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Seventy-sixth Session,
15th Meeting (AM)
GA/DIS/3676

Delegates Approve 5 Draft Resolutions, as First Committee Takes Action on Peaceful Use, Non-Weaponization of Outer Space, Chemical Weapons

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) approved five draft resolutions today aimed at preventing an arms race in outer space, as it continued the action phase of its session.

It also held separate recorded votes on several preambular and operative paragraphs, as it heard explanations of position on voting action taken on 27 October.

The Committee approved — by a recorded vote of 163 in favour to 8 against (China, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria, Venezuela), with 9 abstentions (Armenia, Belarus, Comoros, Djibouti, India, Israel, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Zimbabwe) — the draft resolution “Reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours”.  By one provision of that text, the General Assembly would affirm that all States must conduct their activities in the exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, in conformity with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations.

India’s representative was among delegates who questioned “L.52”, saying that despite being opposed to weaponization of and an arms race in outer space, her delegation abstained on the draft as it does not address prevention of an arms race through a legally binding instrument and diverts from that objective.

Cuba’s representative said her delegation voted against “L.52” because the Fourth Committee is the appropriate forum to address such issues as peaceful uses of outer space.  She also noted the draft seeks to establish that the main threats emanate from earthly means, an issue that the First Committee has not yet discussed, and makes no mention of either the proposal submitted by China and the Russian Federation or the transfer of knowledge and technology to developing countries.

Iran’s representative said his delegation would not support the draft because an arms race in outer space has become a serious threat whereas the 1967 Outer Space Treaty does not address new threats.  Calling upon developing-world delegations to vote against the text, he warned that approving it would result in a division among States.

However, other delegations emphasized the importance of the draft resolution as a legitimate step towards filling gaps in efforts to prevent the weaponization of outer space.

Qatar’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of Arab States before the action, said its members would vote in favour of “L.52” because it addresses the lack of agreements on preventing an arms race in outer space, among other reasons.

Austria’s representative said he voted in favour of “L.52” because a multilateral approach is needed to address issues in the ever more challenging space environment.

Algeria’s delegate said he voted in favour of “L.52”, encouraged by the proposal for an inclusive open-ended working group.  He emphasized the importance of substantive discussions in the Conference on Disarmament, and the need to enhance transparency and confidence-building measures.

Before taking action on “L.52” as a whole, the Committee voted to retain four operative paragraphs, including one that would have the Assembly decide to convene, beginning in 2022, an open-ended working group to take stock of the existing international legal and other normative frameworks concerning threats arising from State behaviours with respect to outer space.  The Committee approved that action by a recorded vote of 147 in favour to 9 against (China, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Iran, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria, Venezuela), with 9 abstentions (Belarus, Comoros, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Israel, Madagascar, Pakistan, Somalia, Zimbabwe).

Acting again without a vote, the Committee approved the draft resolutions “Prevention of an arms race in outer space” and “Transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities”.

Following separate votes on three paragraphs, it approved the draft “No first placement of weapons in outer space” in its entirety, by a recorded vote of 124 in favour to 35 against, with 22 abstentions.

Before taking action on the draft “Further practical measures for the prevention of an arms race in outer space”, the Committee retained two paragraphs.  By a recorded vote of 126 in favour to 9 against (Australia, Canada, France, Israel, Japan, Marshall Islands, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States), with 46 abstentions, it then approved that text in its entirety.

Prior to taking up drafts on the disarmament aspects of outer space, delegates offered explanations of position on the following draft resolutions and decisions relating to other weapons of mass destruction, approved on 27 October:  “Measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction”; “Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction”; and “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction”.  (For details, see Press Release GA/DIS/3675.)

