Voicing Concerns at Possible Demise of Iran Nuclear Deal, First Committee Delegates Discuss Ways to Steer Disarmament Efforts Back on Track
Voicing concerns at the possible breakdown of the Iran nuclear deal, delegates discussed ways to get collective disarmament efforts back on track, as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) continued its general debate.
The “illegal” withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action contained in the nuclear agreement is emblematic of systematic attempts to undermine the value and significance of multilateralism, Iran’s representative said. Admonishing unilateral nuclear policies, he called on Member States to defend multilateralism as the foundation of the rules‑based international system and seek ways to advance multilateral cooperation on disarmament and non‑proliferation.
Highlighting the value of confidence‑building, Bolivia’s delegate cited the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as a successful example of such an approach. Noting that the agreement strengthens the international nuclear non‑proliferation regime and contributes to stability in the Middle East, he said his Government regrets that one party walked away from such an important initiative.
“We risk losing should the agreement be further undermined,” Liechtenstein’s representative said, emphasizing that the deal remains binding on all States. Indeed, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is a landmark achievement that demonstrates how multilateral diplomacy has been successful in non‑proliferation efforts.
Stressing the importance of achieving consensus on international peace and security, the representative of the United Arab Emirates raised the issue of the security situation in the Middle East, raising concerns about Iran’s destabilizing activities and its desire to develop weapons of mass destruction.
Delegates shared other concerns, including the devastating consequences of anti‑personnel mines and the increasing use of improvised explosive devices. As his country is one of the most mine‑affected countries in the world, the representative of Afghanistan said more than 2,000 people were killed or injured by these weapons in 2017.
In addition, he went on to say, Afghanistan remains greatly affected by the indiscriminate use of improvised explosive devices, with almost half of the 10,000 reported civilian casualties and injuries involving those weapons.
Citing rapid advancements in the design of such deadly devices, he said the weapons have brought unprecedented challenges for humanitarian assistance while becoming the primary weapon for non‑State armed groups across many conflicts.
In a similar vein, Tajikstan’s delegate highlighted the importance of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, known as the Ottawa Convention. He also called for the Central Asian region to be free from the threat of mines.
Drawing further attention to the havoc wreaked on civilian populations by explosive weapons, San Marino’s delegate called on States to respect international humanitarian law and avoid using such weapons in civilian areas. Likewise, Belgium’s representative sounded an alarm about the continued use of anti‑personnel mines while echoing concerns about the increased use of improvised explosive devices, particularly vis à vis civilians in armed conflicts.
Also speaking were the representatives of Lebanon, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Greece, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Senegal, Armenia, Slovenia, and Namibia.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of the Russian Federation, Georgia, United States, Israel, Iran and Syria.
The First Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 16 October, to continue its general debate.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to continue its general debate on all agenda items before it. For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3597 of 8 October.
BACHIR SALEH AZZAM (Lebanon) said it staunchly supported efforts to spare the world of weapons of mass destruction and was working to help to implement all relevant conventions. He expressed concern about the deadlock preventing the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East, an impasse that has been caused by Israel, which is seeking to safeguard its nuclear arsenal without any international oversight. Turning to the dangers of conventional weapons, he called for an end to their illicit proliferation and expressed support for the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. Lebanon recently signed the Arms Trade Treaty, which is a significant step forward. Calling for the universality of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, he recalled that Lebanon had endured first‑hand these weapons, which Israelis used in his country in 2006. Addressing the technological revolution, he called on Member States to focus more on cybersecurity cooperation and to protect outer space for the common good of humanity.
ROLLIANSYAH SOEMIRAT (Indonesia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), regretted to note that nuclear‑weapon States remain stuck on taking a step‑by‑step approach. Instead, those States must take swift measures to eliminate nuclear weapons entirely. For its part, Indonesia ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty and urged others to follow suit. Calling for implementation of the three pillars of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, he expressed hope that the 2020 Review Conference will be fruitful. Emphasizing the importance of nuclear‑weapon‑free zones, he underlined a need to keep Southeast Asia and the Middle East from nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. As a firm believer of peacemaking, Indonesia supports the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action contained in the Iran nuclear agreement.
