Frustrated with Piecemeal Approach to Non-proliferation, Speakers Call for Final Farewell to Nuclear Arms, as Disarmament Commission Concludes General Debate
The international community must work together to prevent the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons use, including in the hands of terrorist groups, speakers stressed today as the Disarmament Commission concluded the general debate portion of its annual substantive session.
“Mankind has lived on the edge for too long,” said the representative of Nigeria. Nuclear weapons — the only weapons of mass destruction which had yet to be prohibited — were by definition aimed solely at mass destruction. Recalling that the International Court of Justice had in 1996 affirmed that the use of such weapons constituted a crime against humanity, he called on nuclear-weapons States to consider the consequences of their use, including the implications on human health, climate and the environment.
While many speakers shared the view that time-bound commitments towards global nuclear disarmament were needed, some expressed concern at the actions of several nuclear-weapon-possessing States, which they said were reluctant to budge from their entrenched positions. In that regard, the delegate from Cuba blamed the stalemate at the 2015 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) on a lack of political will on the part of nuclear-weapons States and warned that a “privileged club” of countries continued to possess atomic bombs while criticizing developing countries for using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Yet, diplomatic solutions to the most technically and politically complex international security issues were within reach, said Iran’s speaker. The successful conclusion of the painstaking negotiations between his country and the P5+1 countries and the European Union had indeed resulted in the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan, which had proven that with serious and sustained negotiations based on a win-win approach, diplomacy had prevailed. As for the global landscape, he continued, with few exceptions, most non-nuclear-weapon States were deeply frustrated with the consequences of the existing piecemeal approach to nuclear disarmament, with the most effective and practical way to achieve the abolition of those weapons being the negotiation of a comprehensive nuclear weapon convention.
Pressing concerns were also voiced against the current backdrop of increasing terrorist threats around the world. A number of speakers underscored the serious danger of having weapons, both conventional and nuclear, fall into the hands of extremist groups. Iraq’s representative described the escalation of conflict and the rising threat of terrorism in his region, urging States to prioritize efforts to keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists. On conventional weapons, which played a major role in conflicts and blocked development in many countries, he said the international community needed to take a stand and implement relevant resolutions to end the proliferation of such arms.
Similarly, Spain’s delegate, noting that the greatest risk faced today was that of seeing weapons of mass destruction used by terrorist groups, warned that Da’esh, also called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, was known to be actively seeking to acquire such weapons. The representative of Venezuela reiterated the need to prohibit the illicit trafficking of weapons to non-State armed groups, some closely linked to terrorist organizations. While some nuclear weapons were being decommissioned, he said, nuclear-weapon States were nonetheless modernizing their arsenals and building new ones, with little regard for the potential outcomes for the planet and humanity.
In that vein, some speakers raised concerns about current nuclear risks. The delegate from the Republic of Korea recalled the latest nuclear test and long-range ballistic missile launch by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, stressing that the country continued to pose grave challenges to international peace and security and to the NPT regime. He strongly urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to refrain from further provocations and to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
The representative of Georgia said the Russian Federation had openly challenged Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity through its occupation of the latter country, where nuclear facilities and materials were located. In addition, the Russian Federation had occupied more than 20 per cent of Georgia’s own territory, creating a fertile ground for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear proliferation, and for the illicit transfer of conventional arms.
In other business today, the Commission elected, by acclamation, Tomasz Tokarski (Poland) as Vice-Chair of its 2016 substantive session.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Nepal, Morocco, Senegal, Dominican Republic (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Algeria, Sudan, Cambodia, Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua and Austria.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Morocco.
The Commission will reconvene in plenary on Friday, 22 April, to conclude its substantive work.
DURGA PRASAD BHATTARAI (Nepal), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed his support for a time-bound general and complete disarmament of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction. There was an urgent need to begin negotiations on a legally binding document granting security assurances by the nuclear Powers to nuclear-weapon-free States. Underscoring his support for the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, in particular in the Middle East, he raised concerns that the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons continued to threaten peace and security in many countries. While every nation had a legitimate right to acquire such weapons for defence purposes, his country supported their non-proliferation and measures to prevent and control their illicit trade. As host of the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia, Nepal was committed to making it an effective United Nations outpost dedicated to the promotion of peace and disarmament.