The representative of the United States, speaking on behalf of a number of other delegations, said they voted in favour of “L.10”.  He emphasized that despite the few who still use abhorrent chemical weapons, the many have stood with the Chemical Weapons Convention and resolved to hold accountable those who contravene it.  The United States also prefers that the space domain remain free of conflict, yet it has repeatedly noted that both China and the Russian Federation have been aggressively developing and deploying technologies designed and intended to extend future conflict to outer space, he said.  “Therefore, hollow and hypocritical efforts such as PPWT (Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects) that cannot be confirmed or verified by the international community are not the answer.”

The Russian Federation’s representative pointed out that some States are already in an arms race in outer space and are using various means to plan for hostilities.  He noted that his country was the main sponsor of the draft “L.53” and emphasized the critical need for a legally binding instrument to prevent weaponization of outer space.

The representative of Belarus described the text on other weapons of mass destruction as highly politicized, saying it undermines the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the non-proliferation regime.  He went on to emphasize that the rostrum should not be used to accuse other Member States.

Also speaking today were representatives of Mexico, Turkey, Syria, Philippines, United Kingdom, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Egypt, China, Slovenia, France, Malaysia, Switzerland, Indonesia, Ecuador, Austria, New Zealand, Japan, Argentina, Costa Rica, Mali and Colombia.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the Russian Federation, Syria and Turkey.

The First Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 2 November, to continue taking action on draft resolutions and decisions.

Explanation of Position

The Committee then heard explanations of position on the following draft resolutions and decisions, approved on 27 October, relating to other weapons of mass destruction:  “Measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction” (document A/C.1/76/L.8); “Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction” (document A/C.1/76/L.10); and “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction” (document A/C.1/76/L.35).  (For details, see Press Release GA/DIS/3675.)

The representative of Mexico, referring to “L.50”, affirmed her country’s commitment to the peaceful use of outer space, given the importance of preventing an arms race.  However, the resolution should not be understood as tacit endorsement of placing weapons in outer space in response to attack, she cautioned, emphasizing that all nuclear weapons should be eliminated, regardless of category.

The representative of the United States, speaking on behalf of a number of countries, said those delegations voted in favour of “L.10”.  He emphasized that despite the few who still use abhorrent chemical weapons, the many have stood with the Chemical Weapons Convention, demonstrating their resolve to hold accountable those seeking to normalize chemical weapons.  He went on to express regret that the international community must still address the issue, citing multiple incidents of chemical weapons use in Syria, Iraq and the United Kingdom, and in the poisoning of Alexei Navalny.  It is not politicization to say there are consequences for the use of chemical weapons, he affirmed, pointing out that Syria’s Assad regime has flouted its international obligations.  The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons team concluded that country was responsible for two specific attacks, he noted, adding that the Russian Federation must also be transparent on the Navalny matter.

The representative of Turkey said he voted in favour of “L.10” based on his country’s firm support for the Chemical Weapons Convention.  Describing use of chemical weapons as a crime against humanity, he said the case of Syria remains especially worrisome.  There are reasonable grounds to believe that a helicopter carried out a chemical attack, and that the regime is further culpable in at least eight attacks, he added.

The representative of Syria, speaking on a point of order, asked delegations to use terms appropriate for the General Assembly.  No one is above the law in this body, he emphasized, asking colleagues to hew to the basic rules of diplomatic dialogue.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco), Chair of the Committee, stressed that the practices and rules of the General Assembly and various committees must be respected.

The representative of Turkey, calling upon Syria to destroy all its chemical weapons in a fully verifiable manner, noted that the resolution could have urged that country to cooperate with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.  He expressed concern that Damascus has not granted visas to the agency’s officials.

The Committee Chair requested that delegates not use their statements to challenge the status of other delegations.

The representative of Belarus described the resolution on other weapons of mass destruction as highly politicized, saying it undermines the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the non‑proliferation regime.  Sponsors should use unifying language, he said, emphasizing that they should not use the rostrum to accuse other Member States.  Belarus urges the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to return to consensus‑based work, he added.

