Regional efforts must advance common disarmament priorities and address global security challenges, said speakers in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today as they highlighted the importance of cooperation and confidence‑building in an increasingly unstable world.
The representative of Pakistan said achieving a stable balance of conventional forces and weapons through cooperative initiatives was imperative, particularly in regions characterized by tension and disputes. At the same time, confidence‑building measures could help to create favourable conditions to resolve disputes peacefully, but they should not become an end in themselves, he added.
Offering a similar perspective, the representative of Bangladesh said the notion of “strategic stability” based on nuclear deterrence was of concern for his country. Peaceful dialogue and diplomacy remained the best option for building sound regional security architecture.
In that connection, Cameroon’s delegate introduced a draft resolution on regional confidence‑building measures and activities of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa. The draft text reaffirmed efforts to promote confidence‑building measures for removing tensions and reducing conflict in the region.
Several delegates highlighted best practices at the regional level that, in some cases, could be replicated in other parts of the world. France’s representative cited the Group of Five for the Sahel (G‑5 Sahel) Joint Force, which encouraged the five States — Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania — to bolster their military presence in border areas and improve coordination through a single chain of command. He also noted that global, regional and subregional non‑proliferation and disarmament initiatives could be mutually reinforcing when designed with a view to achieving complementarity.
Indeed, mutual trust was essential, Cuba’s delegate said. She emphasized that the proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace had promoted general and complete disarmament and enabled confidence‑building in the region. Implementing regional confidence confidence‑building measures contributed to avoiding conflict and preventing unwanted or accidental break of hostilities.
Underscoring some of the challenges in implementing regional agreements, the representative of Egypt said the long‑standing unresolved issue of establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East was undermining the sustainability and credibility of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Many delegates echoed his call for resolving the issue, with some asking Israel to accede to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and end the impasse on the issue.
A panel discussion on “Disarmament machinery” featured the President of the Conference on Disarmament; Chair of the United Nations Disarmament Commission; Chair of the Secretary‑General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters; and the Director of United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR).
The following draft resolutions were introduced: regional confidence‑building measures in Central Africa; the strengthening of security and cooperation in the Mediterranean region; the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean; the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Kazakhstan, Iraq, Algeria, United Arab Emirates, Peru, Togo, Kuwait, Myanmar, Azerbaijan, Nepal, Ukraine, Bahrain, Russian Federation and Iran.
The representatives of Syria, Myanmar, Armenia, Russian Federation, United States, Azerbaijan and Bangladesh spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 25 October, to conclude its debate on the disarmament machinery.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met to continue its thematic discussion on regional disarmament and security and held a panel discussion on the disarmament machinery. For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3571 of 2 October.
A panel discussion on “Disarmament machinery” featuring Julio Herráiz, President of the Conference on Disarmament; Gabriela Martinic (Argentina), Chair of the Disarmament Commission; Trevor Findlay, Chair of the Secretary‑General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters; and Jarmo Sareva, Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR).
Mr. HERRRÁIZ asked Member States to strengthen their patience vis‑à‑vis the two‑decade‑long paralysis in the Conference on Disarmament because the alternative was not an option. Presenting the 2017 report, he highlighted activities, including that 27 States to date had requested joining. Also, an open‑ended working group had taken stock of progress made on all issues of the agenda. Although divided on its approach, members had debated ways to make advancements towards a nuclear‑weapon‑free world, with disarmament emerging as a priority. Discussions had focused on two priority issues that would be important to a future programme of work: a fissile material cut‑off treaty and continued negotiations towards a mandate on negative security assurances. Overall, there was a need to strengthen the constructive, common view to bring back to the Conference the mandate of negotiating treaties. To do so, serious decisions needed to be adopted, he said, emphasizing that the power was in Member States’ hands.
Ms. MARTINIC said that while the Disarmament Commission was a deliberative body charged with producing a set of recommendations, it had been in a paralysis for 18 years. The 2017 substantive session, the third year of the cycle to address nuclear disarmament and confidence‑building measures on nuclear arms, had seen delegations having discussions on a range of issues and reach an understanding, which was what multilateralism was all about. Discussions on outer space had proven to be constructive. Compromise was possible with lots of patience, goodwill and listening, she said, adding that multilateralism offered a win‑win situation for all. It could be difficult and frustrating, but it took time, she said, encouraging all to follow that path.