MOHAMED ALI ALHAKIM (Iraq), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Commission played a pivotal role as the United Nations multilateral body specialized in disarmament. His Government was bound to its commitments to relevant treaties and conventions, as well as to related Security Council resolutions. Voicing concern about the continuing presence of nuclear weapons and the threat of their use, he stressed the need for their total elimination. The international community should reach an agreement on a non-discriminatory global convention to prohibit the acquisition, transfer and use of nuclear weapons, he said, calling for a legally binding international instrument in that respect. Nuclear-weapon-free zones were a major objective that could help bring about peace and security, he said, urging the establishment of such a zone in the Middle East. As the region was experiencing an escalation in conflict and an increase in terrorist threats, he urged States to prioritize efforts to keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists. On conventional weapons, which played a major role in conflict and blocked development in many countries, the international community needed to take a stand and implement relevant resolutions to end the proliferation of such arms.
ABDERRAZZAK LAASSEL (Morocco), drawing attention to a deteriorating security situation, particularly in the Middle East, regretted to note a lack of progress towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. However, he believed in the relevance of international security mechanisms to create a world free of such weapons. To make progress, Member States must show flexibility and will, he said, decrying the lack of agreement on recommendations. Turning to the irreversible impact of nuclear weapons on the environment and humans, he affirmed Morocco’s full commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which aimed at ensuring global peace and security, and called upon Member States to comply with its provisions.
FODÉ SECK (Senegal) said after four cycles of stalemates, not a single recommendation had been formulated. It was very difficult to break the deadlock in disarmament, and it required major diplomatic efforts. Unilateralism and pure national interests would not allow the Commission to move forward, he said. Taking note of the growing recognition of newly existing security challenges, he stressed that it was vital to restore the credibility of the Commission. He also expressed hope that it would reach a robust consensus in the next three weeks. Turning to the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the NPT, he regretted to note the absence of an agreed outcome despite intensive consultations. For its part, Senegal fully supported the total eradication of nuclear activities.
FRANCISCO TOVAR MORILLO (Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), reaffirmed the need to advance towards the primary objective of nuclear disarmament and to achieve a world free of those weapons. In that context, he expressed the Group’s opposition to the enhancement of existing nuclear weapons and the development of new types of arms. He further expressed support for the conclusion of a universal, legally binding instrument leading to effective, irreversible and verifiable nuclear disarmament and a universal and legally binding instrument on negative security assurances. Recalling the 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice that had ruled the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons to be a crime against humanity, he said his region had been the first densely populated area in the world to be declared a nuclear-weapon-free zone.
Against that backdrop, he urged nuclear-weapon States to review and withdraw all reservations to the protocols of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, known as the Treaty of Tlatelolco, and to respect the region’s denuclearized character. He regretted to note the failure of the 2015 NPT Review Conference and of the implementation of the agreement of the 2010 NPT Review Conference to hold the international conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction. Achieving the universality of the NPT was critical, he said, urging States that had not yet done so to accede to that Treaty and comply with their commitments. Reaffirming the vital importance and urgency of entering into force the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), he urged States to currently maintain all current moratoria on test explosions of nuclear weapons until that time.
FRANCISCO JAVIER GARCÍA-LARRACHE (Spain) said that, while the general situation of disarmament could lead to discouragement, two notable recent steps forward were cause for hope. The Nuclear Security Summit had led to concrete steps to eliminate stockpiles of uranium and plutonium, and a nuclear agreement had been concluded with Iran. However, the persistence of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in challenging the global non-proliferation regime was of the deepest concern. As such, effectively implementing the current sanctions regime should lead that country back to the negotiating table and push it to drop its current nuclear programme. It was only through realistic debate in the context of the NPT that the world would be able to move towards the objective of complete disarmament. “We must keep outer space as a safe and stable environment,” he said, expressing support for the creation of confidence-building measures including the adoption of a code of conduct in that regard. The greatest risk faced today was the danger of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorist groups, he said, noting that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Da’esh was known to be actively seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.
ABIODUN RICHARDS ADEJOLA (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group, said the continued existence of nuclear weapons was an existential threat to all mankind and the maintenance costs of those weapons was inexcusable in the context of development. “Mankind has lived on the edge for too long,” he said, noting that nuclear weapons — the only weapons of mass destruction which had yet to be prohibited — were by definition aimed solely at mass destruction. The International Court of Justice had affirmed that the use of such weapons constituted a crime against humanity, he said, calling for a halt to the “spiralled descent into chaos” that would be caused by the use of nuclear weapons. In that context, he called on nuclear-weapon States to consider the catastrophic consequences of their use, including the implications on human health, climate and the environment. On conventional arms, he said a number of States in Africa were suffering from the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, calling on nations to work together to address that menace. As had been tragically demonstrated in recent weeks, he said, no State was immune from the illegal acquisition and use of such weapons.