The representative of Israel, referring to “L.10”, said Syria’s use of chemical weapons has been clearly stipulated under the Joint Investigative Mechanism.  The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has noted gaps and discrepancies in its declaration on chemical weapons, he added, urging the international community to prevent normalization of chemical weapons.  The taboo against use of chemical weapons must not be eroded, he said, warning that terrorists may be motivated to follow suit.  He went on to underline the need to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapon capabilities, including research and development.

The representative of the Philippines, noting his delegation’s support for “L.8” and “L.35”, said the former recognizes national measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction and reinforces global norms, while retaining space to unlock the disarmament paradigm and sustainable development.  As for “L.35”, he expressed hope that the draft will be updated during the seventy‑seventh session, following the 2022 Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention.

The representative of India expressed regret that “L.10” was not approved by consensus.  On “L.35”, she emphasized the critical importance of the Biological Weapons Convention’s financial stability.

The Committee then turned to draft resolutions and decisions relating to other weapons of mass destruction, hearing general statements and the introduction of texts on the following:  “Prevention of an arms race in outer space” (document A/C.1/76/L.3); “No first placement of weapons in outer space” (document A/C.1/76/L.50); “Reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours” (document A/C.1/76/L.52); “Further practical measures for the prevention of an arms race in outer space” (document A/C.1/76/L.53); and “Transparency and confidence‑building measures in outer space activities” (document A/C.1/76/L.60).

The representative of the United Kingdom introduced “L.52”, saying the draft contains recommendations on how to build legally binding agreements.  Noting that terrestrial tensions are being transferred to outer space, she said there is no common understanding on the matter, adding that a working group will examine that and other concerns.

The representative of Pakistan said his delegation would vote in favour of “L.50” and its operative paragraph.

The representative of the Russian Federation noted that some States are already in an arms race in outer space and are using various means to plan for hostilities.  As such, the Russian Federation was the main sponsor of the draft “L.53”, he said.  Emphasizing the critical need for a legally binding instrument to prevent the weaponization of outer space, he said that his delegation also co‑sponsored “L.50”, which has now become a traditional resolution enjoying broad support, and “L.60”.  He urged all Member States to preserve outer space for peaceful purposes by supporting those drafts.

The representative of Egypt, referring to “L.50” and “L.53”, said that whereas his delegation appreciates efforts in favour of consensus, it is clear that the aim of some States is to turn outer space into a battlefield.  Given current tensions, the United Nations must signal its resolve to address that threat, he emphasized, expressing hope that a legally binding treaty can be drafted as soon as possible.

The representative of China expressed regret that recorded votes were requested on “L.50” and “L.53”.  Indeed, a certain country remains recalcitrant and provokes confrontation, claiming to work towards a shared future while continuing to challenge that concept in the First Committee, he said, asking whether that challenge was made because China sponsored the draft.  It is reasonable for drafts to include proposals related to this shared future.  Calling upon States to support “L.50” and “L.53”, he urged the country in question to commit itself to multilateralism and work with the First Committee to advance progress.

The representative of the Philippines, emphasizing the importance of observing the interface between security and development, said her delegation has traditionally supported the drafts “L.60” and “L.50”.  She cautioned, however, that its support for “L.52” must not be misconstrued to mean the existence of weapons in outer space is acceptable.

The representative of Syria, noting that his delegation co‑sponsored “L.50”, warned that the presence of weapons will turn outer space into an arena of military confrontation.  As for “L.53”, he emphasized the right of all States to explore outer space for peaceful purposes.

The representative of Slovenia, speaking on behalf of the European Union and other States, said those delegations are not in a position to support “L.50”.  She emphasized the importance of strengthening mutual trust between current and future space actors, and of remaining committed to preventing an arms race.  Noting that “L.50” does not adequately strengthen trust and confidence between States or define what constitutes a weapon in outer space, she cautioned that ambiguities over certain objects could lead to misunderstanding and miscalculation saying voluntary measures are a pragmatic way forward at the moment.

