Seventy-seventh Session,
20th & 21st Meetings (AM & PM)

Arab Countries Seize Chance to Construct New Security Architecture, Avert Middle East’s Repeated Cycles of Violence

‘Russia’s Brutal War of Choice’ Deals Blow to European Security

The Middle East could not continue to sit idly by with its hands tied while ignoring the severity of the region’s deteriorating security situation, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) heard today, as it concluded its thematic debate on regional security and started consideration of the disarmament aspects of outer space.

Missing another opportunity to construct a consensus-based security architecture that included a zone free from nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, said Egypt’s representative, would lead to catastrophic consequences.  The Middle East remained among the world’s most volatile regions, worsened by the spread of conflicts, proxy wars, terrorism and sectarian violence.  It was presently witnessing a new chapter of an alarming arms race.

The region was “on fire”, agreed Iran’s speaker, who said that a regional security framework was needed there now more than ever.  The presence of extra-regional players exacerbated the situation.  One of the biggest concerns was the proliferation of mass-destruction weapons in the region, he said, pointing to what he called the Israeli regime’s “reliance” on military aid from the United States, as well as its aggressive military establishment, which was a “chronic source” of regional insecurity.

Several European speakers voiced concern about threats to the security architecture in Europe.  France’s representative said the world was witnessing the gradual erosion of the conventional arms control regime, warning that its three main pillars had already been weakened and were now directly affected by the war in Ukraine.  Disarmament carried out at regional and subregional levels was complementary to those carried out globally.  She cited, for example, the cross-border nature of illicit small arms and light weapons flows.

“Russia’s brutal war of choice was a devastating blow to the security architecture based on international law”, said the representative of Poland.  By its aggression against Ukraine, the Russian Federation had decided to launch a period of chaos and uncertainty.  That followed years of that country’s constant undermining of key frameworks which constituted the regional security architecture.  It had “weakened the overall credibility of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation”.

Estonia’s representative similarly asserted that the Russian Federation’s unprovoked aggression had changed the European security architecture.  That country had gone from selectively implementing its arms control obligations to completely violating nearly all of them.  Threats to the sovereignty and territorial integrity and independence of any State under any pretext were threats to the entire world, she said, urging the Russian Federation to withdraw all troops and military equipment from Ukraine.

When the debate began on the disarmament aspects of outer space, some speakers warned that existing treaties, including draft treaties and other instruments, on preventing the first deployment of weapons in outer space were deficient, as they did not define what a weapon in outer space was, nor address the challenge of verification.  The representative of Australia, for example, highlighted that the issue must be adequately addressed, particularly in relation to dual-use space objects.  The technical challenge of verifying the attributes of any object in space to assess whether or not it was a weapon was indeed significant, the speaker said.

On behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Indonesia’s representative voiced serious concern at the negative security consequences of deployment of strategic missile defence systems in outer space, which could trigger an arms race and lead to further development of advanced missile systems and an increase in the number of nuclear weapons.  While voluntary transparency and confidence-building measures might partially contribute to reducing mistrust and enhancing the safety of outer space operations in the short-term, they were no substitute for a legally binding instrument.

The Committee also heard during the day from the Chair of the Open-Ended Working Group on Security of and in the Use of Information and Communications Technologies 2021‑2024, as well as from the Chief of the Regional Disarmament, Information and Outreach Branch, United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, who spoke on behalf of the Directors of the United Nations Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament.

Speaking during the discussion on regional disarmament were representatives of Brunei Darussalam (on behalf of (ASEAN)), Iraq (on behalf of the Arab Group), Indonesia, United States, Australia, Philippines, Ukraine, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Estonia, Bangladesh, Iran, Algeria, United Kingdom, Iraq, Malaysia, Niger, Nepal, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Jordan and Brazil, as well as the European Union, in its capacity as observer.

Exercising the right of reply were representatives of the Russian Federation, China, Israel, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Azerbaijan, Syria, Republic of Korea, Iran, United States, Armenia and Saudi Arabia, as well as the European Union, in its capacity as observer.

Speaking during the discussion on outer space were representatives of Nigeria on behalf of the African Group, Malaysia (on behalf of (ASEAN)), Iraq (on behalf of the Arab Group), Russian Federation (on behalf of a group of countries), Canada, Indonesia, France, Austrailia and Egypt, as well as the European Union, in its capacity as observer.

Exercising the right of reply on the outer space debate were representatives of the Russian Federation and United States.

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 26 October, to continue its thematic debates on outer space.

Other Disarmament Measures and International Security

BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore), Chair, Open-Ended working Group on Security of and in the Use of Information and Communications Technologies 2021-2024, noted that the Group had convened three substantive sessions thus far, where Member States had agreed on a set of modalities.  They also had a robust exchange on all six pillars of the Group’s mandate, which had led to the adoption, by consensus, of its first annual progress report in July.  All six pillars of the mandate was reflected in the report.  The report’s first section reflected on discussions on the topic, the second, on recommended next steps.  A section on threats noted the increase in incidents involving the malicious use of information and communications technology (ICT) by State and non-State actors, as well as the implications of harmful ICT activity on various fronts, including critical infrastructure.  The sections on norms, international law, confidence-building measures, capacity‑building and regular institutional dialogue reflected a non-exhaustive list of various concrete, action-oriented proposals.  One concrete initiative under confidence-building measures was the agreement to establish a global, intergovernmental, points-of-contact directory.

The Group itself, he said, was a confidence-building mechanism and the annual progress report served as a road map to ensure that the measures remained effective and benefitted all Member States.  Singapore had tabled a draft decision for the First Committee’s consideration under agenda item 94, seeking the General Assembly’s endorsement of the annual progress report.  Adoption of the decision by consensus would reinforce the consensus reached at the Group’s third substantive session.

Regional Disarmament and Security

NOOR QAMAR SULAIMAN (Brunei Darussalam), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that strengthening the Association was a regional priority. ASEAN strongly supported the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).  Additionally, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was an historic agreement contributing to global nuclear disarmament.  Nuclear-weapon States should fulfil their obligations leading to the elimination of those weapons.  South-East Asia was a nuclear-weapon-free zone with a Treaty enshrined in ASEAN’s charter.  She advocated for the establishment of more zones, particularly in the Middle East.  All parties also should work towards reaching a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.  Through the ASEAN Network of Regulatory Bodies on Atomic Energy, the region strengthened nuclear safety.  She reaffirmed its commitment to the Biological Weapons Convention, attaching special importance to enhancing regional cooperation, assistance and technology exchanges for peaceful purposes.  ASEAN valued regional platforms to facilitate implementation of commitments and would work towards the goal of global disarmament and a world without nuclear weapons.

SARMAD MUWAFAQ MOHAMMED AL-TAIE (Iraq), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group and associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the Middle East required greater efforts to bolster disarmament.  The Group stressed the crucial importance of creating nuclear-weapon-free zones throughout the world, including in the Middle East.  In that regard, it underscored the importance of adopting effective and immediate measures.  All efforts would be expended to ensure a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East to achieve security and stability in one of the most conflict-ridden areas of the world.  The Arab States had carried out their responsibilities, and other parties must follow suit.  He was greatly concerned at Israel’s continued refusal to join the NPT, the only country in the region outside the Treaty, as well as its refusal to place its nuclear installations under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.  Any delays in implementing the 1995 resolution on creating a zone free of nuclear weapons and mass destruction weapons in the Middle East would be a step backwards in nuclear disarmament.

MICHAL KARCZMARZ, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, stated that the Russian Federation’s unprovoked, unjustified and illegal war of aggression was one of the greatest challenges to global peace and security.  It undermined the international rules-based order, and among other things, damaged the global economy and global food security in ways which harmed all countries.  The Union had a long history of support for actions that addressed threats to international and regional security and promoted disarmament.  The diversion, illicit trade and unauthorized use of conventional arms, especially small arms and light weapons and their ammunition was a serious impediment to global peace, security and sustainable development, he added.

