First Committee Sends 69 Texts to General Assembly, Concluding Session by Approving Drafts on Chemical Weapons, Improvised Explosive Devices

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) concluded its work today, sending 69 draft resolutions and decisions to the General Assembly for adoption.

The Committee approved two draft resolutions on chemical weapons and improvised explosive devices.

By a vote of 149 in favour to 6 against (Burundi, China, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Syria) with 15 abstentions, it approved a draft titled "implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction" (document A/C.1/71/L.61/Rev.1). By its terms, the General Assembly would condemn in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances, emphasizing that any use of chemical weapons anywhere, at any time, by anyone, under any circumstances was unacceptable as well as a violation of international law. The world body would also express its strong conviction that those individuals responsible for the use of chemical weapons must and should be held accountable.

Prior to approving that draft as a whole, the Committee approved the retention of preambular paragraphs 3 and 4 and operative paragraphs 2 and 13, which detailed, among other things, findings of reports of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism on chemical weapon use in Syria by the Syrian Arab Armed Forces and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh).

Speaking on behalf of several States, the representative of the United States said the draft resolution reflected the goals of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the notable work of OPCW and the Joint Investigative Mechanism to hold those who had used chemical weapons in Syria accountable. Two reports of the Joint Investigative Mechanism had concluded that Syria had used chemical weapons on two occasions, he said, condemning those violations of international law as well as the use of chemical weapons by Da'esh.

Syria's representative, highlighting his country's OPCW membership, emphasized that his Government was committed to all its terms and had totally rejected the Joint Investigative Mechanism's reports, which contained critical structural gaps. Other delegations said the text had been politicized instead of focusing on supporting the OPCW and the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Without a vote, the Committee also approved a draft resolution titled "countering the threat posed by improvised explosive devices" (document A/C.1/71/L.68/Rev.1), by which terms the General Assembly would strongly encourage States to develop and adopt their own national policy to counter improvised explosive devices so as to strengthen their countermeasure capability to combat illegal armed groups, terrorists and other unauthorized recipients in their use of improvised explosive devices. Also by the text, the Assembly would stress the need for States to take appropriate measures to strengthen the management of their national ammunition stockpiles and encourage the application of the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines for the safer and more secure management of ammunition stockpiles.

The Committee then approved its draft provisional programme of work and timetable for 2017 (document A/C.1/71/CRP.5).

Over four weeks and three days, the Committee had heard statements from 118 delegations within its general debate segment, plus 302 interventions during its thematic discussions. Out of 69 resolutions and decisions it was sending to the General Assembly, 34 had been approved by recorded votes, with 26 separate votes requested for the retention of preambular and operative paragraphs in some of those drafts.

In closing remarks, First Committee Chair Sabri Boukadoum (Algeria) said work during the session had established some milestones in advancing the disarmament and non-proliferation agenda and had sent 69 draft resolutions and decisions to the General Assembly. Among them were extremely important proposals, including one to convene in 2017 a United Nations conference to move forward negotiations on a legally binding instrument to ban nuclear weapons, the creation of a preparatory process for a fissile material cut-off treaty and the establishment of a group of governmental experts to consider the role of verification in advancing nuclear disarmament.

Kim Won-Soo, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, commended the delegates for their productive work. The number of proposals debated and approved had risen from 2015 and the level of engagement by Member States was impressive, he said, expressing hope that the Committee's work would give fresh impetus to disarmament discussions in the years to come.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Poland, Russian Federation, Belarus, Cuba, Iran, Algeria, China, France, Egypt, India, Ecuador, Venezuela, Nigeria, South Africa, Argentina, Pakistan, Sudan, Israel, Nicaragua, Afghanistan and Ireland. Thanking the Committee and Chair for the fruitful session were the representatives of Indonesia (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Egypt (on behalf of the Arab Group), Columbia (on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States), and Nigeria (on behalf of the African Group).

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Israel, Syria and the United States.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to take action on draft resolutions and decisions. For background, see Press Release GA/DIS/3545 of 3 October.