NATASCIA BARTOLINI (San Marino), condemning the almost 15,000 nuclear weapons stockpiled around the world and their ongoing modernization, said any use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is unacceptable. While the Non‑Proliferation Treaty is one of the most successful treaties, there is a need to fully implement Article 6. Condemning the recent use of chemical weapons in the Middle East, Asia and Europe, she called on the Member States to uphold the norm against the use of such arms. Meanwhile, given the havoc wreaked on civilian populations in light of the ready availability of conventional weapons and the use of explosive weapons, she called on Member States to respect international humanitarian law and to avoid using explosive weapons in civilian areas. She also highlighted the needs of vulnerable groups, including women, that are often disproportionately affected by small arms and light weapons. The uncontrolled spread of firearms has caused serious humanitarian and social consequences, she said, adding that the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty and Programme of Action on Small Arms is key to addressing those concerns.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said his country’s commitment to general and complete disarmament is anchored in its Constitution and remains a fundamental pursuit of its foreign policy objectives. “This perhaps explains why Bangladesh has usually been one of the first in South Asia to come forward in assuming obligations under all major multilateral disarmament treaties,” he said. In 2017, Bangladesh joined others in calling for de-escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, he said, encouraged by the outcomes from the summit‑level meetings in 2018. Similarly, his delegation welcomes the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action to peacefully and constructively address the Iranian nuclear issue. Convinced that the ultimate guarantee of international peace and security can be ensured only by the total elimination of nuclear weapons, he said it is encouraging to see the steady increase in the number of States ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
MARIA THEOFILI (Greece) called for a prudent and realistic new impetus aimed at accelerating the pace of the interrelated non‑proliferation and progressive disarmament agendas. The way forward will be dialogue among nuclear weapons States and non‑nuclear weapons States, she said, expressing support for the full and effective implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as long as Iran continues to respect its nuclear‑related commitments, and for achieving concrete steps towards the verifiable and irreversible disarmament of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s military nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. Those steps should seek to lay the groundwork for Pyongyang’s commitment to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and its compliance with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. While acknowledging the rights of States to use nuclear energy, Greece nevertheless remains steadfast in its respect for the international non‑proliferation regime, safeguard agreements and IAEA safety standards. She also voiced support for the establishment of nuclear weapons‑free zones, including in the Middle East, and appealed to States who have not done so to ratify the Test‑Ban Treaty, allowing it to enter into force.
KARL DHAENE (Belgium) said his country is committed to the preservation of the international norms and rules‑based system. The world must denounce actions of certain Member States to undermine the established order, which poses challenges to the maintenance of international peace and security, he said, adding that Belgium is committed to safeguarding this order. The Test‑Ban Treaty will help in the attainment of a world free of nuclear weapons. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must join the instrument and embrace its provisions. Concerning nuclear disarmament, a genuine progress toward a nuclear‑weapon‑free world is “woefully lacking” and the preservation of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty is critical. Welcoming measures taken to extend the Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START Treaty), he called upon the parties to further reduce deployment levels of strategic arms. On conventional weapons, he highlighted the importance of reporting to the Arms Trade Treaty and welcomed the adoption of the report of the third United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in the Implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms. Turning to concerns about the continued use of anti‑personnel mines, he expressed support for victim assistance efforts through relevant instruments and sounded an alarm on the increased use of improvised explosive devices, particularly vis à vis civilians in armed conflicts.
PATRICK SAINT-HILAIRE (Haiti), associating himself with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), recalled the Secretary‑General’s remarks about the threat of nuclear weapons and a concern that the modernization of these weapons could trigger a new arms race. These words find resonance in the First Committee and “take us back to the preamble of the United Nations Charter”, which seeks to safeguard succeeding generations from the scourge of war. Given the terrible destruction of infrastructure and livelihoods caused by armed conflict, he expressed Haiti’s unconditional support for all disarmament efforts. The existence of weapons of mass destruction is a threat to humanity, he said, adding that no country needs to prove its power in an arms race.