The representative of Cuba said arming outer space threatens the future, especially that of smaller countries.  Networks of spy satellites as well as debris are troubling, she added.  Cuba supports a legally binding resolution to prevent first placement of weapons in space, and regrets the lack of consensus in the open‑ended working group, she affirmed, urging all delegations to vote in favour of “L.53”, “L.50” and “L.60”.

The representative of Belarus expressed support for “L.3”, “L.50”, “L.53” and “L.60”, as well as for those paragraphs subjected to recorded vote.

The representative of Venezuela, describing outer space as the common heritage of humankind, warned that arming that realm would increase its vulnerability.  He noted the increasing use of bellicose language and emphasized the need for progress towards a legally binding framework to prevent the militarization of outer space.

The representative of France, also speaking on behalf of the United Kingdom and the United States regarding the draft “L.50”, said the three delegations will vote against that text and strongly encourage all others to do the same.  Concerning “L.53”, he said the three delegations look forward to continuing constructive and pragmatic engagement with other Member States in order to strengthen the safety, stability, security and sustainability of outer space activities.  The Russian Federation’s NFP (No First Placement) initiative contains several significant problems, he noted.  “First, the continued development of all anti‑satellite weapons and capabilities, including earth‑based, does not match the diplomatic rhetoric,” he said, adding it does not adequately define what constitutes a “weapon in outer space”.  The three delegations also cannot support the reference to “common effort towards a community of shared future for mankind” in preambular paragraph 5, he asserted, urging delegates to look closely at that language.  Though it sounds innocuous, that is not a phrase with any relation to the prevention of an arms race in outer space, the Outer Space Treaty, or multilateral arms control and disarmament.  He went on to state that the drafts “L.50” and “L.53” will not help to strengthen the safety, stability, and sustainability of space, emphasizing the need to reduce threats and to create the conditions for a safe, secure, stable and operationally sustainable space environment.

The representative of Iran said his delegation would not support “L.52”, given that an arms race in outer space has become a serious threat.  Noting that the 1967 Outer Space Treaty does not address new threats, he emphasized that the current monopoly of several countries over space technology is not acceptable if its benefits are not shared with developing States.  Calling upon developing‑world delegations to vote against the draft, he warned that approving it would result in divisions among States.  Iran will vote in favour of “L.50” and “L.60”, he said, referring to his delegation’s previous statements on those drafts, while noting that the related Group of Governmental Experts is not inclusive, and Iran was not involved in the discussions.

The representative of Malaysia emphasized that activities in outer space should not remain among a small group of States and must become a global common resource involving all nations.

The representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation is prepared to work on all efforts to keep outer space safe, but “L.52” has many shortcomings, among them the lack of a direct call to prevent the weaponization of outer space.  The text must also include provisions on the need for peaceful uses of outer space, on prohibiting the installation of weapons there, on threats of use of force and a clear outline for responsible behaviour, he emphasized.  Instead, “L.52” focuses on combating space debris, an issue long discussed in the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, he noted.  The Russian Federation supports the creation of a working group on disarmament‑related issues, he said, adding that his delegation has serious questions on the proposed open‑ended working group that were not addressed or reflected in “L.52”.  He went on to affirm his delegation’s opposition to that text.

The representative of Qatar, speaking on behalf of the Group of Arab States, said its members will vote in favour of “L.52” because it addresses the lack of agreement on preventing an arms race in outer space, among other reasons.

The representative of Pakistan, citing “L.52”, recalled that his delegation stated in 2020 that it would assess any future text.  The current draft has undergone significant changes, but with a number of gaps left, he said.  Noting that prevention has been prioritized for decades, he said it is unfortunate that the Conference on Disarmament has been prevented from addressing that issue, he added.  The notion of responsible and irresponsible behaviour remains tenuous at best, he asserted, noting that there is a disconnect between the preambular and operative sections of the text.  As a result, Pakistan cannot support the draft.