Action on Draft Texts

The representative of Poland introduced a draft resolution titled "implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction" (document A/C.1/71/L.61/Rev.1). As sole sponsor of the draft resolution, Poland had been presenting it to the Committee every year. For years, the draft had contributed to international peace and security and had enhanced the chemical non-proliferation regime that was based on the Convention. The resolution reflected the ongoing work on cases of use of chemical weapons in Syria by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism. The draft could not turn a blind eye to those developments as they undermined the fundamental international norm against the use of chemical weapons, the bedrock of the Convention.

The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in explanation of position, said the main goal of the traditional draft resolution on the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention was to promote the instrument, to make it universal and to maintain its integrity and authority. Unfortunately, due to unprecedented politicization by some States of the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria and their use by terrorists, the situation had radically changed. The conclusions of the Joint Investigative Mechanism's third and fourth reports had been inconclusive and unconvincing. His delegation rejected attempts by some States that were trying to impose unjustified conclusions on all. The anti-Syrian passages that had been proposed by the authors of "L.61/Rev.1" distorted the reality. As a result, the Russian Federation would vote against preambular paragraphs 3 and 4, operative paragraphs 2 and 13 and "L.61/Rev.1" as a whole.

The representative of Belarus said the objective of "L.61/Rev.1" had in the past been dedicated to the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and support for OPCW activities. However, in recent years, the draft's purpose had transformed and Belarus would not be able to support it during the current session.

The representative of Syria said efforts had been made, together with other friendly delegations, to reach a balanced resolution that would enjoy consensus. However, other delegations, including the United States, had preferred to focus on issues that had nothing to do with the draft resolution. They had claimed to want a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, but had failed to put pressure on Israel in that regard. As an OPCW member, Syria was committed to all its terms and the decisions of that body's Executive Council. Joint Investigative Mechanism reports had contained important and critical structural gaps. His delegation totally rejected those reports and would vote against the draft resolution and all paragraphs referring to Syria.

The representative of Cuba said his delegation was fully committed to the principles and goals of the Chemical Weapons Convention and had actively participated in OPCW activities. While "L.61/Rev.1" had historically been approved by consensus, the draft had taken a negative turn in 2014 and that unity had been broken. During the current session, the situation had worsened, with the draft being unbalanced and politicized. Even though Cuba had made efforts to restore the traditional balance of the draft to make its approval by consensus possible, regrettably, those proposed amendments had not been taken into account. Thus, Cuba would abstain from voting on "L.61/Rev.1".

The representative of the United States, speaking on behalf of several States, said they would vote in favour of "L.61/Rev.1", as it reflected the goals of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the notable work of OPCW and the Joint Investigative Mechanism to hold those who used chemical weapons in Syria accountable. The international community must be clear in its condemnation of such use. Two Joint Investigative Mechanism reports had concluded that Syria had used chemical weapons on two occasions. He condemned those violations of international law and the use of chemical weapons by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh). The use of chemical weapons was reprehensible, he said, calling on Syria and Da'esh to stop their use.

The representative of Iran said that as his country had been the main victim of chemical weapons over the course of history, his delegation attached paramount importance to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the embodiment of the international norm against their use. He strongly condemned the use of chemical weapons by anyone and under any circumstances, urging all those outside the Chemical Weapons Convention, in particular Israel, to accede to the instrument without delay. He called on the sponsor of "L.61/Rev.1" to reconsider its approach and to keep the draft from being politicized. Regretting that his delegation's recommendation had not been heeded, he said the current draft had detracted from its original goal and had adopted a confrontational approach in addressing the Syria issue while failing to recognize the Government of Syria's cooperation in OPCW activities. As the draft had turned into a tool to exert political pressure on the Government of Syria, his delegation would vote against it.

The representative of Algeria said his delegation had hoped "L.61/Rev.1" would have a general approach that stressed the question of the Convention's universality. Instead, the draft resolution had focused on a particular case that was currently the subject of debate in the Security Council and OPCW. The draft's politicization was not useful, he said, adding that Algeria would abstain from the vote on the paragraphs concerned and urging the text's authors to reconsider the way they would deal with the draft in 2017.