Mr. FINDLAY said substantive issues on the Advisory Board’s 2017 agenda included the threat of cyberattacks by terrorists on nuclear facilities, the impact of artificial intelligence and a review of the recommendations contained in a United Nations study on disarmament and non‑proliferation education. Recommendations included forming a science and technology advisory group, allocating more resources to nuclear security and that Member States should consult on measures to deal with biosecurity threats, given the lack of a verification system or implementation body for the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction. In addition, he proposed that Member States table a draft resolution dealing with artificial intelligence, which represented both an opportunity and a threat to international security. On disarmament and non‑proliferation education, he called for a landmark study to be reissued with a new foreword by the Secretary‑General. He also noted the disappointing response by Member States to report on disarmament and non‑proliferation education efforts. Turning to UNIDIR, he said it was weathering funding and institutional challenges, but the Advisory Board was confident it had a bright future as a critical component of the disarmament machinery.
Mr. SAREVA, commending UNIDIR staff, said the Institute was constantly held accountable and had been able to deliver on that reputation. Drawing attention to the report (document A/72/154), which described the road map of the organization and the rationale behind its agenda, he said its administrative and financial footing was more stable, but that could not be taken for granted. The need to ensure its stability while maintaining its autonomy persisted. While it did well in mobilizing earmarked resources, financing the institutional operations was challenging. That strain was particularly pronounced when earmarked resources were declining. Recalling General Assembly resolution A/RES/70/69, which had called for exceptional one‑off funding for UNIDIR for the biennium 2018‑2019 to preserve its future, he said the Institute offered fact‑based analysis on a range of security issues, acted as a facilitator and had, through its activities, helped Member States to improve their international security programmes.
After the floor opened, the representative of Myanmar said developing countries depended on UNIDIR and its good quality research, calling on colleagues in a position to do so to financially support the Institute.
Regional Disarmament and Security
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said persistent instability and growing tensions around the world were making regional disarmament and security complicated to achieve. Establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East was an effective non‑proliferation measure and such designated areas should be expanded to all regions. Turning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme, he said that ensuring its proper implementation could show the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea “the right road map” with a legal solution that could actually work pragmatically.
Mr. HASSAN (Egypt), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said the longstanding unresolved issue of establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East undermined the sustainability and credibility of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The right way forward on that issue had been outlined in the proposal presented by the Non‑Aligned Movement at the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which had been acceptable to all States except three. Egypt would continue to seek the implementation of the 1995 Review and Extension Conference resolution by creating a clear road map aimed at starting negotiations to conclude a legally binding treaty establishing a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons.
Mr. SAEED (Pakistan) said regional arrangements for disarmament and arms limitation should give priority to addressing the most destabilizing military capabilities and imbalances in both the conventional and non‑conventional spheres. In regions characterized by tension and disputes, achieving a stable balance of conventional forces and weapons through cooperative initiatives was imperative. Confidence‑building measures could help to create favourable conditions to resolve disputes peacefully, but they should not become an end in themselves. Rather, they should be pursued alongside sincere dispute settlement efforts, in line with the United Nations Charter.
FAIYAZ MURSHID KAZI (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the notion of “strategic stability” based on nuclear deterrence was of concern for his country. Peaceful dialogue and diplomacy remained the best option for building sound regional security architecture. He emphasized the need for establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East in the interest of sustainable peace and stability in the region. Recognizing the useful role of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific in convening relevant experts and policymakers to share views on issues of concern, he said that his country benefited greatly from the centre’s customized support in promoting the implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.
MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon) introduced a draft resolution on regional confidence‑building measures and activities of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa. The draft recalled the principles guiding general and complete disarmament. The role of the Committee was to promote disarmament, non‑proliferation and development in the subregion, as well as to serve as an element of preventive diplomacy in the region. The new elements of this year’s draft resolution took into account the revitalization of the work of the Committee to improve its peace agenda, and of the entry into force of the Central African Convention for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons, their Ammunition and all Parts and Components that can be used for their Manufacture, Repair and Assembly (Kinshasa Convention). The draft resolution reaffirmed efforts to promote confidence‑building measures for removing tensions and reducing conflict in the region. It had also included a timeline of activities to fight terrorism and arms trafficking.
Ms. SÁNCHEZ RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, stressed the importance of regional and subregional initiatives in proclaiming zones free of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction. The proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace promoted general and complete disarmament and enabled confidence‑building in the region. Implementing regional confidence‑building measures contributed to avoiding conflict and preventing unwanted or accidental hostilities. Establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East would be a fundamental step for regional peace. Underlining the importance of the work of the United Nations regional centres for peace and disarmament, including in her region, she lamented that the current resources were limited and insufficient.
Mr. REDHA (Iraq), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, reaffirmed the importance of establishing nuclear‑weapon‑free zones, which would “bring us closer to achieving international peace and security”. He regretted to note the failure to achieve consensus on the final document of the 2015 Review Conference of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. Establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East to ease the tensions in the region depended on Israel joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non‑nuclear‑weapon party.