Action on Drafts

The Committee began consideration of five draft resolutions related to outer space (disarmament aspects):  “Prevention of an arms race in outer space” (document A/C.1/76/L.3); “No first placement of weapons in outer space” (document A/C.1/76/L.50); “Reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours” (document A/C.1/76/L.52); “Further practical measures for the prevention of an arms race in outer space” (document A/C.1/76/L.53) and “Transparency and confidence‑building measures in outer space activities” (document A/C.1/76/L.60).  Acting without a vote, the Committee approved draft resolution “L.3”, by which the General Assembly would reaffirm the importance and urgency of preventing an arms race in outer space and the readiness of all States to contribute to that objective, in conformity with the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.  The Assembly would call upon all States — particularly those with major space capabilities — to contribute actively to the peaceful use of outer space and the prevention of an arms race in that realm, and to refrain from actions contrary to that goal.  By other terms, the Assembly would recognize the growing convergence of views on the elaboration of measures designed to strengthen transparency, confidence and security in the peaceful use of outer space towards the conclusion of an effective and verifiable multilateral agreement or agreements on the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

Next, the Committee took up the draft “L.50”, by which the General Assembly would reiterate that the Conference on Disarmament, as the single multilateral negotiating forum on that subject, has the primary role in the negotiation of a multilateral agreement, or agreements, as appropriate, on the prevention of an arms race in outer space in all its aspects.  The text would also have the Assembly urge an early start of substantive work based on the updated draft treaty on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space and of the threat or use of force against outer space objects, introduced by China and the Russian Federation at the Conference on Disarmament in 2008, under the agenda item titled “Prevention of an arms race in outer space”.  It would further encourage all States, especially spacefaring nations, to consider the possibility of upholding, as appropriate, a political commitment not to be the first to place weapons in outer space.

Before taking action on “L.50” as a whole, the Committee held a recorded vote on 3 preambular paragraphs.

By a recorded vote of 115 in favour to 50 against, with 7 abstentions (Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Djibouti, Guinea‑Bissau, Papua New Guinea, Switzerland, Turkey), it decided to retain preambular paragraph 5, by which the Assembly would reaffirm that practical measures should be examined and taken in the search for agreement on preventing an arms race in outer space in a common effort towards a common shared future for humankind.

The Committee then approved the retention of preambular paragraph 9 by a recorded vote of 118 in favour to 48 against, with 6 abstentions (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Djibouti, Guinea‑Bissau, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Turkey).   That paragraph would have the Assembly welcome the draft treaty on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space and on the threat or use of force against outer space objects, introduced by China and the Russian Federation at the Conference on Disarmament in 2008.  It would also welcome the submission of its updated version in 2014.

By a recorded vote of 118 in favour to 33 against, with 21 abstentions, the Committee then decided to retain preambular paragraph 11, by which the Assembly would stress the importance of political statements by a number of States that they would not be the first to place weapons in outer space.

The Committee then approved “L.50” in its entirety, by a recorded vote of 124 in favour to 35 against, with 22 abstentions.

It then turned to the draft “L.52”, which would have the General Assembly affirm that all States must conduct their activities in the exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, in conformity with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations.  It would, by other terms, urge Member States to take that into account when formulating their space policies.  The Assembly would further express the desire that all Member States reach a common understanding of how best to reduce threats to space systems in order to maintain outer space as a peaceful, safe, stable and sustainable environment, free from an arms race and conflict, for the benefit of all.

The Committee also considered an eponymous draft resolution (document A/C.1/76/L.67) containing programme budget implications.

Before taking action on “L.52” as a whole, the Committee first took action on several paragraphs.