The Committee then took up a draft resolution regarding the "implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction" (document A/C.1/71/L.61/Rev.1), which would have the General Assembly condemn in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances, emphasizing that any use of chemical weapons anywhere, at any time, by anyone, under any circumstances is unacceptable and is and would be a violation of international law, and expressing its strong conviction that those individuals responsible for the use of chemical weapons must and should be held accountable.

Also by the terms of the text, the Assembly would emphasize that the universality of the Chemical Weapons Convention was essential to achieving its object and purpose and to enhancing the security of States parties, as well as to international peace and security. It would also underline the fact that the Convention's objectives would not be fully realized as long as there remained even a single State not party to the Convention that could possess or acquire such weapons. Moreover, the Assembly would call upon all States that have not yet done so to become parties to the Convention without delay.

First, the Committee approved the retention of preambular paragraph 3, by a vote of 136 in favour to 8 against (Belarus, Burundi, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Russian Federation, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe), with 19 abstentions.

By that paragraph, the General Assembly would re-emphasize its unequivocal support for the decision of the Director General of OPCW to continue the mission to establish the facts surrounding the allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in Syria, while stressing that the safety and security of mission personnel remains the top priority.

Then, the Committee approved the retention of preambular paragraph 4, by a vote of 133 in favour to 8 against (Belarus, Burundi, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Russian Federation, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe), with 20 abstentions.

That paragraph would have the Assembly recall that, pursuant to Security Council resolution 2235 (2015), the Joint Investigative Mechanism was established to identify to the greatest extent feasible individuals, entities, groups or Governments that were perpetrators, organizers, sponsors or otherwise involved in the use of chemicals as weapons, including chlorine or any other toxic chemical, in Syria, where the OPCW fact-finding mission determined that a specific incident in Syria involved or likely involved the use of chemicals as weapons.

It also approved, by a vote of 125 in favour to 12 against, with 23 abstentions, the retention of operative paragraph 2.

By its terms, the Assembly would condemn in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons as reported in the reports of the Joint Investigative Mechanism of 24 August 2016 and 21 October 2016, which concluded that there was sufficient information to determine that the Syrian Arab Armed Forces were responsible for the attacks which released toxic substances in Talmenes, Syria, on 21 April 2014, in Sarmin, on 16 March 2015, and in Qmenas, also on 16 March 2015, and that the so-called "Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant" used sulphur mustard in Marea, on 21 August 2015.

Then, the Committee approved the retention of operative paragraph 13, by a vote of 132 in favour to 9 against (Belarus, Burundi, China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Russian Federation, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe), with 23 abstentions.

By that paragraph, the Assembly would underscore the concern expressed by the Executive Council in its decision EC-81/DEC.4 of 23 March 2016 regarding the report of the Director General (EC-81/HP/DG.1) indicating the gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies that remain with respect to chemical weapons facilities, activities, munitions and chemical materials and concluding that the Technical Secretariat is unable at present to verify fully that the declaration and related submissions of Syria are accurate and complete, as required by the Convention and Executive Council decision EC-M-33/DEC.1 of 27 September 2013, and also underscores the importance of such full verification.

The Committee then approved the draft, as a whole, by a vote of 149 in favour to 6 against (Burundi, China, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Syria) with 15 abstentions.

The representative of China, reaffirming his delegation's opposition to the use of chemical weapons by any party under any circumstance, said the draft text contained several defects. It did not reflect the important issue of repeated delays in the destruction of Japanese chemical weapons, he said, adding that paragraphs referring to Syria did not address that issue in a balanced manner. China had, therefore, voted against "L.61/Rev.1".