He said that the Union was assisting numerous small arms and light weapons control projects, most with a regional scope and implemented with the help of regional organizations.  Some projects built capacity for arms export control, which was crucial in preventing diversion of those weapons into the wrong hands.  Demobilization and reintegration of former combatants were essential in stabilization and lasting peace.  Indeed, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration was an integral part of the Union’s contribution to the non-recurrence of violence and to broader stabilization, as that process addressed the risks posed by armed groups and supported the transition from armed confrontation to political engagement and inclusive governance.

SUDJADNAN PARNOHADININGRAT (Indonesia), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and ASEAN, said that nuclear-weapon-free zones were indispensable to achieving nuclear disarmament.  Nuclear-weapon States should provide unconditional assurances to the countries in those zones and ratify all relevant treaties and their protocols.  Nuclear-weapon-free zones were essential building blocks, and Indonesia reaffirmed its commitment to preserve Southeast Asia as nuclear-weapon-free, as enshrined in the ASEAN charter.  More such zones should be established around the world, particularly in the Middle East.  Regional efforts maintained the global security architecture.  Moreover, he advocated for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the achievement of a world free of nuclear weapons.

MOHAMED KAMAL ALI ELHOMOSANY (Egypt), associating with the Arab Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said the Middle East remained among the world’s most volatile regions, worsened by the spread of conflicts, proxy wars, terrorism and sectarian violence.  Peace in that region could not be achieved under deterrence and weapons accumulations, but rather, through engagement.  A Middle East zone free of nuclear and other mass destruction weapons could save the region and the world from devastating wars, horrors and chronic country-specific proliferation concerns.  Ignoring the severity of the region’s deteriorating security would only lead to catastrophic consequences.  The region already witnessed a new chapter of a gravely alarming arms race.  “We cannot continue to stand idly watching with our hands tied,” he said.  Member States should not miss another opportunity to engage constructively, inclusively and in a consensus-based way to stop the violence and chaos.

CAMILLE PETIT (France) was concerned about the threats to the European security architecture, as the world witnessed the gradual erosion of the conventional-arms-control regime.  The three main pillars of the regime had already been weakened and were now directly affected by the war in Ukraine.  The Russian Federation, after years of circumventing and instrumentalizing its obligations and commitments under confidence- and security-building measures, had knowingly violated them by aggressing against Ukraine.  She stressed the importance of non-proliferation and disarmament initiatives carried out at the regional and subregional levels:  they were by nature complementary to those carried out at globally, and they contributed to international peace, security and stability.  Such was the case, for example, with regard to preventing and combating the illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons, given the largely cross-border nature of those flows. She encouraged regional and subregional cooperation.

BRUCE I. TURNER (United States) condemned the Russian Federation's attacks against civilian infrastructure and cities across Ukraine in the strongest possible terms and demanded that it withdraw all its troops and military equipment from that country.  He rejected the Russian Federation’s illegal attempts to seize its neighbours land and property.  He also remained deeply concerned with China’s increasing military, diplomatic and economic pressure campaign against Taiwan.  Iran's continued nuclear escalations underlined the importance of robust verification, which remained the foundation of any lasting deal, as well as the essential role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  Syria's persistent refusal to hear IAEA calls for cooperation to remedy its long-standing safeguards and ensure compliance had been ongoing for more than a decade and remained a matter of serious concern.  He said his country was prepared to engage in diplomacy with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea towards the objective of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  Overall, he said the United States was strongly committed to the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda, which reinforced the disarmament agenda.

HEATHER MCINTYRE (Australia), associating with the European Union, said her country attached great importance to the contribution of nuclear-weapon-free zones to global nuclear disarmament.  Steadfast in her commitment to the South Pacific Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Rarotonga Treaty), she commended other regions’ efforts to establish such zones, including in South-East Asia.  She expressed concern about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s continued development of its nuclear and ballistic‑missile programme and the effect on the region, and urged that country to comply with relevant Security Council resolutions.  Australia was strongly committed to ASEAN, as illustrated by its deepening partnership in such areas as cybersecurity, maritime security and disaster response.  The “Pacific family” had jointly built a long history of cooperation in the areas of border management and defence.  Australia’s cybersecurity depended on that of the region and the wider international community, and it would continue to work with South-East Asian and Pacific countries to improve cyberresilience.  “Regional and international security were two sides of the same coin,” and Australia would continue to work with its partners to address common challenges.

ALEKSANDER SZEWCZUK (Poland), associating with the statement delivered by the European Union delegation, said that “Russia’s brutal war of choice was a devastating blow to the security architecture based on international law”.  By its aggression against Ukraine, the Russian Federation had decided to launch a period of chaos and uncertainty.  That came after years of that country’s constant undermining of key frameworks which constituted the regional security architecture.  The Russian Federation had withdrawn from its commitments under the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty.  Indeed, its actions “have weakened the overall credibility of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation”.  Poland noted with concern the “spillover effects of the Russian aggression” around the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) space.  The responsibility for its actions lay also on Belarus, he said, adding “if not for Minsk’s support, Russia’s aggression would have been limited”.

DIANE SHAYNE DELA FUENTE LIPANA (Philippines), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and ASEAN, said international and regional components of the global governance regime were important to ensure an open, inclusive and rules-based order, based on international law.  Regional security architecture was upheld by regional mechanisms and institutions, and she commended ASEAN for its inclusive, responsible, consensus-based and confidence-building work on that front.  Global and regional assistance was important for mine action and achieving sustainable development.  The Philippines had contributed actively to the work of the Open-Ended Working Group on space threats.  South-East Asia should be preserved as region free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and she looked forward to solving outstanding issues in line with the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Bangkok Treaty).  Bridging differences and engaging with nuclear-weapon States was important.  Those countries should rapidly agree to reduce stockpiles and achieve complete elimination.  Regional approaches complemented each other and should be pursued simultaneously.  That complementarity was a two-way street which went hand in hand with global norms.

ANATOLII ZLENKO (Ukraine) stated that the Russian Federation’s unprovoked and unjustified aggression against Ukraine was the greatest challenge to international peace and security since the end of the Second World War.  Almost 28 years ago, Ukraine had relinquished its nuclear weapons in exchange for security assurances confirmed by the United Kingdom, United States, and the Russian Federation in the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances in connection with Ukraine’s accession to the NPT.  The Budapest Memorandum was a crucial political and legal step for the young Ukrainian State.  Ukraine had fulfilled its obligations within the Memorandum to the full extent, by implementing a complex of range of multifaceted nuclear disarmament measures.  Later, the Russian Federation brutally violated the provisions of the Budapest Memorandum.  It was the Russian Federation that used phosphorus munitions and  anti-personnel mines and the entire arsenal of conventional weapons against civilians and civilian infrastructure.  That country should immediately cease aggression against Ukraine and unconditionally withdraw all its forces and military equipment from Ukraine’s entire territory, within its internationally recognized borders.

MOHAMMAD AAMIR KHAN (Pakistan) reaffirmed the need for the simultaneous pursuit of regional and global approaches, including agreements in the areas of disarmament and arms limitation.  The ultimate aim of regional approaches should be to enhance regional and global peace and security.  Confidence-building measures could lead to favourable measures for the peaceful settlement of disputes, as well as facilitate solutions to situations which might cause international friction.  However, confidence-building measures were not a goal in themselves and should be pursued in conjunction with earnest efforts for peaceful dispute settlement in line with the Charter.  A stable balance of conventional forces and weapons was necessary to ensure strategic stability.  For several years, Pakistan had spearheaded initiatives to promote regional disarmament and conventional arm control.  It would present a resolution on confidence-building measures in the regional and subregional context.  The text recognized the significance of complementarity between regional and global approaches to arms control, disarmament and confidence-building to peace, security and stability.