CHARLENE ROOPNARINE (Trinidad and Tobago), associating herself with CARICOM and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said disarmament is about “preventing and eliminating violence, supporting sustainable development and upholding the principles of humanity”. Approximately 70 per cent of murders in CARICOM States are perpetrated with handguns, she said, highlighting the important strengths of the Programme of Action on Small Arms. Similarly, the Arms Trade Treaty can reduce human suffering caused by illegal arms transfers. Turning to concerns about atomic bombs, she said only a world safe from the use of such weapons can be completely free of them. Nuclear weapons have catastrophic humanitarian consequences, she warned, adding that human security “depends upon effective disarmament”. Trinidad and Tobago is at the forefront of integrating women, peace and security into disarmament discourse, she said, also denouncing the ethical, legal and humanitarian consequences of the use of armed unmanned aerial vehicles.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates), associating herself with the Arab Group, said the First Committee must achieve consensus on international peace and security. On the regional security situation, she expressed concerns about Houthi‑launched ballistic missiles in Yemen targeting Saudi Arabia. Her delegation supports efforts to establish a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East and calls for the convening of a conference to commence negotiations on a treaty to create one. Israel should join the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, without further delay, as it is the only regional power with nuclear capabilities. Regarding the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action, she called for its continued implementation, but voiced concern about Iran’s desire to develop weapons of mass destruction. Iran should cease all activities to destabilize the region. She urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to return to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, sign the Test‑Ban Treaty and abide by United Nations resolutions. Emphasizing the critical role of women in peace and security initiatives, she said the United Arab Emirates launched a programme to involve women and youth in such efforts.
ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran) said systematic attempts have been made to undermine the value, significance and efficacy of multilateralism, to demonize multilateral institutions and agreements and to disregard global rules and norms. One clear example is the illegal United States withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is the outcome of long and intensive multilateral diplomatic efforts to resolve a manufactured crisis and build trust. Violating its commitments under the agreement as well as Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), the United States brazenly forces others to either violate the resolution or face punishment. Under such circumstances, “doing nothing is not an option”, he said, calling on Member States to defend multilateralism as the foundation of the rules‑based international system and to seek ways to advance multilateral cooperation on disarmament and non‑proliferation. At the same time, he denounced a lack of meaningful effort put forth by nuclear‑weapon States to implement their obligations to eliminate their arsenals. “The core problem of nuclear disarmament is unilateralism, in particular the unilateral nuclear actions and policies of the United States,” he said, affirming that as long as the current United States nuclear policy remains, no progress will be made towards disarmament. The lack of progress in the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East is another matter of deep concern, he continued, noting that peace and stability cannot be achieved in the volatile region as long as the Israeli nuclear arsenal exists.
MAHMADAMIN MAHMADAMINOV (Tajikistan), calling the Non‑Proliferation Treaty the cornerstone of international nuclear disarmament, said that no related mechanisms would be effective without the participation of nuclear‑weapon States. In addition, he called for the implementation and enforcement of the Test‑Ban Treaty. Voicing support for the inter‑Korean dialogue and the establishment of nuclear‑free zones, he noted the entry into force of the Treaty on a Nuclear‑Weapon‑Free Zone in Central Asia (Semipalatinsk Treaty) in 2009, establishing such a zone in his region. This zone has made a real contribution to the implementation of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. He also highlighted the importance of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti‑Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, known as the Ottawa Convention, and called for the Central Asian region to be free from the threat of mines.
ABDOULAYE BARRO (Senegal), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said the current security situation complicates global disarmament and non‑proliferation initiatives. Building trust depends on much needed collective efforts working alongside cross‑cutting and holistic approaches, he said, underscoring a need for multilateralism more than ever before. Nuclear‑weapon States should redouble efforts in this direction and achieve the full elimination of all warheads, which continue to threaten humanity. He welcomed the third Review Conference on the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty, which his country is implementing. While raising concerns about stalled negotiations on a fissile material cut‑off treaty, he also pointed out that States’ rights to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes must be upheld.
SAYED MIRAGHA MUSADDEQ (Afghanistan), recalling the tremendous suffering experienced by his country for more than four decades, highlighted the lack of arms control as a destructive element fuelling the cycle of violence in his region. As outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, there is a clear link between arms regulation and development, and between illicit trafficking in arms and organized crime. Illicit weapons, drug trafficking and money—laundering enable and follow the purchase of weapons by non‑State actors, he said, calling on the international community to take measures to disrupt the flow of arms to conflict regions and take full responsibility for controlling the access to such weapons by terrorist organizations. At the same time, Afghanistan remains one of the most mine‑affected countries in the world, he said, noting that more than 2,000 Afghans were killed or injured by these weapons in 2017. Of equal concern is that Afghanistan remains greatly affected by the indiscriminate use of improvised explosive devices, with almost half of all of the 10,000 reported civilian casualties and injuries reported involving those weapons. Rapid advancements in the design of such deadly devices have brought unprecedented challenges for humanitarian assistance in various conflict settings around the world. They have also become the primary weapon for non‑State armed groups across many conflicts and are responsible for killing and maiming thousands of civilians daily. In that context, he called on Member States to support the draft resolution “Countering the threat posed by improvised explosive devices”, which was adopted by consensus in 2015.