The representative of France, associating himself with the statement on "L.61/Rev.1" made by the United States representative, said the latest Joint Investigative Mechanism report had left no doubt that the Syrian Arab Armed Forces and Da'esh had used chemical weapons against civilians in Syria on at least four occasions. The international community could not accept a violation of the universal norm of prohibition of use of chemical weapons without running the risk of accepting the trivialization of such acts. The international community must live up to its responsibilities and draw the consequences from the conclusions of the Joint Investigative Mechanism's latest report in order to stop the use of chemical weapons and to ensure that such crimes did not go unpunished. Doubts remained vis-A�-vis the Government of Syria's declaration to OPCW regarding its chemical programme. The potential existence of residual capacities on Syrian territory could only increase the risk of the proliferation of chemical weapons, he said.

The representative of Egypt said his delegation had voted in favour of "L.61/Rev.1", despite discomfort about the language and wording in some paragraphs. Israel remained the only State in the Middle East not party to any of the three multilateral treaties on weapons of mass destruction, he said, reiterating Egypt's call for the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

The representative of India said his delegation had voted in favour of "L.61/Rev.1", given the importance it attached to the Chemical Weapons Convention. He regretted to note that consensus had not been achieved for the second year in a row. Moreover, he was deeply concerned by reports of the use of chemical weapons by terrorist groups, including in Syria. However, his delegation had abstained from the vote to retain operative paragraph 3, as the third Joint Investigative Mechanism report was still under consideration by the Security Council.

The representative of Ecuador expressed his delegation's firm support for the universalisation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and condemned the use of such weapons. As a continued sign of support for the instrument, Ecuador had voted in favour of "L.61/Rev.1", as a whole. However, his delegation had abstained from voting on several paragraphs, as they had incorporated politicized elements that had imposed conclusions. There was a desire to convert the draft resolution into an excuse with which one would try to justify actions that would go against international law, he said, calling upon its author to reconsider the perspective used in drafting the text and to aim for consensus in 2017.

The representative of Venezuela said that as a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, his delegation firmly condemned the use of chemical weapons under any circumstances. However, his Government voted against preambular paragraphs 3 and 4 and operative paragraph 2 and 13 of "L.61/Rev.1" and had abstained from voting on the draft as a whole. The spirit of the draft had been politicized and its authors had assumed the role of judge within the context of an international situation, which was not in line with the work of the First Committee. He hoped the resolution would soon go back to the consensual course it had maintained for more than 20 years.

The representative of Nigeria said his delegation had abstained from voting on operative paragraph 2 of "L.61/Rev.1". While his Government condemned the stockpile and use of chemical weapons under any guise and remained committed to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the draft resolution did not specify what substance the Syrian Arab Armed Forces had allegedly used. Thus, his delegation had voted in favour of the draft, as a whole, but had abstained from voting on operative paragraph 2. His delegation was weary of accusations that had not been fully substantiated against the armed forces of any sovereign nation.

The representative of South Africa said his delegation had consistently voted in favour of the text in past sessions. However, he deeply regretted to note the late decision of the text's drafters to include condemnatory language related to the Joint Investigative Mechanism reports. The General Assembly was not the appropriate body to consider the outcome of the work of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, which had been mandated by the Security Council. For that reason, South Africa had abstained from voting on "L.61/Rev.1".

The representative of Argentina said her delegation had voted in favour of "L.61/Rev.1", reiterating a firm commitment to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Argentina was deeply concerned by the conclusions of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, as reflected in operative paragraph 2.

The representative of Pakistan said the Chemical Weapons Convention was a success story in terms of multilateralism and disarmament. It was unfortunate that longstanding consensus on the text had broken down. The Convention covered a range of issues and Pakistan would have liked to have seen a balanced text in "L.61/Rev.1". Although it had voted in favour of the draft, Pakistan wished to register its concern over the failure to bridge gaps in the text. Pakistan had abstained from voting on operative paragraphs 2 and 13 and urged the sponsors to revive a spirit of consensus, taking into account the need for balance.

The representative of Sudan said his delegation had abstained from voting on "L.61/Rev.1" due to the explicit, overt politicization of certain paragraphs that had made the resolution less professional. The draft, as it stood, was a very judgemental text. He hoped that in the future, the draft resolution would focus on the purposes for which OPCW had been established and move away from politicization.

