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. Also casting an abstention was New Zealand’s representative, who said the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is the cornerstone of the disarmament regime, and efforts should not focus on redrafting its provisions nor move away from existing legally binding commitments.

The First Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 5 November, to take action on remaining draft resolutions and decisions.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to take action on all draft resolutions and decisions before it. For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3624 of 10 October and GA/DIS/3640 of 1 November.

Action on Draft Texts

At the outset of the meeting, delegates explained their positions on nuclear weapon-related draft resolutions the Committee approved on 1 November. (For details on voting results, see Press Release GA/DIS/3640.)

The representative of the Republic of Korea, speaking in explanation of position after the vote held on 1 November, said his delegation abstained on the draft resolution “Joint Courses of Action and Future‑oriented Dialogue towards a world without nuclear weapons” (document A/C.3/74/L.47/Rev.1). While supporting its overall goal, he said the draft uses a term for atomic bomb survivors that fails to reflect the fact that several thousand victims came from other parts of the world.

The representative of Egypt said his delegation voted for the draft resolution “Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty” (document A/C.1/74/L.24) as a whole, but abstained on preambular paragraph 4, which contains a controversial reference that adds no value to the overall text. His delegation also abstained on “L.47/Rev.1” as a whole as well as many of its paragraphs, he said, explaining that the text aims at lowering the level of expectations for the implementation of existing agreements.

The representative of Argentina said her delegation cast an abstention on the draft resolution “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” (document A/C.1/74/L.12). Noting that her country has not yet signed the Treaty, she said the instrument, or any future treaty, must aim at strengthening the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of China, France, Russian Federation and United States, voted against resolution “L.12” as it opposes the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Noting that the best way to eliminate nuclear weapons is by a gradual process that considers the current international peace and security environment, he said this instrument treaty fails to address key issues and contradicts the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, ignores international context and adds nothing to build trust and transparency between States. It also creates divisions, he said, adding that he will not support or sign it in the future and will not accept any claim of its advantages. He also called on States pondering on whether or not to sign the treaty to carefully reflect on its implications on international peace and security.

The representative of Belarus said his delegation voted in favour of “L.24” because the Test‑Ban Treaty is a crucial part of the disarmament process. He also voted in favour of resolution “L.47/Rev.1” because the document reflects calls to create new nuclear‑weapon‑free zones, which is considered to be a main component of achieving an atomic‑bomb‑free world.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said his delegation abstained on the draft resolution “Towards a nuclear‑weapon‑free world: accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments” (document A/C.1/74/L.20) because some elements are unacceptable. Moreover, the draft is biased and unbalanced. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will only denuclearize when all the threats against Pyongyang are removed. Affirming his delegation’s support for a world free of nuclear weapons, he added that problems will only be solved through dialogue. He voted in favour of resolution the draft resolution “The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East” (document A/C.1/74/L.2), calling for confidence‑building measures in the region. Noting his delegation’s abstention to the draft resolution “Nuclear disarmament” (document A/C.1/74/L.19), he called on countries with the biggest arsenals to take the lead in this process.

The representative of Pakistan explained his delegation’s decision to abstain from several draft resolutions, including “Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons” (document A/C.1/74/L.23) and “Ethical imperatives for a nuclear‑weapon-free world” (document A/C.1/74/L.62), stating that discourse on these arms cannot be reduced to their humanitarian and ethical dimensions. His delegation decided to abstain on the draft resolution to abstain from the draft resolution “Convention on the Prohibition of the use of Nuclear Weapons” (document A/C.1/74/L.18), as progress on disarmament cannot take place in a vacuum nor can it be divorced from security challenges. Its main sponsor has threatened the use of nuclear weapons against its neighbour. Noting that Pakistan is not a party to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, he said it is not bound by its provisions or the outcomes of its review conferences.

The representative of France said his delegation voted in favour of “L.47/Rev.1” but abstained on preambular paragraph 18 and operative paragraph 3 (c), explaining that while the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons have long been known, there is no consensus on how a humanitarian approach can underpin disarmament efforts. He also set out France’s position with regard to a fissile material cut‑off treaty, which is referenced in several drafts.