KONSTANTIN VORONTSOV (Russian Federation) said that the reason for the decline in military security in Europe was the policy pursued by the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies towards confrontation with the Russian Federation, undermining the foundations of European security and disrupting a resilient and credible system of arms control and confidence-building measures.  The United States was pumping more weapons and intelligence into Ukraine, and its actions were bringing the situation to a dangerous prospect of direct military stand-off between the Russian Federation and NATO.  For several decades, the United States and its NATO allies continued working on disrupting and dismantling key arms control and confidence-building agreements.  In 2003, Washington, D.C., unilaterally terminated the Soviet-American Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.  In the early 2000s, it refused to ratify the Agreement on Adaptation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.

In that context, he said, subsequent calls to increase transparency through further modernization of the Vienna Document, which Western colleagues had repeatedly requested for many years, seemed, at the least insincere.  After that, the United States had adopted a course towards the destruction of the Treaty on Open Skies, which led to its unilateral withdrawal under a far-fetched pretext.  The Russian Federation had repeatedly proposed de-escalation measures, including the reduction in military activities along the border of the Russian Federation and NATO countries on a reciprocal basis, along with improved mechanisms for the prevention of incidents at sea and in the air, as well as a reduction of dangerous military activities.

KIM IN CHOL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that it was encouraging that, in many parts of the world, efforts were concentrated on creating and further consolidating nuclear-weapon-free zones.  Bilateral and multilateral disarmament measures were actively pursued to address mutual security concerns.  The Korean Peninsula was one of those regions where the risk of war constantly hovered, owing to the territorial and national division caused by the 80-year-long occupation of “South Korea” by the United States forces.  His country had put forward sustained efforts to implement numerous proposals for confidence-building and to defuse the acute security crisis on the Korean Peninsula, as well as to ensure lasting peace and stability.  But, the United States responded with a vicious, hostile policy and used nuclear threats as blackmail, he said, by conducting different sorts of joint military exercises against his country and in and around the Korean Peninsula.  In 1954, the United States had staged a joint military exercise, the first of its kind.  In recent years, the United States and “South Korea” had undertaken many joint military exercises.  That showed that the United States was the main actor undermining peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the rest of the North-East Asian region.  It taught a lesson that disarmament in the region could never be realized by unilateral efforts alone.

KATRI LŌHMUS (Estonia), associating with the statement delivered by the European Union delegation, stressed that the Russian Federation’s “contempt” for Ukraine's national borders and sovereignty “cannot and will not be accepted”.  Threats to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of any State under any pretext were threats to the entire world, she said, urging the Russian Federation to immediately withdraw all its troops and military equipment from Ukraine’s territory.  The Russian Federation’s attacks were in clear violation of international humanitarian law and were carried out with weapons from Iran.  She urged all nations not to assist the aggressor in its commission of war crimes and condemned the further involvement of Belarus in aiding the attack on Ukraine.  The Russian Federation’s unprovoked aggression had changed the European security architecture.  The Russian Federation had gone from selectively implementing its arms control obligations to completely violating nearly all of them, she added.

MD MONWAR HOSSAIN (Bangladesh), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said peaceful dialogue and diplomacy remained the best options for building regional security architectures.  Establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones as interim measures was vital.  Regarding the Middle East, he called on all regional States to actively participate in the zone’s establishment.  Unconditional and legally binding assurances by nuclear-weapon States was a high priority.  The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Development facilitated the identification of common interests and concerns among countries in his region during negotiations on disarmament treaties.  Learning from other regional good practices would help prevent weapons of mass destruction proliferation and avoid their possible acquisition by terrorists and other non-State entities.  Disarmament education helped to change the basic attitudes of peoples and policymakers, and he called for the Regional Centre to strengthen its disarmament education and research.  Bangladesh was committed to advancing regional disarmament as an essential and integral part of building a safer and better world for all.

HEIDAR ALI BALOUJI (Iran) stated that the number of active armed conflicts that took place in at least 46 States in 2021 was “plainly shocking”.  Eight of those  had erupted in the Middle East alone.  A regional security framework was needed there now more than ever, because the region was “on fire”.  The presence of extra regional players, as well as interference in the region, exacerbated the situation.  Unsurprisingly, the United States was the number-one arms seller to some regional countries.  The Israeli regime relied on its military aid from the United States, as well as the aggressive military establishment it created, which was a chronic source of regional insecurity.  One of the biggest concerns was the proliferation of mass‑destruction weapons in the region.  The Israeli regime was the only entity in the region that refused to accede to the NPT or to the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions.  Chemical weapons had been frequently and massively used in the region.  Iran’s nuclear programme was completely peaceful, and it rejected any allegation or politicized approach on the matter.  The United States, with its history of sustained non-compliance with numerous accords, including the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action, lacked any moral ground to raise unacceptable statements, he said.  He rejected any claims that Iran played a role in the war in Ukraine.  Iran had the right to meet its security and military needs.

NAZIM KHALDI (Algeria), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said his country was deeply involved in consolidating regional stability and building a better future for the region.  To address the Sahel region’s illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, he called for a multidimensional response, including tackling the root causes.  Algeria contributed to the African Union’s efforts by hosting two key institutions on terrorism and transnational organized crimes.  Nuclear-weapon-free zones were not only confidence-building measures, but also steps towards the complete elimination of those weapons.  Voicing continued support for the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Pelindaba Treaty), he called for the establishment of such a zone in the Middle East as it remained a legitimate demand and a priority to peace.  His country’s Mediterranean policy was based on cooperation, good neighbourliness and mutual respect.  In that vein, he introduced Algeria’s draft resolution on strengthening security and cooperation in the Mediterranean region and counted on co-sponsorship, support and adoption by consensus (document A/77/C.1/L.24).

Ms. OSOBA (United Kingdom) stated that regional stability, based upon a mutual understanding and respect of neighbours’ responsibilities towards each other, was essential for global peace.  In Europe, the Russian Federation was conducting an unprovoked, premeditated and barbaric attack against Ukraine.  The Federation’s disinformation about Ukraine and its partners, with unfounded allegations around chemical and biological weapons, was deplorable.  In the Middle East, regional stability was worsened by Iran’s behavior.  Iran took unprecedented steps to accelerate the pace of its nuclear programme, producing enriched uranium, including highly enriched uranium, at an alarming pace.  Further, the Assad regime’s responsibility had been recognized for eight chemical weapons attacks, with further attacks under investigation.  The United Kingdom had attended the 2019 and 2021 Conferences on the Middle East weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone as an observer and had voiced its reservations about the credibility of a process that did not include all States of the region.  In Asia, the United Kingdom was concerned with the continued development of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s illicit nuclear and ballistic-missile programmes.  Sanctions targeting that country’s illicit programmes should be strictly enforced by the international community.  The United Kingdom also remained concerned about the potential for a misunderstanding between India and Pakistan.

AHMED ABDULMUNEM AHMED AHMED (Iraq) reiterated his support for the creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones in general and the elimination of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.  The 1995 resolution on the Middle East represented a vital pillar of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a crucial step towards the creation of such a zone in the Middle East.  He called on all concerned to fulfil their responsibilities and obligations regarding the creation of a Middle East zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.  The region was not presently free of nuclear weapons because it was not possible to inspect Israeli nuclear installations or their military capabilities.

AZRIL BIN ABD AZIZ (Malaysia), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and ASEAN, said nuclear-weapon-free zones played a vital role in preventing any threat or use of odious tools of war and destruction.  Both at the NPT Review Conference and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Meeting of States Parties, nuclear-weapon-free zones were underlined as critical elements in the collective endeavour to free the world from the long shadow cast by the continued possession of nuclear arsenals by a select few.  The need for such zones was further highlighted by the NPT Review Conferences’ consecutive failures, particularly amid renewed geopolitical tensions and nuclear rhetoric.  The full promise of the Bangkok Treaty could not be realized until nuclear-weapon States ratified the Protocol.  The absence of legally binding negative security assurances did not augur well for regional peace and security.  He called for intensified efforts as a quarter-century was precious time lost and progress could not be deferred indefinitely.  Malaysia supported a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East and welcomed recent efforts in that regard.  Regional disarmament required continued attention, and efforts must be redoubled.