The representative of Israel said the findings of the Joint Investigative Mechanism had demonstrated a persistent and worrying pattern of chemical weapons used by the Syrian regime, including specific references to Syrian army units involved in such a heinous crime. She expressed Israel's growing concern about the residual chemical weapon capability in Syria. Israel had voted in favour of "L.61/Rev.1" in light of its longstanding support for the resolution and for the Chemical Weapons Convention, which it had signed in 1993.

The representative of Nicaragua said his delegation had abstained from voting on "L.61/Rev.1" because the text had once again been politicized. The draft had condemned a Member State without acknowledging the cooperation that the Government of Syria had provided under difficult circumstances. The text also lacked any balance and it did not take into account Nicaragua's proposal aimed at producing a consensus text, he said, calling on the co-sponsors to revert to work that would benefit the Chemical Weapons Convention and the international community.

The representative of Afghanistan, also speaking on behalf of Estonia and France, expressed great concern over the devastation caused by improvised explosive devices. In 2015, his Government had tabled a related draft resolution that had been approved by consensus. He then introduced a draft resolution on "countering the threat posed by improvised explosive devices" (document A/C.1/71/L.68/Rev.1). Several elements of the Secretary General's report had been incorporated into the current draft, he said, calling for consensus approval in the First Committee.

The representative of Pakistan said his Government fully shared concerns about the indiscriminate effects of the use of improvised explosive devices and recognized efforts that had been made by the sponsors of "L.68/Rev 1" to highlight the issue. Several issues that had been raised in the draft could be addressed through existing frameworks. It was also important to consider the wide uses of improvised explosive devices and it was crucial that any measures should not limit their use in trade and development. Pakistan had greatly eliminated the use of improvised explosive devices by terrorists and had implemented stringent controls. His Government stood ready to further combat the global threat posed by such devices.

The representative of Egypt said his delegation would join consensus on "L.68/Rev 1" as it had in 2015. However, with regards to preambular paragraph 8, Egypt strongly opposed elements that were unrelated to the draft's objectives, including misleading links that provided a justification of the use of improvised explosive devices by terrorists. That was a blatant disregard to the victims of improvised explosive devices and contradicted relevant General Assembly resolutions. There were no conditions that could justify acts of terrorism. The draft resolution had been manipulated for political purposes. As such, he called on the draft's sponsors to reconsider their position if they cared about the draft being approved by consensus in 2017.

The representative of Iran said his delegation strongly supported measures to limit the threat posed by the use of improvised explosive devices by illegal armed groups and terrorists. For that reason, his Government would join consensus on "L.68/Rev.1". However, any interpretation of the provisions of the draft resolution should be consistent with that purpose.

The representative of Syria said his delegation would join consensus on "L.68/Rev.1". It was well known that Syria was a victim of improvised explosive devices that were being used by terrorist armed groups supported by countries known to all Committee members. Nonetheless, his delegation had reservations about the draft, as several of its co-authors had provided arms to terrorist groups in Syria.

The Committee then took up a draft resolution titled "countering the threat posed by improvised explosive devices" (document A/C.1/71/L.68/Rev.1), by which terms the General Assembly would strongly encourage States, where appropriate and while bearing in mind their obligations under applicable international law, to develop and adopt their own national policy to counter improvised explosive devices that includes civilian-military cooperation so as to strengthen their countermeasure capability to combat illegal armed groups, terrorists and other unauthorized recipients in their use of improvised explosive devices, and notes that the policy could include measures to support international and regional efforts to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate attacks using improvised explosive devices and their widespread consequences.

Also by the text, the Assembly would stress the need for States to take appropriate measures to strengthen the management of their national ammunition stockpiles to prevent the diversion of materials for making improvised explosive devices to illicit markets, illegal armed groups, terrorists and other unauthorized recipients, and encourage the application of the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines for the safer and more secure management of ammunition stockpiles, while also recognizing the importance of capacity-building in this regard.