The representative of the United States said that while his delegation abstained on “L.47/Rev.1,” it thanks Japan for streamlining the text and refocusing it on the future. The draft is perhaps unique in encouraging States to carry out a candid dialogue on nuclear disarmament and security. Hopefully, future iterations of the text will contribute to narrowing current divisions.

The representative of Switzerland voted in favour of draft resolution “L.2” because it reflects the importance of the commitment stemming from the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. However, “L.2” only mentions one dimension of this issue and singles out one State and should consider violations of norms around weapons of mass destruction committed in the region by other States. Expressing support for establishing a Middle East nuclear‑weapon‑free zone, he anticipated success in the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction, to be held in New York on 18 to 22 November. He abstained on draft resolution “L.12” because Switzerland has not joined the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and remains an observer. While his delegation supports the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, it has reservations about the instrument and will reconsider its position in 2020.

The representative of Malaysia explained he voted in favour of “L.47/Rev.1”, which reflects Japan’s commitment to disarmament and non‑proliferation. Reiterating Malaysia’s support for a world free of nuclear weapons, a long desire since the inception of the United Nations since 1946, he said there are no straight lines in this process, also voicing regret at the lack of progress in recent years.

The representative of New Zealand abstained on “L.47/Rev.1”. There is a global acceptance that the Non‑Proliferation Treaty is the cornerstone of the disarmament regime, therefore the Committee should not redraft its provisions nor move away from existing legally binding commitments. “L.47/Rev.1” distorts article VI of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, which is why her delegation voted against some of its paragraphs.

The representative of Austria, underscoring his country’s support for the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, said his delegation abstained on “L.47/Rev.1” as a whole because of provisions that replaced existing agreed language with new formulations.

The representative of Syria said his delegation voted in favour of “L.2” and the draft resolution “Establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the region of the Middle East” (document A/C.1/74/L.1). Syria was among the first to call for a Middle East free of atomic bombs, he said, adding that Israel will never accede to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty as long as the United States and others protect its related weapons programmes.

The representative of Japan said his delegation voted in favour of the draft resolution “Humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons” (document A/C.1/74/L.13) because, from its own experience, it recognizes the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. However, it voted against “L.12”, as all States must work together towards nuclear disarmament on the basis of a clear understanding of both humanitarian and security factors. All States should focus on disarmament, regardless of divergent views, he said.

The representative of Singapore, explaining her delegation’s decision to abstain on “L.12,” said her country’s position on Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is well known. There are many pathways to a nuclear‑weapon‑free world and all parties must work towards that common goal.

The representative of India said her country is not a party to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty or the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and is not bound by their provisions. The goal of a nuclear‑weapon‑free world can be achieved through a step‑by‑step approach. For its part, India is a responsible nuclear‑weapon State and has no intention of joining the Non‑Proliferation Treaty as a non‑nuclear‑weapon State. As such, her delegation voted accordingly.

The representative from Iran said his delegation, as a signatory of the Test‑Ban Treaty, voted in favour of “L.24”. However, he regretted to note that all nuclear‑weapon States are modernizing and upgrading their systems, activities that undermine the instrument. Turning to “L.47/Rev.1”, Iran abstained because the language failed to find a balance and makes no reference to ensuring that nuclear‑weapon States fully implement their obligations.

The representative of Ecuador said his delegation voted in favour of the draft resolution “Convention on the Prohibition of the Use of Nuclear Weapons” (document A/C.1/74/L.18) because it is a legally binding instrument to the idea of a world free of nuclear weapons through the universalization of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. With regard to “L.24”, he said the entry into force of this Treaty should be by consensus. Turning to “L.47/Rev.1”, he said his delegation supports the idea of a world free of nuclear weapons, but abstained because the language is not ambitious enough and does not provide elements of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, even though it does recognize the catastrophic consequences.

The Committee then turned to three draft resolutions in its cluster on other weapons of mass destruction: “Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction” (document A/C.1/74/L.10); “Measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction” (document A/C.1/74/L.16); and “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction” (document A/C.1/74/L.44)

The representative of Poland said her country has tabled “L.10” for several years, when the text has contributed to international peace and security and the non‑proliferation regime. However, in recent years, the draft resolution has lost its consensual character. With the Chemical Weapons Convention facing fundamental challenges, the international community must send a strong and clear message in support of its full implementation.