By a recorded vote of 148 in favour to 3 against (India, Iran, Syria), with 15 abstentions, it decided to retain operative paragraph 3, by which the Assembly would express the desire that all Member States reach a common understanding of how best to act to reduce threats to space systems in order to maintain outer space as a peaceful, safe, stable and sustainable environment, free from an arms race and conflict, for the benefit of all, and consider establishing channels of direct communication, including for managing perceptions of threat.

The Committee then approved the retention of operative paragraph 5(a) by a recorded vote of 147 in favour to 9 against (China, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Iran, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria, Venezuela) with 9 abstentions (Belarus, Comoros, Djibouti, Guinea‑Bissau, Israel, Madagascar, Pakistan, Somalia, Zimbabwe).  By that paragraph, the Assembly would decide to convene, beginning in 2022, an open‑ended working group to take stock of the existing international legal and other normative frameworks concerning threats arising from State behaviours with respect to outer space.

By a recorded vote of 147 in favour to 9 against (China, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Iran, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria, Venezuela), with 9 abstentions (Belarus, Comoros, Djibouti, Guinea‑Bissau, Israel, Madagascar, Pakistan, Somalia, Zimbabwe), the Committee retained operative paragraph 5(b).  By its terms, the Assembly would have the above‑mentioned open‑ended working group consider current and future threats posed by States to space systems, as well as actions, activities and omissions that could be considered irresponsible.

The Committee next decided — by a recorded vote of 146 in favour to 9 against (China, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Iran, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria, Venezuela), with 9 abstentions (Belarus, Comoros, Djibouti, Guinea‑Bissau, Israel, Madagascar, Pakistan, Somalia, Zimbabwe) — to retain operative paragraph 5(c).  By that provision, the Assembly would have the above‑mentioned open‑ended working group make recommendations on possible norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours relating to threats posed by States to space systems, including, as appropriate, how they would contribute to the negotiation of legally binding instruments, including on the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

By a recorded vote of 163 in favour to 8 against (China, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria, Venezuela), with 9 abstentions (Armenia, Belarus, Comoros, Djibouti, India, Israel, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Zimbabwe), the Committee approved “L.52” in its entirety.

The Committee then took up the draft “L.53”, by which the General Assembly would declare that the exclusion of outer space from the sphere of the arms race and preserving the realm for peaceful purposes should become a mandatory norm of State policy and a generally recognized international obligation.  The Assembly would, by further terms, express its deep regret over the years of stalemate in the work of the Conference on Disarmament and urge it to agree and implement at its earliest opportunity a balanced and comprehensive programme of work that includes the immediate commencement of negotiations on an international legally binding instrument on the prevention of an arms race in outer space.  In addition, the Assembly would indicate that guaranteed prevention of an arms race in outer space will provide an opportunity for its peaceful exploration and use in solving acute major problems of economic, social and cultural development facing humankind today.

Also before the Committee was an eponymous draft resolution (document A/C.1/76/L.62) containing programme budget implications.

Before taking action on “L.53” as a whole, the Committee took separate action on two paragraphs.

By a recorded vote of 112 in favour to 47 against, with 10 abstentions (Bhutan, Bosnia‑Herzegovina, Djibouti, Fiji, Guinea‑Bissau, New Zealand, Republic of Moldova, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, Turkey), the Committee approved the retention of preambular paragraph 5, by which the Assembly would bear in mind that all States, in particular those with major space capabilities, should contribute actively to the prevention of an arms race in outer space with a view to promoting and strengthening international cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes, with the objective of shaping a community of shared future for humankind.

The Committee then decided — by a recorded 112 votes in favour to 19 against, with 38 abstentions — to retain operative paragraph 7, by which the Assembly would request that the Secretary‑General seek, within existing resources, the views and proposals of Member States on the provision of guarantees for the prevention of an arms race in outer space and preserving outer space for peaceful purposes.  It would request that he submit a substantive report, with an annex containing those views, to the General Assembly at its seventy‑seventh session, for further discussion by Member States.