Mr. HAMED (Niger), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said his country faced criminal terrorist groups that spread death and destruction across the Sahel region.  Small arms and light weapons and improvised explosive devices by non-State armed groups caused 1,500 victims per year in the region — half the world’s total.  Proliferation of those weapons was a key issue and he supported multilateral efforts to combat it, including control of trafficking, surveillance, tracing and marking.  Besides acceding to almost all conventional weapons instruments, Niger was also a Pelindaba Treaty signatory State.  Raising awareness, spreading information on the negative impacts of small arms and light weapons possession and capacity-building was important.  On that front, Niger’s actions had allowed it to recover a significant number of arms and munitions, including anti-personnel landmines.  Given the threat of small arms and light weapons to the region, he reiterated his support for all multilateral disarmament initiatives and hoped for considerable progress during this session.

RADHA DAY, Chief, Regional Disarmament, Information and Outreach Branch, United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, speaking on behalf of the Directors of the United Nations Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament, provided an overview of the work of the Centres in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean.  The Centres worked hand in hand with States, regional organizations and others to address security challenges.  Inclusivity and enhancing the role of women and youth in disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control policymaking were key to sustainably addressing the challenges.  The critical role of disarmament education in delivering authoritative skills and knowledge to diverse audiences in order to advance effective policy making could not be underestimated.

She said that the Centres had supported Member States in combating the threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and strengthening national implementation of multilateral non-proliferation treaties, through legal assistance, technical support and improved regional dialogue.  The war in Ukraine had spotlighted the Vienna-based international organizations and intergovernmental processes.  The Vienna Office was coordinating efforts such as the development of substantive content, functionalities and usership of the Office for Disarmament Affair’s e-learning platform and the Disarmament Education Dashboard, which was a globally accessible, free resource.

The Centres, however, faced challenges, she said, citing insufficient or unpredictable funding, which constrained the sustainability of its engagement.  The siloed approaches to disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation restricted the ability to develop more comprehensive programmes, which were required to tackle a broader range of underpinning drivers.  She stressed that the Centres’ activities should be shaped by national and regional ownership.  Greater efforts should be made to translate global disarmament commitments into regional and national actions, aimed at making a tangible difference in people’s lives.  Disarmament education remained vital yet severely underresourced.  That called for increased and sustained investment, for the office in Vienna, for the activities of the Regional Centres and for disarmament education globally.

INDIRA ARYAL (Nepal), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said regional disarmament approaches strengthened global efforts and should be pursued simultaneously.  Nepal supported nuclear-weapon-free zones and underscored the importance of regional diplomacy and dialogue to foster confidence and trust and reduce military spending.  Disarmament initiatives were successful when trust and confidence were cultivated through effective partnerships among Governments, experts and civil society.  The wider participation of women and youth was essential as they were forces for change and progress.  Moreover, disarmament education enhanced awareness of the humanitarian consequences of weapons.  United Nations Regional Centres provided permanent platforms for Member States for constant dialogue, exchanges of views and best practices.  As a host country, Nepal supported the Regional Centre’s capacity-building and awareness-raising efforts to universalize and implement multilateral disarmament instruments.  She encouraged regional Member States to collaborate and make voluntary contributions.  Nepal tabled the resolution on United Nations Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament in the Pacific and hoped for its adoption by consensus (document A/77/C.1/L.37).

ILGAR GURBANOV (Armenia) expressed its strong concerns regarding the systemic conventional arms control regime violations of Azerbaijan, in particular, heavy‑weapon accumulation and armed forces outside verification regimes.  Azerbaijan’s actions had led to a deterioration of peace and security in the South Caucasus.  The international community’s lack of a strong reaction allowed Azerbaijani military build-up and created a fertile ground for it to pursue a policy of use of force against Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.  Azerbaijan’s disregard for its obligations culminated in the premeditated large-scale aggression amid the pandemic, where it used all types of heavy weaponry, targeting civilian populations and infrastructures and committing war crimes and atrocities.  In the conflict’s aftermath, the situation remained fragile.  Since 13 September, Azerbaijan’s military aggression caused 200 civilian deaths, with daily military provocations and ceasefire violations.  Armenia attached high importance to international and region organizations’ activities to conduct monitoring and fact‑finding missions to prevent acts of aggression as a means of conflict resolution.

ZHANGELDY SYRYMBET (Kazakhstan) said that failure to achieve regional disarmament and security goals could derail efforts to sustain world peace and security.  Political and diplomatic solutions were the only effective tools for dealing with intricate interlocking international threats.  To expand regional cooperation and achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Kazakhstan proposed an Almaty United Nations Hub in Central Asia and Afghanistan.  He called for settling the deep rift on the Korean Peninsula and preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  He supported a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East as those were among the most effective means to prevent proliferation.  United Nations Regional Centres provided valuable contributions towards regional and global disarmament, and he welcomed Member States’ financial and political contributions.  The United Nations disarmament fellowship trained future young advocates on freeing the world  of nuclear weapons and inspired them to become part of the collective multilateral action for disarmament and security.

ROSANIS ROMERO LÓPEZ (Cuba) said that regional and subregional initiatives for disarmament and arms control contributed to achieving a safer world.  His region had been the first densely populated area of the world to have declared itself a nuclear-weapon-free zone through the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco).  All Latin American and Caribbean countries were party to the NPT and Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).  It was also the region with the largest number of States parties and signatories to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  The United States remained be the greatest threat to the stability and cooperation between countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.  Its irresponsible actions also affected security in other parts of the world.  Nuclear-weapon-free zones contributed to nuclear disarmament. They strengthened the non-proliferation regime and fostered the maintenance of international peace and security, including on a regional basis.

WAJDI HASSAN M. MOHARRAM (Saudi Arabia), associating with the Arab Group, reaffirmed the importance of the non-proliferation regime for the maintenance of international peace and security.   Israel’s continued refusal to accede to the NPT challenged the Treaty’s credibility and universality.  It also threatened the efforts of the international community to the strengthen the non-proliferation regime.  The Treaty was the only guarantee against the misuse of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.  Saudi Arabia was also gravely concerned over the continued non-compliance by Iran with its nuclear undertakings, particularly in view of IAEA reports.  Saudi Arabia supported all international efforts aimed at preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

KONSTANTINOS CHRISTOGLOU (Greece), associating with the European Union, actively supported regional disarmament cooperation as an effective step to fulfilling global disarmament.  He pointed to the important work of the United Nations Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament.  Conventional arms’ diversion and their illicit trade, particularly in small arms and light weapons, underlined the importance of regional and international prevention and control initiatives.  In the face of the Middle East’s challenges, Greece steadily sought to consolidate regional security frameworks, primarily through dialogue and cooperation.  Greece’s network of regional tripartite and multilateral cooperation mechanisms saw ever-increasing momentum.  Dynamic synergies had been created in various sectors, such as digital technology, cybersecurity, innovation, energy, water, resource management, the environment and more.  He looked forward to working with other countries that shared common principles and values.  In that vein, Greece supported the draft resolution on strengthening security and cooperation in the Mediterranean region, as well as other texts on regional security.

SULTAN NATHEIR MUSTAFA ALQAISI (Jordan), associating with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed grave concern at the failure to achieve tangible progress in the field of disarmament and the lack of implementation of the agreed commitments.  In order to contribute to efforts that aimed to rid the Middle East from weapons of mass destruction, Jordan supported the Conference on establishing a Middle East zone free of nuclear and other mass destruction weapons.  He reiterated Jordan’s call on Israel to join the Conference without any preconditions and urged its accession to the NPT.  Israel must place all its nuclear facilities and activities under the IAEA comprehensive safeguards regime, he added.