PETER MATT (Liechtenstein) said multilateral diplomacy has been successful in non‑proliferation efforts, with the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action being “a landmark achievement” in this respect. Indeed, Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) is a reflection of the collective security gains that the international community as a whole associates with this agreement. “We risk losing should the agreement be further undermined,” he said, noting that the resolution remains binding on all States. “We hence share a responsibility to comply with its provisions.” Highlighting that Liechtenstein is one of the initial signatories of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he said the instrument helps to restore the balance of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and thereby strengthens it.
JUAN MARCELO ZAMBRANA TORRELIO (Bolivia) said armed conflicts take a heavy toll of human life. For this reason, Bolivia supports a culture of dialogue through diplomacy, favouring peaceful means to settle disputes. Indeed, there is a need for a broad‑ranging approach to peace with a view to preventing conflict, including analysing its root causes. Citing the elimination of nuclear weapons as an ethical imperative and a debt owed to future generations, such weapons not only pose a risk to the destruction of nations, but to life itself on Earth. Bolivia also opposes any nuclear weapon or ballistic missile testing. In this context, it is pleased at the prospect of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. More broadly, Bolivia is against the use of weapons in any dispute, believing that countries should be guided by dialogue and diplomacy. In that respect, confidence‑building measures are essential. An example of the successful application of such measures is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which strengthens the international nuclear non‑proliferation regime and contributes to stability in the Middle East, he said. His Government regrets that one party walked away from such an important initiative. He also expressed concern about the use of chemical weapons, an unjustifiable criminal act and a serious threat to international peace and security.
MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia), highlighting the important role played by IAEA in facilitating and coordinating nuclear security among Member States, said his country fully implements its obligations under resolution 1540 (2004). Recalling Armenia’s involvement in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, he said his delegation attaches great importance to the implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction. The conventional arms control regime is vital for military transparency and security at international and regional levels, he said, adding that in 2018, Armenia received eight inspections and evaluations under the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. Turning to Armenia’s commitment to and participation in peacekeeping missions, he said his country co‑sponsored the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers in 2017. His Government had initiated practical steps to implement provisions of Security Council resolution 2396 (2017) to combat terrorism, he said, also voicing support for the role of regional mechanisms in the maintenance of international peace and security.
DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia), underlining the unacceptable reappearance of the use of chemical weapons, said deploying toxic chemicals as weapons, by State or non‑State actors, represents a breach of international law and may amount to a war crime or a crime against humanity. Turning to nuclear weapons, she said that the Non‑Proliferation Treaty remains the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament, non‑proliferation, and the development of nuclear energy applications for peaceful purposes. Commending IAEA and its role in ensuring Iran’s ongoing implementation of its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, she also welcomed high‑level decisions made with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and voiced support for all diplomatic efforts aimed at achieving the complete and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
PULE DIAMONDS (Namibia) affirmed the importance of the non‑selective implementation of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. In this context, he joined States opposed to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. Nuclear non‑proliferation efforts must run parallel to disarmament initiatives, he said, emphasizing a need for the participation of women in all related processes. Supporting the creation of nuclear‑weapon‑free zones, he called for one to be established in the Middle East, along with a ban on all other weapons of mass destruction. As a party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which counters the illicit small arms trade, Namibia looked forward to progress in its implementation. He also affirmed a need to keep outer space a zone for exclusively peaceful activities. Noting that Namibia produces uranium, he reiterated the right of developing countries to use nuclear materials for peaceful purposes and expressed concern over undue restrictions on their export. He finally urged all parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to remain steadfast in their commitments to the agreement.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, responded to statements made by some delegations on 12 October. To comments made by his counterpart from Georgia, he said there is a lack of understanding of historical contexts in the Caucasus region. Earlier in 2018, about 10 per cent of the population in South Ossetia suffered inhumane violence by Georgia’s forces, including peacekeepers from the Russian Federation. Because of the Russian Federation forces, a larger number of casualties was prevented. South Ossetia and Abkhazia are two sovereign, new independent states in the Caucasus, he said, urging the delegate from Georgia to analyse the current situation and help bring about a political settlement. Turning to the statement made by the representative of the Republic of Moldova, he said 400 Russian military personnel are present under an international mandate, which in no way threatens the security of the Republic of Moldova. In the early 1990s, a tragic civil war broke out there and thanks to the Russian Federation, this was brought to a halt. A ceasefire has been maintained for 25 years, he said, opposing the Republic of Moldova’s efforts to adopt a United Nations resolution seeking an unconditional withdrawal of Russian military forces. He then rejected statements about a Russian military build‑up in the Black Sea region as absurd, while also rejecting allegations made by his counterpart from the United Kingdom regarding the use of chemical weapons in Salisbury.