ABDELKARIM AIT ABDESLAM (Algeria), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, stressed his country’s emphasis on regional solidarity on security issues and its correspondingly deep concern at the lack of a nuclear‑weapons‑free zone in the Middle East. In addition, he reiterated warnings about the uncontrolled proliferation of all types of conventional weapons in North Africa and the Sahel, and its close link with terrorism and transnational crime. Given the magnitude of the humanitarian consequences of the spread of such arms, he underlined the importance of technical and financial assistance to stem their proliferation. Affirming support for reconciliation among Algeria’s Libyan and Malian brothers, he expressed hope that he could count on support for the draft resolution submitted by his country, as in years past, on strengthening of security and cooperation in the Mediterranean region.
Ms. OWEIDA (United Arab Emirates), associating herself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said the Non‑Proliferation Treaty was a model in the region for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. On the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East, she renewed the call for Israel to enable progress on that issue and accede to the instrument. Turning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, she said Iran must adhere to its provisions. Further, United Arab Emirates supported international efforts to end Iranian activities that undermined security and stability in the region. It also supported the First Committee’s efforts geared towards adopting effective measures that would contribute to the promotion of regional and international peace.
ENRI PRIETO (Peru), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, highlighted the varied efforts of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean. Member States had benefited from technical and legal assistance, and from training in marking, destruction and tracing of small weapons as part of an initiative to promote the implementation of the International Tracing Instrument and the Programme of Action on Small Arms. The Regional Centres had also strengthened the capacity of Governments and assisted in the destruction of small arms. For its part, Peru had launched a project to promote the participation of young people and raise awareness about dangers of firearms, he said, introducing a draft resolution titled “United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean” and calling for delegations to approve it by consensus.
ESSOHANAM PETCHEZI (Togo) said that in Africa, where small arms and light weapons had posed grave challenges for States, the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa had encouraged cooperative efforts and provided technical support. It had provided support to the African Union in carrying out its sustainable development agenda, particularly in achieving the goal of silencing weapons by 2020, to efforts in the Sahel to stop the illicit circulation of small arms and light weapons and to the emerging debate on maritime security, having participated in an extraordinary session of the African Union on that issue. Expressing gratitude for the Regional Centre’s efforts, he highlighted its financial challenges and appealed to Member States to donate funds and to support Nigeria’s related draft resolution.
Mr. COUSSIÈRE (France) said ambitious best practices at the regional level could inspire work in United Nations forums and disarmament conventions. The European Union was the best example, having succeeded in drawing lessons from a painful past, and its cooperation tools had a strong regional dimension, including in the field of disarmament. Among other international initiatives, France was involved in the Group of Five for the Sahel (G‑5 Sahel) Joint Force, encouraging the five States Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania to bolster their military presence in border areas and improve coordination through a single chain of command. At the European level, France strongly supported establishing transparency and confidence‑building measures adapted to the geographic situation in the region. Outlining some of those agreements, he said global, regional and subregional non‑proliferation and disarmament initiatives could be mutually reinforcing when designed with a view to achieving complementarity, and cited the international community’s mobilization against the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons as one positive example.
TALAL S. S. S. AL FASSAM (Kuwait), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, underlined the importance of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons. Urging States to focus on working towards achieving that objective, he regretted to point out the failure of achieving a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East despite all efforts. In 2010, States had been very close to achieving that goal; however, such a zone had not been created because of Israel. Voicing concern about the failure of Israel to join the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and place its nuclear capabilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) control, he said the current situation posed a threat to the security and humanitarian and environmental safety in the region.
PYE SOE AUNG (Myanmar), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), recalled that in 2016, his country had organized a national round table on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) in cooperation with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. At that event, stakeholders had exchanged views on best practices regarding implementing the resolution to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to non‑State actors. Also in 2016, the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific had organized a capacity‑building workshop on small arms and light weapons in Myanmar in order to formulate international instruments as well as domestic legislation and available tools for assistance.
FARID JABRAYILOV (Azerbaijan), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that although his country had not ratified the 1992 Tashkent Agreement on the Principles and Procedures for the Implementation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, it had been voluntarily applying and observing the provisions. Stressing the importance of confidence‑building measures, he cited Azerbaijan’s participation in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and said that illicit trade in small and light weapons must be eradicated. However, implementation of arms control and disarmament instruments was being hampered by Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan. Armenia was in flagrant violation of the treaty obligations, continued its military build‑up in occupied territories and misinformed the United Nations community by providing false information. Any confidence‑building measure proposed by Armenia would not be considered by his country until it withdrew its armed forces from Azerbaijan’s territories.
Mr. THAPA (Nepal), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, highlighted the important role of regional centres in promoting international peace and security, and encouraged them to partner with youth, the private sector and civil society to develop confidence‑building measures and to act as a repository of best practices. They should also be strengthened to fulfil their mandates. In partnership with the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, Nepal had encouraged confidence‑building measures in the region and had also organized a conference on the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004). Recognizing the role regional centres could play in supporting Sustainable Development Goal 16 and in including women in disarmament activities, he called for voluntary contributions by Member States. As host of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, Nepal had tabled a resolution on that topic and hoped it would gain consensus.