FLAVIO DAMICO (Brazil) said that the Latin American and Caribbean region was at the forefront of implementing the concept of nuclear-weapon-free zones.  By accepting “a miniscule decrease” in security levels by doing away with conditionalities, nuclear-weapon States could provide a huge boost to the security of States in the region.  In the last 30 years, Brazil alongside Argentina had developed an agency for the accounting and control of nuclear materials.  The agency, along with IAEA, ensured the physical monitoring of nuclear activities under the NPT’s article IV based on the principle of “neighbours watching neighbours”.  Brazil hoped that that success story would serve as a “source of inspiration” and example of good practices in the field of non-proliferation.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation rejected all accusations against his country as unfounded.  He recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia on the basis of the free will of the South Ossetian and Abkhaz peoples.  The attack of Saakashvili's regime against South Ossetia in August 2008 and the preparation of a similar action against Abkhazia, the culmination of many years of violent policy of Tbilisi against those small nations, left them no choice but to ensure their security and the right to exist through self-determination as independent States.  Of the most serious concern was the alarming information coming from reliable sources that the Kyiv regime was preparing a provocation using an explosive device filled with radioactive substances, the so-called “dirty bomb”.  Its purpose was obvious — to accuse the Russian Federation of using weapons of mass destruction.  According to information available to Moscow, the Kyiv regime planned to detonate such a bomb by disguising it as an abnormal actuation of a Russian low-yield nuclear weapon that used highly enriched uranium as a charge.  Kyiv's recent statements about the need for "preventive nuclear strikes" by NATO countries against the Russian Federation were totally unacceptable.  The representative demanded that the Kyiv authorities and their Western handlers stopped taking actions that brought the world to a nuclear catastrophe and threatened the lives of innocent civilians.

The representative of China said that the United States delegate spoke nonsense about China's Taiwan question and China's nuclear policy, making groundless accusations against China.  The United Nations General Assembly at its twenty‑sixth session adopted resolution 2758 by an overwhelming majority.  It explicitly restored all its rights to the People's Republic of China and recognized the representatives of the Government as the only legitimate representatives of China to the United Nations.  The United States was once again manipulating the Taiwan question, on the General Assembly platform, which would surely be met with rejection and opposition by the international community.  The question of Taiwan was purely China's internal affair.  China firmly opposed the United States’ manipulation of Taiwan-related issues and its words and actions to provoke confrontation in the region.  Taiwan belonged to China.  It was up to the Chinese people to resolve the Taiwan issue.  Time and again, the United States made an issue out of China's military development and arms control policies.  It clung to a cold war mentality and was obsessed with great Powers competition, attempting to use China as its adversary to serve its global and regional security strategy with regard to China's nuclear policy.  The limited nuclear deterrence developed by China aimed solely at deterring countries and acts that attempted to use nuclear weapons against China.  That policy was open, above board and transparent.  A country that did not threaten China with its nuclear weapons would not be met with the deterrence of China's nuclear capability.

The representative of Israel, in right of reply, said speakers had claimed a comprehensive security architecture could be achieved without recognizing Israel’s right to exist and without building the necessary trust among regional States.  That position was untenable.  Experiences from other regions showed that the zones could only be the outcome of all Parties’ mutual political desire, while taking into account each country’s security concerns, as stipulated in the 1999 Disarmament Commission Report on guidelines on nuclear-weapon-free zones.  Anything but that could not serve as a useful base for discourse on the establishment of a Middle East nuclear-weapon-free zone.  Ill-motivated initiatives, such as the United Nations Conference on such a zone, went against guidelines and against established principles of nuclear-weapon-free zones and were unhelpful.  Israel would not participate in “artificial processes” that bypassed the established practices.

Iran was the biggest threat to the region and beyond, he said.  It shamelessly proliferated arms of all kinds, supported and trained proxy organizations to spread terror and engaged in hostilities.  Iran perpetuated all that in the name of spreading its dominance and its extremist ideologies.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in right of reply, categorically rejected the “absurd” rhetoric by the United States as an effort to conceal its identity as the main culprit for the escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.  The root cause of the destabilizing situation on the Korean Peninsula was the United States’ hostile policy, its aggressive joint military drills and its uninterrupted introduction of nuclear assets on the Korean Peninsula.  The risk of conflict ran higher every time it conducted joint military exercises with the mobilization of nuclear assets.

 The United States, he said, was hell-bent on spreading misinformation, aimed at demonizing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s Government, by stating that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s enhanced defensive capabilities posed a serious threat to global peace and regional security.  The United States’ ulterior motive was to one day overthrow his Government and to pressure it to law down its nuclear weapons and degrade its capabilities.  In the past, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had tabled numerous proposals for confidence-building and disarmament to defuse the security crisis on the Korean Peninsula.  However, the United States responded with a vicious hostile policy, nuclear threats and blackmail, by conducting joint military exercises and introducing strategic assets and military hardware to the Republic of Korea.

He said that the United States’ diplomatic engagement was nothing but hypocrisy to conceal its aggressive nature and evade responsibility.  War games were not compatible with dialogue.  As the hostile policy and nuclear blackmail of the United States increased, The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s strength was bound to grow proportionally.  The United States had compelled his country to adopt a law on the policy of nuclear forces.  It should be reminded that its heinous hostile policy brought about today’s reality and it should ask itself how far it would drive the current situation in the future.

The United Kingdom and Australia’s remarks constituted grave political provocations, he said.  It was ridiculous that they were acting as if they were the judge of disarmament but were in fact undermining the global non-proliferation regime through the “AUKUS” partnership with the United States.  Those countries were shamefully following the United States’ hostile policy against his country.  The United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons policy included increasing its stockpile, lowering the threshold for use, and reducing transparency.  The United Kingdom and Australia were advised to “look in the mirror and clean their smeared faces” before pointing accusing fingers at others.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s efforts for an enhanced war deterrence force was aimed at safeguarding national security and development.  Nobody could dispute such a much-warranted exercise of the right to self-defence.

The representative of the European Union, in right of reply, regretted taking the floor on behalf of the European Union and its Member States in response to the statement by the Russian Federation referring to so-called referenda on Ukrainian territory.  The European Union firmly rejected and unequivocally condemned the illegal annexation by the Russian Federation, which followed the sham so-called referendum, which had nothing to do with free expression of will.  Widespread and systematic abuses of human rights and intimidation of Ukrainian citizens had been reported, including by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, which submitted its report to the General Assembly several days ago about the Russian atrocities, including arbitrary executions and detentions, torture and other ill-treatment, such as sexual and gender-based violence.

The representative of Azerbaijan, in right of reply, was compelled to answer to Armenia’s evident attempt to accuse Azerbaijan of war crimes.  It was paradoxical that Armenia would unleash aggression against others.  It had carried out ethnic cleansing on a massive scale and committed other crimes during the war and was now talking about territorial claims.  Over the years, Armenia had provided inaccurate and incomplete information on its armed forces in the annual exchange of military information, including in the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.  In contrast to Armenia's assertion in regard to imaginary aggression, it had been Azerbaijan, which, after the end of the conflict, had initiated the process of normalizing relations based on mutual recognition and respect for each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity within the internationally recognized borders, and pushed for concrete results on three specific tracks.

Whatever Armenia claimed, the speaker said, it refused to withdraw the remnants of its armed forces while projecting itself as a proponent of human rights and democracy. Armenia continued without hesitation to deny its responsibility for numerous war crimes committed by its forces, agents and officials, and it refused to prosecute and punish the perpetrators.  Instead of attempting to distort the reality, mislead the international community and misinterpret international documents, Armenia should, first and foremost, abandon hostile narratives, cease disseminating propaganda and prosecute and punish those responsible for the numerous war crimes.  It should also commit to normalizing relations based on international law, comply faithfully with international obligations and support the efforts aiming at building, strengthening and sustaining peace and stability in the region.

The representative of Syria, in right of rely, clarified its cooperation with the IAEA.  He rejected the United States’ statement on Syria’s lack of cooperation.  That was a politicized and politically-driven statement based on hostilities against Syria.  Syria had been among the first to join the IAEA and the NPT in 1968, when the Treaty was adopted.  His country also continued to be among the first countries to work diligently on the regional and international level to establish a zone in the Middle East free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.  It had also implemented the IAEA’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, and international inspectors conducted visits annually.  Syria provided them with all they needed in accordance with the Agreement.