The representative of Georgia categorically rejected allegations made by her counterpart from Syria on 12 October about her country exporting chemical weapons to the Middle Eastern country. An assessment mission of the Counter‑Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate has visited Georgia, which is in compliance with the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, she said, adding that Syria has become a mouthpiece of the Russian Federation. To her counterpart from the Russian Federation, she said that the Russian Federation engages in ethnic cleansing, urging it to withdraw all illegal military forces from Georgia.
The representative of the United States said his country is seeking a comprehensive deal with Iran, which covers its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes as well as its destabilizing activities, including its support for terrorists. The Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action does not serve the United States’ interests, he said, urging Iran to fundamentally change its behaviour.
The representative of Israel, in response to the statement made by the delegate from Iran, reminded the First Committee that Iran is the world’s main terrorist‑sponsoring State and the world’s biggest proliferator of certain weapons. Its proxies execute terror acts, mainly in the Middle East, to promote the country’s hegemonic aspirations. Those proxies are committing atrocities against the Syrian people as well. Iran spreads extremism, threatens its neighbours and destabilizes the Middle East, he said.
The representative of Iran responded to his counterpart from the United States, reiterating the country’s violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The Government of the United States was obfuscating facts and violating international commitments. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was negotiated and concluded because the United States was trying to deny Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear activities. The Security Council then endorsed the agreement by consensus, but now the United States is violating its commitments without any justification for such actions. The International Atomic Energy Agency explained its position regarding Iran’s cooperation, which has been sufficient for other Member States. But, the United States seeks to undermine the Agency’s credibility, in line with its policy to challenge multilateralism. Iran is now subject to the world’s most robust nuclear surveillance regime. Responding to comments made by Israel’s representative, he said Iran is at the forefront of fighting terrorism in Syria and Iraq. Israel is occupying the State of Palestine, killing Palestinians daily and launching aggressions against its neighbours and beyond. Moreover, Israel is not complying with General Assembly resolutions. Nuclear weapons in the hands of such a regime poses a great threat to the peace and security of the region, he said.
The representative of Syria expressed regret that Georgia’s delegate sought to cover up the number of terrorists it has allowed to travel to Syria. Georgia has been in breach of several weapons of mass destruction conventions and caches of biological weapons are hidden in this country. It is the first State whose regime agreed to export toxic chemical agents used by terrorists in Syria, he said. He also noted that it is ironic for Israel to accuse others of violations when various reports state clearly that Israel has used chemical and biological weapons. Israel is in violation of all Security Council resolutions dealing with terrorism, having furnished various such groups with arms and toxic materials, he said.
The representative of the Russian Federation, in response to comments made by his counterpart from Georgia, said the facts are being distorted about what is taking place in the Caucasus and how this situation arose. The history of independent Georgia is already punctuated by brutal episodes of civil war and aggression, verging on genocide. His Government responded to a request from the South Ossetian people for assistance, which falls under international oversight. Any discussions about aggression or annexation of Georgian territory are unsubstantiated and unfounded.
The representative of the United States, in response to the delegate from Iran, recalled activities such as hostage‑taking and funding terrorism, citing examples of the latter. Iran seeks to use deception and subterfuge to fund its activities, using shell companies and other seemingly legitimate entities to enable access to financing. Iran has also failed to implement reforms, while its Quds Force and Central Bank have undertaken activities to conceal the movement of illicit funds and used fraudulent documentation.