ANDRIY TSYMBALIUK (Ukraine), expressing support for draft resolutions on regional and subregional arms control and confidence‑building measures, said his country was a long‑term participant of confidence‑building mechanisms, including the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, the Open Skies Treaty and the Vienna Document on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures. Ukraine had continued to comply with its obligations, despite shouldering the burden of the Russian Federation’s invasion. Expressing support for bilateral confidence‑building measures with neighbouring countries in border areas, as outlined in the Vienna Document, he regretted to note that the Russian Federation had caused an impasse on subregional military cooperation and confidence‑building agreements between the littoral States of the Black Sea. Nevertheless, experience gained in the OSCE area with the development of confidence‑building measures deserved proper attention, and the Vienna Document could serve as an example for similar arrangements in other regions of the world.
Mr. NOJEM (Bahrain), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, highlighted the importance of an agreement to establish a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East for achieving regional peace and stability. He also underlined the importance of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty in facing the catastrophic security and humanitarian danger resulting from nuclear weapons. Denouncing Israel’s rejection to adhere to that instrument and to IAEA safeguards, he said such actions represented a threat to the security in the region and obstructed progress in non‑proliferation endeavours. His delegation looked forward to obtaining positive results in establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East.
VLADIMIR YERMAKOV (Russian Federation) said his delegation had presented a draft treaty on comprehensive European security to substitute the outdated Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. Instead, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) had accelerated its “reckless expansion to the East”, building military infrastructure near his country’s border. There had also been direct interference in the internal affairs of the Russian Federation’s neighbouring country and attempts at a regime change using anti‑constitutional methods. For that reason, the Russian Federation had supported the German initiative to launch a “structured dialogue” on European security issues in the OSCE region, easing tensions and restoring trust. The OSCE Forum for Security Cooperation could become the best platform for promoting dialogue; however, its potential had been weakened by unilateral NATO actions that severed military cooperation with the Russian Federation. The Open Skies Treaty remained an important confidence‑building measure. However, after the coup d’etat in Kyiv, followed by unjustified claims against the Russian Federation on alleged armed forces concentrations near Ukraine’s border, he said his country had demonstrated transparency by allowing observation flights in that area.
ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the Middle East remained one of the world’s most volatile regions, with the Israeli regime and two Persian Gulf States among the world’s top 15 countries for military expenditures in 2016. To restore security and stability, the elimination of Israel’s nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and its accession to related international instruments, was crucial. So too would be the establishment of a Middle East nuclear‑weapon‑free zone. There must also be a sharp decrease in military expenditures and arms imports by Israel and certain Persian Gulf States, he said, emphasizing that Iran continued to have one of the lowest levels of military expenditures in the region while being party to all major treaties banning weapons of mass destruction.
Right of Reply
The representative of Syria, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said many European Union countries had trafficked and smuggled weapons to armed terrorist organizations in the region, and its coercive measures against his country were mainly responsible for the suffering of millions of people.
The representative of Myanmar said the humanitarian situation along the border of Bangladesh had nothing to do with disarmament issues being addressed by the Committee. He affirmed that his Government was responding to the humanitarian crisis and would continue to work with others in good faith.
The representative of Armenia said his counterpart from Azerbaijan had failed to explain the reason behind constantly rejecting the establishment of any confidence‑building measures vis‑à‑vis Nagorno‑Karabakh. It was unacceptable to allow Azerbaijan to continue ceasefire violations, he said, adding that Armenia would keep working towards a peaceful settlement through the OSCE Minsk Group.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the Kyiv authorities had fulfilled none of their commitments under the Minsk agreements, which contained no provisions that dealt directly with his country. The Russian Federation could not withdraw troops from Donbass because there were none there.
The representative of the United States said improved relations between NATO and the Russian Federation would depend on the latter’s compliance with international law and commitments. Emphasizing that NATO enlargement was not directed at the Russian Federation, he said the United States would keep honouring its Open Skies Treaty commitments. The Russian Federation must stop interfering in its neighbours’ affairs, he said, adding that “all those little green men causing havoc in Ukraine” did not come out of nowhere.
The representative of Azerbaijan said Armenia must demonstrate constructiveness and respect for international law by withdrawing its forces from Azerbaijani territory. He emphasized that Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity would never be a subject for negotiation.
The representative of Bangladesh said the situation in Rakhine State was far from stabilized. The humanitarian situation was the reason why thousands of Rohingya refugees were crossing into Bangladesh, he said, adding that concerned and responsible Member States should reconsider arms transfers to Myanmar’s military forces.