The speaker said that those protecting Israel, allowing it to keep its nuclear weapons, providing it with the latest technology and encouraging it to retain their nuclear facilities outside comprehensive safeguards and any kind of international oversight, could not be taken seriously when speaking about efforts towards peace and security in the Middle East and the NPT architecture.

He condemned the inappropriate language used by the representative of the United Kingdom to refer to his country’s name.  It was inappropriate language in this forum.  The speaker could use similar non-diplomatic terms, but he was keen to ensuring a constructive environment, and that prevented him from doing so.  In addition, he strongly condemned all the United Kingdom’s lies and baseless accusations regarding Syria’s cooperation with the Chemical Weapons Convention.  Syria had eliminated its chemical weapons stockpile.  The legitimacy of the investigative team was in question, as its establishment was part of a plan targeting Syria.  Those who prepared the report ignored Syria’s full cooperation with IAEA and accused it of non-compliance.  It was a politicized decision that would not serve the universality of the Chemical Weapons Convention.  Political agendas were being advanced, as evidenced by the mechanisms for decision-making that led to divisions and polarizations, and ignored the tradition of consensus-based decision-making.

British colonialism created a lot of destruction in his region, he said.  The United Kingdom sponsored terrorists in his country, provided them with all means of assistance, weapons, ammunitions, intelligence and media coverage.  British intelligence established the “White Helmets” organization that the United Nations had designated as a terrorist group, to serve its hostile policies against Syria.  They fabricated the use of chemical weapons, accused the Syrian Arab Army of using those weapons and, with that, carried out attacks on Syria.

The representative of the Republic of Korea, in right of reply, said that the allegations by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been refuted numerous times by various delegations.  Its representative had mentioned the joint military exercise started in 1954.  That was one year after the armistice, because the Republic of Korea had suffered a war of aggression started by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  That was the root cause.

Various Security Council resolutions, he noted, stated that that the armed attack on the Republic of Korea by armed forces of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea constituted a breach to peace.  This year, the world had witnessed more than 40 ballistic missile launches by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which was now preparing to conduct its seventh nuclear test.  Its recently adopted nuclear forces law lowered the threshold for nuclear weapon use and demonstrated its hostile intensions.  A threat in actions and words.

He said that combined defence and deterrence posture and the joint exercises were a response to those military threats.  Among the incidents listed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was the unfortunate 1968 attempt by that country to assassinate the President of the Republic of Korea with its special forces.  If that country intended to fulfil its stated responsibilities to build a prosperous and peaceful world, it must start with abiding by all Security Council resolutions and abandon all nuclear weapons and programmes in a complete, irreversible and verifiable manner.  Its programmes were unlawful and were the main culprit undermining sustained peace on the Korean Peninsula and beyond.  According to the Charter’s Article 25, all United Nations Member States agreed to accept and carry out Security Council decisions.  The delegation of the Republic of Korea urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to stop provocations and return to denuclearization talks, adding that doors for dialogue remained open.

The representative of Iran, in right of reply, categorically rejected the unfounded accusations against his country, underlining that the dissemination of fake news against regional actors, including through the pursuit of widespread and systematic disinformation and phobic campaigns, had long been a standard practice of the Israeli regime.  No amount of smear campaigns against others could detract from the brutalities, crimes and lawlessness of the Israeli regime.  Those included, but were not limited to, the waging of more than 15 of the wars in the region, the commission of aggression against all of its neighbours without exception, the invasion of other countries in the region and beyond, the continuation of its unlawful occupation of Palestine and parts of Syria and Lebanon, the imposition of an inhumane blockade on the Gaza Strip for over a decade, the unlawful construction and expansion of settlements, the construction of an illegal separation wall, the assassination of several Iranian nuclear scientists and the conduct of many other sabotage, subversive, divisive and destabilizing activities with far-reaching implications for international peace and security.  A brief look at the Israeli regime's practices in the area of armaments indicated their destructive and destabilizing nature, which included the massive accumulation of the most sophisticated conventional weapons, the development of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass instruction, as well as clandestine nuclear activities in unsafeguarded nuclear facilities.

He said that the Israeli regime also refused to join international legally binding instruments banning weapons of mass instruction, while hampering all international efforts aimed at establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, as proposed by Iran in 1974.  The fact that the Israeli regime admitted that it would continue to destroy Iranian capabilities proved, without a doubt, that it had been responsible for the terrorist attacks against Iranian peaceful nuclear programme in the past.  The Israeli regime should be held accountable for the consequences of its unlawful measures.

The speaker implored the Government of the United Kingdom to uphold its legal responsibilities in relation to nuclear disarmament under the NPT’s Article VI.  The indisputable fact was that that country was in flagrant non-compliance, not just by disobeying that responsibility, but also by strengthening its nuclear arsenal and participating in nuclear sharing with the United States.  That and more seriously complicated its non-proliferation obligations.  The United Kingdom had fallen short of living up to its JCPOA obligations when it came to Iran's peaceful nuclear programme.

Contrary to the claims by Saudi Arabia, Iran was upholding its commitments, said the speaker, adding that Iran looked forward to Saudi Arabia fully meeting the long-time requests of the IAEA to ensure a safeguarded nuclear programme.

The representative of the United States, in right of reply, said that given the small amount of time allotted, he would not respond to the statements against his country by China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or even by Syria and Iran, primarily because they recapitulated well-known positions.  He would respond, however, to the Russian Federation because of the implied threat to take specific action.  That was a very serious charge that somehow the Ukrainians with the assistance of Americans and others were preparing a “dirty bomb” to widen the war even further.  The United States Government was concerned enough about the threat that high-level officials had reached out to their Russian counterparts to talk to them about that.  It struck the United States as disinformation to create a potential pretext for the Russian Federation to use a tactical weapon.  He urged the Russian Federation to refrain from those kinds of implicit threats.

The representative of Armenia, in right of reply, deplored Azerbaijan’s attempts to justify heinous crimes and violations of arms control regimes and norms by presenting sovereignty claims.  Moreover, this Committee discussed international security issues and not the legal status of territories.  That was dangerous behaviour, he said, pointing to the history of such claims, voiced in the past by aggressors and perpetrators of crimes.

Similarly, he said, throughout the years, Azerbaijan had tried to justify its non-compliance with conventional arms regimes, under the pretext of ending the conflict, and had rejected all proposals by mediators aimed at establishing confidence-building and security mechanisms.  It used that pretext to continue its massive military build-up and its policy of military aggression.  Reacting to the point of inciting hatred, he recalled the finding by the United Nations Committee on the elimination of racial discrimination’s concern about the grave human rights violations committed during the 2020 hostilities by Azerbaijani military forces against persons of Armenian origin.  Moreover, the speaker expressed concern about the destruction of Armenian cultural heritage, like churches, and about incitement of racial hatred and propagation of racial stereotypes against people of Armenian nationality or ethnic origin by public figures and government officials.

The massive amount of evidence pointing to Azerbaijani criminal conduct by its military was undeniable, he said.  Moreover, it was massively celebrated in that country.  It was ever more imperative that all acts of atrocities were fully investigated and that the perpetrators were brought to justice.

Lastly, Azerbaijan did not speak about its peaceful intentions, he said.  While peace talks were under way, threats of use of force were constantly voiced and actual force was used on the ground.  Aggression was carried out by one negotiating country against the other.  Azerbaijan’s most recent attack only demonstrated that, in the absence of proper accountability measures, policies of aggression would likely continue and increase.  That must be stopped.