HAHN CHOONGHEE (Republic of Korea) said the key components of the United Nation’s disarmament machinery had long been unable to function as effective fora. Overcoming the current deadlock and advancing its work needed a constructive and practical approach. That required all Member States to work together in a spirit of compromise and shared responsibility. Turning to the Nuclear Security Summit recently held in Washington, D.C., he noted that shared conviction and political will could produce significant gains towards the common vision of creating a nuclear-weapon-free world. Such developments, however, had been lacking in recent years, with the debate on prioritizing one “pillar” over the other having hindered progress in strengthening the NPT regime, he stressed. Both nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon States must to work together with renewed political will. Recalling the latest nuclear test and long-range ballistic missile launch by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said that county had continued to pose grave challenges to international peace and security and to the NPT regime. To that end, he strongly urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to refrain from further provocations and abandon all its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
ABDELKARIM AIT ABDESLAM (Algeria) reaffirmed the relevance and centrality of the Disarmament Commission, reiterating his country’s commitment to multilateral diplomacy as the core principle of related negotiations. As a State party to the main treaties related to nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction, Algeria believed in the need for substantive progress in the field of multilateral nuclear disarmament. His country also supported the universality of the NPT. Because nuclear energy represented a strategic choice for many developing countries for their economic development and energy security needs, he acknowledged States’ legitimate right to develop, research, produce and use of such technology for peaceful purposes. Describing the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, known as the Treaty of Pelindaba, as an important contribution to strengthening of international peace and security, he pointed out that Algeria had been one of the first countries that had signed and ratified that instrument.
OMER DAHAB FADL MOHAMED (Sudan) said his country attached great importance to the Commission, which was responsible for considering and making recommendations on issues in the field of disarmament. Describing the failure of the 2015 NPT Review Conference as disappointing, he underscored the need for States to show political flexibility and the necessary will to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. He then stressed that Israel had continued to reject the NPT, putting the Middle East region at risk. For its part, his Government had organized in Khartoum a regional workshop on the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction. The workshop, held jointly with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), had provided technical support to Member States in Africa for the implementation of the Convention.
RY TUY (Cambodia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said it was the Commission’s collective responsibility to overcome its present impasse. States should display the necessary political will to reach agreement on recommendations, he said, urging all Member States to exhibit increased flexibility and cooperation during the current cycle of work. Emphasizing that the total elimination of nuclear weapons was the only guarantee against their use or threat of use, he said disarmament in all its aspects were essential for strengthening international peace and security and promoting the rule of law at national and international levels. In that regard, he emphasized the importance of the principles of transparency, irreversibility and international verifiability in nuclear-weapon States’ fulfilment of their disarmament obligations. Moreover, non-proliferation agreements should be addressed through inclusive, open, non-discriminatory processes while not imposing restrictions on developing countries’ access to nuclear technology, materials and equipment for peaceful purposes.
RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and CELAC, described past successes of the Commission and said that such progress had been stalled due to a lack of political will on the part of a group of Member States. While some nuclear weapons were being decommissioned, nuclear-weapon-possessing States were nonetheless modernizing their arsenals and building new ones, with little regard for the potential outcomes for the planet and humanity. It was time to begin negotiations for a legally binding international instrument for complete nuclear disarmament. The establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, such as the one that had been put in place in Latin America and the Caribbean, was critical for international security. Practical confidence-building measures with regard to conventional weapons played a key role in increasing security and stability and fostering trust between States. Reiterating the need to prohibit the illicit trafficking of such weapons to non-State armed groups, some closely linked to terrorist groups, he called for an intensification of efforts so that the world could move forward in a sphere of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
GIORGI KVELASHVILI (Georgia) recalled that his country had co-sponsored the process that had led to the legally binding Arms Trade Treaty. In recent years, many discussions had questioned the adequacy of existing security arrangements. The main challenge was rooted in the unwillingness of certain countries to comply with their obligations, rather than in imperfections of the system itself. Security assurances that had been provided to Ukraine under the Budapest Memorandum in connection with that country’s accession to the NPT had been ignored, he said, adding that the Russian Federation — one of the Memorandum’s guarantor States — had openly challenged Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. The ongoing occupation of the latter country, where nuclear facilities and materials were located, was a challenge to international security. He recalled that the Russian Federation had launched a military aggression against Georgia in 2008, which had resulted in the occupation of more than 20 per cent of Georgia’s territory. The situation in the occupied area, he continued, had created a fertile ground for various illegal activities, including chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear proliferation and illicit transfers of conventional arms.
ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) regretted to say that, 70 years after the adoption of the first General Assembly resolution, disarmament and non-proliferation challenges still remained unresolved. The sustainability of the non-proliferation regime depended on reducing incentives to proliferate. States possessed nuclear weapons or were part of nuclear alliances, making it more difficult for the NPT to become a reality. Given that, he stressed that nuclear weapons must be prohibited and completely eliminated in a transparent and irreversible manner. For its part, Brazil had participated, on a regular basis, in confidence-building mechanisms at the multilateral level, including with regard to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and the United Nations Standardized Instrument for Reporting Military Expenditures. His country also submitted regular reports to combat and eradicate the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, and had signed the Arms Trade Treaty.
MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia) said that, after two-year-long negotiations, her country was closer to the shared objective of reaching peace. The Government, armed forces, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and civil society organizations had agreed to work together to remove landmines in rural areas of the country. Colombia was fully committed to the international non-proliferation and disarmament regime and to the ban on anti-personnel mines under the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. Furthermore, she noted that Latin America and Caribbean countries had established a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region, reaffirming their commitment to that issue.
ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba) commended both the Commission for providing substantial support to Member States and the efforts made by the working group established during the General Assembly’s seventieth session with a view to achieving nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Despite the willingness of several States, the 2015 NPT Review Conference had been unsuccessful, she said, due to the lack of political agreement among certain nuclear-weapon States. Warning against the use of double standards when addressing non-proliferation issues, she said the “privileged club” had continued to possess atomic bombs while criticizing developing countries for using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
JASSER JIMÉNEZ (Nicaragua) commended the work of the Commission and underscored the importance of moving towards the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. His delegation had supported all initiatives and resolutions targeting disarmament and non-proliferation. It was unfortunate that certain countries had blocked consensus in the 2015 NPT Review Conference, undermining global efforts. Encouraging the international community to comply with the NPT, as well as the United Nations Charter, he reiterated States’ rights to develop and use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
GEORGE WILHELM GALLHOFER (Austria) said deliberations on nuclear disarmament had gained significant momentum over recent years. Based on the outcome of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the humanitarian initiative on the impact of nuclear weapons had provided a set of arguments for urgent progress on nuclear disarmament and had evolved into a different set of priorities. It had also stipulated that humanitarian concerns should be at the centre of all deliberations and commitments, and highlighted the importance of the “protection of civilians against risks stemming from nuclear weapons”. While fully acknowledging the inalienable right to peaceful use of nuclear energy, he stressed the need to apply the highest standards of safety, security, waste management and non-proliferation.
GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran) said there was no promising indication that nuclear-weapon States were contemplating the total elimination of their arsenals, as evidenced by the huge budgets and programmes devoted to their modernization in the United States and the United Kingdom. The United States was in obvious non-compliance with its nuclear disarmament commitments, he continued, adding that all nuclear-weapon States must comply with their legal obligations under Article IV of the NPT and their unequivocal commitment to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear weapons. With few exceptions, most non-nuclear-weapon States were deeply frustrated with the consequences of the existing piecemeal approach to nuclear disarmament. The most effective and practical way to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons was to negotiate a comprehensive nuclear weapon convention. While Iran had consistently pushed for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, the refusal of Israel to abandon its nuclear weapons and accept the NPT had increased the potential for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the region. The successful conclusion of the painstaking negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries and the European Union had resulted in the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan, which had proven that with serious and sustained negotiations based on a win-win approach, diplomatic solutions to the most technically and politically complex international security issues were within reach.Right of Reply
Taking the floor in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Russian Federation said that his country had notified the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the status of all nuclear facilities in Crimea and they had been listed as peaceful facilities. As such, the situation there was fully under international legal control. All facilities and materials in Crimea, as well as throughout the Russia Federation, were under the control of a national regulatory body. All necessary nuclear security measures had been undertaken by the Russian Federation, which was a nuclear-weapon State that operated in line with its obligations under the NPT and the IAEA’s voluntary safeguard agreement.
Continuing, he said his country was concerned about the situation in Ukraine, whereby there were 15 active energy reactors and one atomic station alongside a significant number of other facilities that housed nuclear materials. Ukrainian authorities had engaged in a number of nuclear experiments that had not been approved, he said, adding that his Government feared a possible accident as a result of such activities. Furthermore, armed groups under the control of Kyiv had carried out attacks in the Donbas region where there were a number of facilities, including hospitals, which hosted radioactive materials.
The representative of Ukraine said that his delegation’s previous statement had highlighted issues of concern in the field of nuclear disarmament and conventional arms control, including issues related to the occupied areas of his country. In light of the ongoing aggression in the east of Ukraine, the allegations from the representative of the Russian Federation appeared groundless.
The representative of Morocco noted that his delegation had shortened its previous statement in the interest of time. However, he highlighted that the written version of the statement contained a concrete proposal about how the Commission may wish to move forward with its work.