The Committee approved the draft without a vote.

The representative of Ireland, speaking also on behalf of New Zealand, said the humanitarian harm resulting from the growing use of improvised explosive devices was a matter of great concern. The Secretary-General's recent report had highlighted the need for coordinated action. However, the indiscriminate effects of improvised explosive devices were a key issue. She regretted to note that "L.68/Rev.1" did not contain a suggestion that had been made to include references to measures aimed at limiting the effects of such devices. Also, a heavy emphasis in the text on a particular kind of user had risked departing from fundamental principles. She looked forward to more discussions on how to address improvised explosive devices in a comprehensive and balanced manner.

The representative of Cuba said his delegation had supported "L.68/Rev.1", as it was a balanced text. Limiting its scope to the use of improvised explosive devices by terrorists, illegal armed groups and other unauthorized recipients was what had made the text acceptable to all Member States and had made consensus possible. However, Cuba had several reservations and did not accept the Secretary-General's report and its recommendations in their totality. In addition, the large number of initiatives regarding improvised explosive devices that had been proposed in the text could duplicate efforts already under way. It would be more appropriate to deal with the issue through existing fora, he said.

The Committee then approved its draft provisional programme of work and timetable for 2017 (document A/C.1/71/CRP.5).

Right of Reply

The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that Syria had a very poor track record with regard to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and adherence to international legal obligations. Repeating untruths, distortions and fabrications many times in the First Committee would not make them true.

The representative of Syria, thanking delegations that had abstained from voting on or had voted against both "L.61/Rev.1" as a whole and those paragraphs targeting his country, said Israel must stop transferring chemical materials to terrorist groups operating inside Syria.

The representative of the United States said the Committee had seen that the Syrian regime had continued to deny its role in conducting chemical attacks on its people and had maintained that the Joint Investigative Mechanism reports had been politicized. But, there was no greater threat to OPCW than violations committed by States parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Therefore, those responsible for such heinous acts must be held accountable.

The representative of Syria said the real danger was in the implication of a country like the United States cooperating with armed terrorist groups. Wondering what two experts from the United States were doing cooperating with terrorist groups like Jabhat al-Nusrah li-Ahl al-Sham, he said that they were there to assist those groups in mixing chemical weapons in their possession.

The representative of the United States said the Syrian delegation needed to stop trying to divert the world's attention away from the crimes they were committing against their people.

Closing Remarks

KIM WON-SOO, High Representative of Disarmament Affairs, thanked and congratulated delegates for completing their work in a productive way. Noting the increase over 2015 of the number of proposals debated and approved and the impressive level of engagement by Member States, he said there was also a record number of interventions and statements made in exercise of the right of reply. Expressing hope that the leadership demonstrated during the session would be emulated by other committees, he said its work would give fresh impetus to disarmament discussions in the years to come. He expressed gratitude to the Committee Chair for his skilful stewardship and to members of the Bureau and the Secretariat for their excellent work in supporting the meetings. Finally, he thanked all the delegations for seeking compromise and hoped that same spirit would extend into 2017.

SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria), Chair of the First Committee, said the Committee had established some milestones in advancing the disarmament and non-proliferation agenda. In the area of nuclear weapons, Member States had debated at least how best to move forward. While divisions remained over what approach to take on disarmament, the Committee had approved extremely important proposals, including the convening in 2017 of a United Nations conference on a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, creating a preparatory process for a fissile material cut-off treaty, and establishing a group of governmental experts to consider the role of verification in advancing nuclear disarmament.

Despite a strong divergence of views, he said, a consensus was emerging on revitalizing the United Nations disarmament machinery and advancing the disarmament agenda, with 69 resolutions and decisions sent to the General Assembly and a surge of energy among Member States to break the current stalemate and achieve progress towards disarmament goals. "As we conclude, I am much more optimistic than before," he said, adding that the 2017 disarmament calendar was already filled with many important meetings as well as opportunities to make progress - opportunities which must be seized by all.

Source: United Nations.

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