The representative of Saudi Arabia, in right of reply, responded to the comments made by Iran.  The “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” had signed and ratified the Safeguard Agreement with the IAEA in 2009.  As known to everyone, that agreement applied to countries without nuclear or enrichment activities.  Saudi Arabia was resolutely committed to meeting its international obligations, and it called on Iran to follow suit.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, stated that the Korean War had been instigated by the United States in order to realize its “wild ambition” to rule over the whole Korean Peninsula and to seek dominance over the whole world.  History could not be denied.  The aggressive nature of the United States had not changed in the least.  It was somewhat erratic for “South Korea” to interfere out of nowhere to speak for the United States.  It was prophetic that “South Korea” should heavily depend on the United States for its own security and import advanced military hardware from the United States.  The current “South Korean” conservative force was resorting to an extremely ferocious, confrontational policy against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, thus driving the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war.  The current southern Korean conservative force designated the Government and army of his country as the archnemesis and was resorting to all sorts of evil and inappropriate acts.  “South Korea” was frantically involved in dangerous military actions and modernization of armaments as well as increased response capability through the establishment of the so-called “Three-Axis” defence system strategic command and was now conducting joint military exercises with the United States.  His country would closely watch “South Korea’s” dangerous military actions and respond more strongly to any military provocation.

The representative of the Russian Federation was compelled once more to take the floor in order to respond to some baseless accusations again made by the delegations of the European Union and the United States.  The special military operation in Ukraine was being carried out by the Russian Federation in full compliance with its international commitments, including those foreseen in international law.  Regarding the referendums, the representative said there were provocations by the Kyiv regime, which carried out massive artillery attacks on the people and on civilian targets.  Despite that, the people were not intimidated from going to the polls and expressing their will.  They made a conscious choice in favour of “Russia”, and they had the opportunity to independently and freely express their opinion.  That was confirmed by many observers who were present and expressed that the referendums were carried out in full compliance with the principle of equality of self-determination of peoples enshrined in the Charter.

As for the situation with the “dirty bomb”, he stated that the delegation of the United States was merely confirming what had been said about the fact that a scenario would unfold in which there was a provocation by the Kyiv regime.  He wanted the international community to see what was going on and asked the Kyiv authorities and the Western parties to control them to stop undertaking acts which would lead the world to the brink of a nuclear disaster and imperil the lives of completely innocent civilians.  It was enough “rocking of the nuclear boat”.

The representative of Azerbaijan, in right of reply, refuted the distortion by the Armenian delegation.  The insinuations raised the question about whether the delegation knew the function of the First Committee.  The answer to that question was negative.  Instead of repeating a narrative, Armenia should understand once and for all that respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity was absolutely imperative for regional security.  The goal of a peaceful region could not be achieved by disrespecting international law, resorting to provocations and endlessly repeating outdated narratives.

He said that immediately after the November 2020 conflict’s end, Azerbaijan had initiated a project to normalize State relations in order to contribute to broader regional peace.  The moment the conflict was resolved, Azerbaijan repeated its efforts to start negotiations on a peace agreement, based on mutual recognition of sovereignty and territorial integrity.  In the current post-conflict stage, the absolute priority for Azerbaijan was long-term sustainable peace.  At the present critical juncture, all efforts should be geared towards making irreversible peace and signing the peace treaty based on Azerbaijan’s five‑point proposal.  There was no alternative to peace.  He demanded that Armenia cease its artificial delays and pointless excuses, which testified its non-constructive attitude towards its obligations.

The representative of Armenia, in right of reply, said that Azerbaijan’s unapologetic use of force undermined arms control regimes in the region.  Azerbaijan had made its continued aggression to acquire territories a “new normal” for the region.  Azerbaijan was the threat to regional peace and security and should be condemned and stopped.  The international community’s response was vital to reverse the spiral of violence in the region.  Azerbaijan should retreat from the sovereign territories of Armenia, release prisoners of war, clarify information on victims of forced disappearances and observe the ceasefire.

Outer Space (Disarmament Aspects of)

GRATA ENDAH WERDANINGTYAS (Indonesia) speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that prevention of an arms race in outer space, including a ban to deploy or use weapons therein, would avert a grave danger for international peace and security.  She rejected the declaration by the United States in 2018 that “space is a warfighting domain” or “the next battlefield”, and accordingly, restated the urgent need for the start of substantive work in the Conference on Disarmament on preventing an outer space arms race.

She remained concerned over the negative implications of development and deployment of anti-ballistic-missile defence systems and the threat of the weaponization of outer space, which had contributed to further erosion of an international climate conducive to strengthening of international security.  The abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty brought new challenges to international peace and stability, and to preventing an outer space arms race.  The negative security consequences of deployment of strategic missile defence systems could trigger an arms race and lead to further development of advanced missile systems, as well as increase the number of nuclear weapons.  While voluntary transparency and confidence-building measures might partially contribute to reducing mistrust and enhancing the safety of outer space operations in the short-term, they were no substitute for the early conclusion of a legally binding instrument.

MUHAMMAD ZAYYANU BANDIYA (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said outer space and celestial bodies must be safeguarded as the common heritage of humankind.  They could only be used, explored, and utilized for peaceful purposes and for the benefit of all Member States, irrespective of their social, economic or scientific development.  An arms race in outer space should be prevented through a legally binding instrument, complementing the international legal framework.  The planet, including outer space, should be free of nuclear weapons, as their presence was an existential threat to global peace and humanity’s future survival.

He said that substantive negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament must begin on legally binding and multilaterally verifiable instruments to prevent an arms race in outer space.  The African Group called on the United Nations to promote equal and non-discriminatory access to outer space for all nations.  Intentionally created space debris arising from deliberate destruction of space systems were of major concern, owing to the consequences on the future exploration and use of outer space.  Its mitigation and the prohibition of their intentional creation should be among the priorities at the United Nations.

SYED MOHAMAD HASRIN AIDID (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the ASEAN, said the world had witnessed much change since the dawn of the space age some six decades ago.  In that regard, all activities must be conducted in accordance with international law and the principle of non-appropriation of outer space.  It was incumbent on all States to ensure that the use and exploration of outer space remained peaceful.  The General Assembly must play a vital role in fostering continued dialogue on current issues and challenges in that field.  ASEAN reaffirmed the need for a universal, comprehensive and non-discriminatory multilateral approach towards the issue of missiles, negotiated multilaterally within the United Nations.  Any initiatives on the subject should take into account the security concerns of all States and the inherent right to peaceful use of space technology.  He reiterated ASEAN’s call on all Member States, in particular those with major space capabilities, to contribute to the goal of preventing an arms race in outer space as an essential condition for the promotion of international cooperation.

Mr. MOHAMMED AL-TAIE (Iraq), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group and associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, underscored the importance of the use of outer space for peaceful purposes only.  All forms of armaments in that domain must be prohibited.  The current agreements should keep pace with developments and declarations, including those made by States on launching armed attacks on assets in outer space.  Outer space was a common heritage of humankind, and all activities there needed to be regulated under United Nations’ auspices.  He called for a legally binding instrument to prevent an outer space arms race.

Any endeavors to regulate outer space, he said, must keep in mind all States’ interests and not obstruct the inherent right to the realm’s peaceful use.  Outer space should be free of conflict, and legally binding instruments should cover the prohibition of weapon placements, attacks on bodies in outer space and weapon testing.  International cooperation should be promoted.  Increased tension on the international level and increased dependency on outer space for reasons of strategic importance, increased risks.  In that vein, the Arab Group welcomed the Open-Ended Working Group’s pursuit of limiting space threats through principles, rules and norms on responsible conduct.

Mr. VORONTSOV (Russian Federation) speaking on behalf of a group of like-minded countries on the topic, said that the suggestion to undertake a political commitment not to conduct destructive direct ascent anti-satellite missile tests was a step in the right direction.  At the same time, it was an insufficient guarantee of the exclusively peaceful use of outer space and did not fully address the task of preventing an arms race there.  The initiative related to that type of missile test contained several significant omissions.  The adoption of such commitment did not imply the renouncement of developing and manufacturing the anti-satellite systems, their combat use or non-destructive anti-satellite missile tests.  Nor was the elimination of the already available weapons of that type envisaged.  As a result, if that initiative became universal, it would benefit a certain group of States that were already in possession of such means, while others, primarily the developing countries, would find themselves in a discriminated position.  All that was exacerbated by the absence of a definition of anti-satellite missile weapons and their testing, as well as of a verification mechanism related to that political commitment.