By a recorded vote of 126 in favour to 9 against (Australia, Canada, France, Israel, Japan, Marshall Islands, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States), with 46 abstentions, the Committee approved “L.53” in its entirety.

Acting without a vote, the Committee approved the draft “L.60”, by which the General Assembly would encourage Member States to continue to review and implement the transparency and confidence‑building measures proposed in the 2013 report of the related Group of Governmental Experts.  It would also decide to convene a joint half‑day panel discussion of the First Committee and the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) to address possible challenges to space security and sustainability.

Delegates then spoke in explanation of position.

The representative of Switzerland said his delegation abstained on “L.50”, for reasons outlined in its previous explanations, and on “L.53” as it has reservations relating to the exclusion of provisions on anti‑satellite tests, among others.  However, Switzerland voted in favour of operative paragraph 7 in “L.53”.  Emphasizing that provisions must be complementary to other existing efforts, he pointed out that the respective authors of both texts voted against each other.

The representative of Indonesia said he voted in favour of “L.52” and “L.53”, while noting that they have some overlapping aspects and offer different processes.  They should complement each other, he emphasized.

The representative of Ecuador said a safer outer space can be achieved through a legally binding agreement, adding that the norms and principles of responsible behaviour should not contravene such a treaty.

The representative of Austria said a multilateral approach is needed to address issues in the ever more challenging space environment.  Austria voted in favour of “L.52”, he added, urging all States to conduct space activities in compliance with international law.

The representative of the United States, said that, while not opposing resolution “L.3”, his delegation remains concerned about its linking of the prevention of an arms race in outer space and the beginning of negotiations on fundamentally flawed proposals on legally binding outer space arms control.  He added that his delegation particularly notes the resolution’s reference to the draft treaty proposed by the Russian Federation and China, introduced in 2014 at the Conference on Disarmament, which the United States opposes.  However, its position on the draft treaty proposal does not detract from its desire to avoid the extension of future conflicts to outer space or its long-standing support for voluntary transparency and confidence-building measures for outer space activities, he emphasized.  Quoting President Biden’s Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, he stated: “We will explore and use outer space to the benefit of humanity, and ensure the safety, stability, and security of outer space activities.”  The United States prefers that the space domain remain free of conflict, yet it has repeatedly noted that both China and the Russian Federation have been aggressively developing and deploying technologies designed and intended to extend future conflict to outer space, he said.  “Therefore, hollow and hypocritical efforts such as PPWT (Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects) that cannot be confirmed or verified by the international community are not the answer.”

The representative of New Zealand said his delegation voted against “L.50”, changing its position in 2021.  While New Zealand supports the prevention of an arms race in outer space, it is concerned that the approach outlined in “no first placement” gives tacit approval for a second or third placement, he said, adding that he does not view operative paragraph 3 as the best way to avoid an arms race.  New Zealand is not opposed to legally binding approaches, but abstained on “L.53”, he stated.

The representative of Algeria, associating himself with the Arab Group on “L.52”, said his delegation voted in favour, encouraged by the proposal for an inclusive open-ended working group.  He emphasized the importance of substantive discussions in the Conference on Disarmament and the urgent need to enhance transparency and confidence-building measures.  Algeria’s delegation expressed its traditional support for “L.50” and “L.53”, he noted.

The representative of Israel said he supported “L.3” and “L.60” despite reservations.

The representative of Japan said he changed from abstaining to voting against “L.53”, emphasizing the need for further discussions on norms and rules.  Japan also opposes an immediate start of negotiations on a legally binding instrument and the non-consensus language of preambular paragraph 5, he added.

The representative of India said she voted in favour of “L.50” to strengthen the international legal regime, while emphasizing that is not a replacement for substantive legal measures.  India voted against preambular paragraph 5 over a term reflecting a particular ideology, she explained.  Turning to “L.52”, she said her country is a major space-faring nation, opposed to weaponization and will not resort to an arms race there.  India abstained on “L.52” because it does not address prevention of an arms race through a legally binding instrument, she said, adding that the resolution diverts from that objective.  While having traditionally supported “L.53”, India voted against preambular paragraph 5 and abstained on operative paragraph 7, she added.