The representative of Syria said his country, a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, has eliminated its related programmes. Denying false accusations that its army used chemical weapons against civilians, he said Syria does not possess these arms. The United States, United Kingdom and France have used the Conference of the Parties to the Convention as a pretext to interfere in the internal affairs of States and to violate their sovereignty.

The representative of the Russian Federation said his country was involved at the origins of the Convention and supports efforts to strengthen it and fully implement its provisions. In 2017, Moscow destroyed the world’s largest chemical weapons stockpile, he said, adding that the international community is waiting on the United States to follow its example by eliminating its chemical weapons arsenal. “L.10” fails to call on the United States to eliminate that arsenal as soon as possible. He also noted a rift within the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that sees the United States and its allies rejecting the decades‑long practice of consensus by putting every issue to a vote. In addition, “L.10” is weak on counter‑terrorist aspects of chemical weapons. He denied that Russian citizens were involved in the chemical incident in Salisbury, adding that it is unacceptable to turn a draft resolution into a means to settle scores with certain States. As such, the Russian Federation has no option but to vote against “L.10,” he said.

The representative of Cuba said her delegation will abstain from “L.10” because consensus must be reached around this issue. It is unacceptable to accuse anyone of the use of chemical weapons without an independent and impartial investigation, based on evidence on the ground, she said.

The representative of France will vote in favour of resolution “L.10” because the language reflects the international community’s deep concerns about the use of chemical weapons, especially after their reappearance in places like Syria, Malaysia and the United Kingdom. France believes this vote is a test for the international community, he said, adding that the issue should not be politicized.

The representative of Syria said his delegation has for years tried to reach balanced resolutions that reflect good faith, but regretted to note that his delegation was told their participation in the preparatory meetings of “L.10” was “useless”. The sponsor has only taken suggestions from the United States, United Kingdom and France, he observed. Meanwhile, Israel possesses chemical weapons, has used biological and radiological arms against Palestine and Syria and has facilitated related shipments to terrorists. The use of weapons of mass destruction is reprehensible and immoral, he said, reiterating his delegation’s commitment to establishing a Middle East free of these arsenals. He rejected the OPCW fact‑finding mission in Syria because it is carrying out its work remotely, in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The representative of Iran, highlighting Tehran’s support for the Convention and the OPCW, said “L.10” is being used for political ends, drawing attention to controversial issues while deepening divisions between the States parties. The draft’s condemnation of one State party that has demonstrated unprecedented cooperation with the OPCW is unacceptable, he said, adding that his delegation will vote against “L.10”, as several of its paragraphs are highly politicized.

The representative of Venezuela expressed concern at the politicization of the Convention for the geopolitical benefit of a few countries. “L.10” diverts attention from the fundamental aim of strengthening the prohibition of chemical weapons. The text should return to consensus language, she said, explaining that her delegation will, like in 2018, abstain on the text as a whole.

The Committee then took action on the draft resolution “Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction” (document A/C.1/74/L.10). By its terms, the Assembly would, among other things, reiterate its condemnation in the strongest possible terms of the use of chemical weapons anywhere, at any time, by anyone, under any circumstances. It would condemn in the strongest possible terms that chemical weapons have since 2012 been used in Iraq, Malaysia, Syria and the United Kingdom. The Assembly would also stress the importance of implementing the decision of the fourth Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention on 27 June 2018 to put into place arrangements to identify the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

By a recorded vote of 125 in favour to 7 against (Belarus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria, Zimbabwe), with 31 abstentions, the Committee decided to retain preambular paragraph 5, by which the Assembly would re‑emphasize its unequivocal support for the decision of the OPCW Director General to continue the mission to establish the facts surrounding the allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

By a recorded vote of 116 in favour to 13 against, with 36 abstentions, it decided to retain operative paragraph 2, by which the Assembly would condemn in the strongest possible terms that chemical weapons have since 2012 been used in Iraq, Malaysia, Syria and the United Kingdom, including as reported by the OPCW‑United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism.

By a recorded vote of 117 in favour to 12 against, with 35 abstentions, the Committee decided to retain operative paragraph 3, by which the Assembly would take note with great concern that the final report of the OPCW fact‑finding mission concluded that there were reasonable grounds that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon took place in Douma, Syria.