Mr. KARCZMARZ, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, stated that many of the systems and services that were today essential for well-being and security depended directly or indirectly on space.  Agreeing on norms of responsible behaviors was a first step to maintaining space security.  The space environment was becoming increasingly congested, contested and competitive.  The destruction of space objects or interruptions of their services posed threats and risks to connected societies increasingly dependent on those services.  Furthermore, the dual-use nature of many space objects and systems posed challenges when it came to protecting space assets and identifying threats, distinguishing between innocuous behaviours and potentially threatening ones.

He was concerned about the development, testing and potential proliferation of anti-satellite weapons.  Among the most imminent threats were destructive direct‑ascent anti-satellite tests, whose most harmful effects could be the destruction of the targeted satellite, as well as the collateral generation of multiple space debris.  The Union strongly condemned the Russian Federation’s conduct of a kinetic direct-ascent anti-satellite weapon test against its own satellite, COSMOS 1408, as a clear act of irresponsible behaviour in outer space.  It generated a large amount of space debris that constituted a recurring risk for crewed and uncrewed space activities, including at the International Space Station.  The conduct of such tests was dangerous and highly destabilizing, and could potentially lead to deteriorating the confidence between space actors, thereby increasing the perception of threats.

Ms. CASSELS (Canada) said that space was an integral part of daily life, enabling navigations, cell phone service, financial transactions and more.  The viability of space operations was increasingly vulnerable to both natural and man-made threats, yet outer space lacked an international norms regime.  General Assembly resolution 75/36 and the Open-Ended Working Group on space threat were welcome steps towards a new approach to space security, especially given the long-standing deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament.  To prevent an arms race in outer space, it was time for a pragmatic approach that included objective descriptions of responsible conduct, for which she cited as a promising example the United States’ commitment to refrain from direct-ascent anti-satellite missile testing.  Eliminating such tests reduced tensions in space and preventing debris‑creation, which threatened all personnel and spacecraft in operation.  Pragmatic broadly adopted norms would become legally binding international law in the future and reduce the potential for misunderstanding, miscalculations and hostilities surrounding space.

Mr. PARNOHADININGRAT (Indonesia), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and ASEAN, noted the increased threat of weaponization and militarization of outer space, and said that preventing and outer space arms race assumed even greater urgency.  He recognized the significance of existing international regimes on outer space, including the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, but said they were inadequate to deter militarization and weaponization.  He reiterated the call for the immediate negotiation and conclusion of a legally binding international instrument on the prevention of an arms race in outer space in all its aspects.  The conclusion of that instrument should contribute to preventing the increasing risks and threats.  Greater transparency and confidence-building measures, including data-sharing and accurate information on outer space activities, could lessen misunderstandings and prevent conflicts.  However, those had limitations, particularly because they were not legally binding.

Ms. PETIT (France) said her country was committed to the preservation of a safe space environment, as well as to respect for the full applicability of international law to space activities, such as freedom of access and its peaceful use.  France remained firmly committed to the prevention of an arms race in space.  The benefits derived from space applications could be threatened by risks of incidents, deliberate or even hostile acts, which could exacerbate the proliferation of space debris and threaten the safety, stability, security and sustainability of the use of space.  The draft treaty on the prevention of the first deployment of weapons in outer space tabled in the Conference on Disarmament, as well as the related resolutions presented in the First Committee had many deficiencies.  They did not define what a weapon in outer space was, nor did they address the challenge of verification.  Those, therefore, could increase mistrust and the risk of misunderstandings about States’ activities and intentions.

Moreover, she continued, with the majority of space assets being dual‑use, the distinction between military and civilian, threatening and non-threatening capabilities, and ultimately the choice to prohibit some over others, was an uneasy one and would inevitably impact the technological and economic development of all nations, especially emerging space-faring nations.  She added that the Treaty on the Prevention of Weapons in Outer Space and of the Threat of Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects and related initiatives did not address all threats, including those from the ground into space, such as the ones generated by destructive anti-satellite tests fired from the ground.

ABDELRHMAN MOHAMED FARID HEGAZY (Egypt), associating with the Arab Group, Non-Aligned Movement, and the African Group, said outer space was the shared heritage of all people equally throughout the world.  Considering the extreme volatility of the outer space environment, it must not become a scene of military conflict.  Besides confidence-building as interim steps, there was a clear need for legally binding measures to fill existing legal gaps.  Their scope should include the prohibition of weapons placement, threat or use of force against satellites or other assets, intentionally harming, interfering or interrupting the functioning of outer space assets, and developing, testing or stockpiling weapons there.  Those legally binding instruments could be complemented by a set of tools on transparency, dispute-settlement and consultation mechanisms.  The Governmental Group of Experts saw substantial progress, he said, noting appreciation for the Open-Ended Working Group on space threats.  In that regard, Sri Lanka and Egypt tabled a draft resolution on preventing an outer space arms race, for which he welcomed consensus adoption (document A/77/C.1/L.3).

Ms. MCINTYRE (Australia) said that the definitional challenges of a weapon, particularly in relation to dual-use space objects, and rapidly developing new technology, had yet to be adequately addressed.  The technical challenge of verifying the attributes of any object in space to assess if it was a weapon or not was significant.  She reiterated Australia’s stance that responsible behaviours, actions or activities were ones that were clearly communicated and avoided surprises, respected the safety and security of other actors and beneficiaries, and contributed to stability and risk reduction.  Earlier this year, the United States had made a commitment to refrain from destructive, direct‑ascent anti-satellite missile testing.  Such testing was irresponsible, could generate large amounts of debris and could be viewed as threatening behaviour.  Australia would join the United States and a growing number of other States by committing not to conduct such testing.  She called for all States to join the initiative and seize the practice.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, in right of reply, said he wished to respond to the “baseless accusations” made by the delegation of the European Union in connection with outer space activities carried out by the Russian Federation.  He wished to provide explanations with regard to what had been carried out on the 15th of November by the Russian ministerial defence:  an act on one of its own “ineffective” space objects that had been in orbit for quite some time.  It had been carried out in strict conformity with international law and was not directed against anyone.  Considering the time of the test and the orbit, it did not pose any threat or create any difficulties to any space stations or outer space objects or activities.  With regard to other States’ capabilities, the Russian Federation, from the very beginning of its outer space exploration, had held to a consistent course, aimed at preventing an arms race in outer space and keeping space free for peaceful purposes.

The representative believed it was necessary to agree as quickly as possible on an international legally binding instrument to prevent an outer space arms race.  Many developing countries called for that, and the Russian-Chinese draft treaty on the topic which also included prevention of the threat or use of force against outer space objects, was an answer to that.  The Russian international initiative on a political commitment to refrain from a first placement of weapons in outer space was currently the only instrument to keep space free from weapons.

The representative of the United States, speaking in right of reply on behalf of six other countries, said that intensifying strategic competition presented a challenge to international peace and security.  That competition was increasing the potential for conflict, which extended into outer space.  One could no longer speak of “no first placement of weapons in outer space” because, in reality, that had already occurred.  Confrontation or conflict in outer space was not inevitable.  The representative sought to ensure that outer space remained free from conflict and had long advocated a comprehensive approach to address issues that could lead to conflict in outer space, including all issues related to the prevention of an arms race in that domain.  Oftentimes, however, false arguments were heard that working on norms and rules and principles of responsible behaviours meant not working on arms control.  That was incorrect.  Norms were elements of risk reduction, and risk reduction was an element of arms control.  The United States was committed to progress in developing transparency and confidence-building measures and norms of responsible behaviour in outer space which could ultimately lead towards the negotiation of a legally binding agreement on destructive, direct-ascent anti-satellite missile tests.

For information media. Not an official record.