The representative of Argentina said his delegation voted in favour of “L.52”, which seems to build upon previous versions by, among other things, creating a new working group.  However, exploring space involves many non-State actors, an issue that must also be recognized and considered, he emphasized.

The representative of Costa Rica affirmed that his delegation voted in favour of “L.50” because humanity must recognize space as a zone of peace, emphasizing that a State declaring that it will not be the first to place weapons in space does not amount to a legally binding agreement.  Costa Rica also voted in favour of “L.52”, believing that future discussions must address the issues contained therein, he said, emphasizing that no aggression should be tolerated on land or in space in the interim.

The representative of Cuba said her delegation voted against “L.52” because the Fourth Committee is the appropriate forum to address such issues as the peaceful use of outer space.  The text also seeks to change the prevailing approach by establishing that the main threats arise from earthly means — an issue that the First Committee has not yet discussed — and makes no mention of either the Chinese-Russian proposal or the transfer of knowledge and technology to developing countries, she noted.

The representative of Venezuela said the proposal contained in “L.52” is geared more towards the peaceful use of outer space, an issue under the purview of the Fourth Committee.  Also, the draft contains ambiguous language on transparency and other elements, thus opening the issues to multiple interpretations, he noted.

The Committee then heard general statements and the introduction of draft resolutions and decisions relating to conventional weapons.

The representative of Mali noted that his delegation presented the draft “L.15” on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) contains the same elements as the one adopted by consensus in 2020.  The text asks the international community for financial and technical support to help strengthen regional security and efforts to counter the spread of small arms and light weapons, he said.

The representative of the Philippines called on more States to sign or ratify the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.  The international community must condemn any use of improvised explosive devices, landmines and cluster munitions under any circumstances, she emphasized, adding that it must also address emerging threats, including lethal autonomous weapons systems.

The representative of Colombia said the trafficking of small arms and light weapons remains a threat to global stability, calling for stronger action to combat the illicit trade at all levels, in light of its scope and its link with organized crime.  Cooperation and international assistance are crucial to the success of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and its International Tracing Instrument, she emphasized, further calling upon the international community to work towards a world free of anti-personnel mines.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, rejected accusations about Mr. Navalny by a group of States, saying they are misleading the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and undermining the Chemical Weapons Convention.  The Russian Federation has done everything possible to establish the truth, he said, adding that France, Germany and Switzerland have made baseless claims that ignore the real situation and the facts.  Noting that Syria has been accused of involvement in certain incidents, he said professionals involved in the matter have already discussed the unprecedented pressure they have endured in that regard.  Urging delegations to refrain from warping reality for their own political interests, he affirmed that the Russian Federation will continue to establish the facts about Russian citizens.

The representative of Syria said the delegations of Turkey and the United States seem to think they are above the United Nations Charter and the principles of diplomatic behaviour.  The United States was trying to distract from the actions of previous administrations, the results of which can be seen in Viet Nam and other countries, he noted, while describing Turkey as one of the main sponsors of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh) and provider of training for terrorists operating in his country.  Reaffirming Syria’s rejections of accusations against it, he said Damascus condemns the use of chemical weapons, yet certain countries continue to cast doubt on its willingness to cooperate with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.  Thanking delegations that rejected or abstained on “L.10”, he said that, among other things, the draft targets Syria.

The representative of Turkey rejected the statements by Syria’s delegate, saying that country’s repeated actions constitute war crimes, reiterating that the international community must ensure perpetrators are held accountable.

The representative of Syria, reminding Turkey’s delegate about diplomatic decorum, asked the Chair to help his delegation.  He also called upon all Member States to refer to his country as the “Syrian Arab Republic”, its official designation.

For information media. Not an official record.