By a recorded vote of 111 in favour to 18 against, with 38 abstentions, it decided to retain operative paragraph 4, through which the Assembly would recall the decision of the fourth Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, entitled “Addressing the threat from chemical weapons use”, of 27 June 2018, and stresses the importance of its implementation.

By a recorded vote of 106 in favour to 13 against, with 46 abstentions, it decided to retain operative paragraph 16, by which the Assembly would express grave concern that the OPCW Technical Secretariat cannot fully verify that Syria has submitted an accurate and complete declaration regarding the destruction of all of its chemical weapons and related facilities.

The Committee then approved “L.10” as a whole by a recorded vote of 147 in favour to 7 against (Cambodia, China, Iran, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria, Zimbabwe), with 24 abstentions.

The Committee then considered the draft resolution “Measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction” (document A/C.1/74/L.16), by which the Assembly would call upon all Member States to support international efforts to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

The Committee approved the text without a vote.

The Committee then turned its attention to the draft resolution “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction” (document A/C.1/74/L.44). By the terms of that text, the Assembly would note the outcome and decisions reached at the Eighth Review Conference of the instrument and would call upon States parties to the Convention to participate and actively engage in their continued implementation.

The Secretary made an oral statement on programme budget implications.

The Committee then approved the text without a vote.

The representative of Egypt said his delegation, which abstained on “L.10”, cannot support a text whose proponents include States that resist any disarmament efforts, including the creation of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East. In addition, the continued politicization of the text undermines its credibility.

The representative of Malaysia said his country is pleased that 97 per cent of the world’s chemical weapons stockpiles have been eliminated to date. However, their re‑emergence is morally unacceptable and violates international law. Malaysia abstained from voting on operative paragraphs 4 and 16 because the Special Session of the Conference of States Parties is not the correct avenue for deciding the scope of OPCW’s work.

The representative of Israel, which voted in favour of “L.10,” said the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime was clearly stipulated in the 2016 report of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, among others. Israel hopes the new OPCW Investigation and Identification Team will fulfil the task of attributing chemical attacks to their perpetrators, he said, adding that it is vital for the international community to boost efforts to curtail any chance of the use of chemical weapons by State and non‑State actors.

The representative of India voted in favour of “L.10”, reflecting her delegation’s commitment to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Any use of chemical weapons is against humanity and reprehensible, and perpetrators must be held accountable.

The representative of China explained his delegation’s vote against resolution “L.10”. While Beijing opposed the use of chemical weapons, he regretted to note that some elements are not sufficiently addressed in “L.10”, and that some countries are lagging behind in the destruction of their chemical stockpiles. Calling for more dialogue, he raised concerns about the politicization of OPCW and its work.

The representative of Japan voted in favour of “L.10”, welcoming OPCW efforts to identify perpetrators. He called for the reinforcement of the Chemical Weapons Convention and for more cooperation to achieve a world free of chemical weapons.

The representative of Turkey said he voted in favour of “L.10” because it is in line with his delegation’s opposition to the use of chemical weapons. The use of chemical weapons is a crime against humanity, he said, condemning its recent use around the world and raising concerns about Syria. Commending the investigation to find the perpetrators, he said the Syrian regime is responsible for repeatedly using chemical weapons against its own people, asking Damascus to fully cooperate with the OPCW investigation.

The representative of the United States, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said they collectively voted in favour of “L.10”, as it reflects the objective and goals of the Convention and supports the extraordinary work of OPCW. Expressing grave concern about the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Malaysia, Iraq and the United Kingdom, he said States must continue to condemn the use of chemical weapons by any State or non‑State actor and hold accountable those who use them.

Right of Reply

The representative of Syria, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the Israeli regime supports terrorist organizations by supplying them with toxic chemical weapons. Meanwhile, Turkey has allowed terrorists onto its territory to be trained in the use of chemical weapons, and that the representative of the United States tried to evade his country’s responsibility in training terrorists in the use of chemical weapons.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the remarks by his counterpart from the United States contained lies. To date, no evidence has been presented about the alleged participation of the Russian Federation or its citizens in the Salisbury incident. Moscow has fully and transparently implemented its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, unlike the United States, which has enough toxic substances to destroy several countries.

For information media. Not an official record.