Existence of Nuclear Weapons Creates Temptation, Risk of Use, First Committee Hears as It Unpacks Assumptions about Complex Path to Peace
Thematic Debate Begins on Other Mass Destruction Weapons
Disarmament is not a lofty ideal, but a practical imperative, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) heard today as it concluded its thematic debate on nuclear weapons and began debating other mass destruction weapons.
Nuclear weapons, the most inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created, remain a constant spectre of destruction, Namibia’s representative warned. Their sheer existence, capable of unimaginable harm to humanity and the planet, creates a temptation and risk of use. Decisions made today will impact the planet left to future generations, she cautioned.
Zambia’s speaker warned of a “probable risk” of nuclear war, as long as retention persists. Nuclear weapons have no place in the modern world, and there is no justification for their proliferation, testing and stockpiling. Their destructive power has fueled international tensions and created an uncertain, unsafe world. Relying on deterrence for security only perpetuates a cycle of fear, where mutually assured destruction looms over the world community, he said.
The representative of Colombia echoed the deep concern about the fragile premise that nuclear defence and deterrence systems provide security. “We are on the brink of an abyss”, she said. Two major nuclear Powers have suspended bilateral strategic dialogue and disagreements are increasing. The risk of a nuclear war is not zero, and the assumption that it would be possible to contain the fallout is a “pipe dream”.
As the Committee concluded its thematic debate on nuclear weapons and proceeded to discuss other weapons of mass destruction, several speakers reiterated that all such weapons — including biological and chemical weapons — must not be used by anyone, anywhere, under any circumstance and at any time. All those responsible for their use must be held accountable.
The Russian Federation’s delegate, speaking on behalf of a group of 14 States, condemned the use of chemical or biological weapons as repugnant to humankind’s conscience. However, other speakers — such as the Czech Republic’s representative — questioned the credibility of this condemnation, stating that the Russian Federation continues to spread disinformation about the “Syrian chemical dossier” and an alleged “military-grade biological programme” in Ukraine.
In that vein, Germany’s delegate denounced the Russian Federation’s false allegations against Ukraine’s biological threat reduction projects as an abuse of the Conventions on Biological and Chemical weapons, as well as another futile attempt to justify its war of aggression.
At the outset, the President of the ninth Review Conference on the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) briefed the Committee on its work.
The First Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m., Wednesday, 18 October, to continue its thematic debate on weapons of mass destruction.
LEONARDO BENCINI (Italy), President of the ninth Review Conference on the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), noted that the Conference took place in an international context that hardly could have been more challenging. While deadlock on disarmament dates back years and is rooted in long-standing cleavages, the war in Ukraine exacerbated divisions. Prospects for an agreement at the Conference were not promising. The lack of a consensus final document from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)’s tenth Review Conference added to general pessimism. However, from the beginning, the Conference tried turning this limitation into an opportunity, especially for proposals on the table for quite some time. The Conference prioritized exercising maximum self-discipline and focusing on what mattered to reach consensus. Other priorities were facilitating cross-regional dialogue and inclusiveness.
As a result, the Conference broke the deadlock that had prevented any progress on the Convention’s implementation for more than 20 years. The participants agreed on a clear roadmap for the entire four-year review cycle, leaving open the possibility of an “early harvest” in 2025. The Conference established a working group to identify, examine and develop measures to strengthen the Convention and its implementation, with no issue off the table — including compliance, verification and possible legally binding measures. The Conference also made progress on institutionalizing the Convention by developing a mechanism on international cooperation and assistance and another to review technological and scientific developments.
Thematic Debate, Nuclear Weapons
HAMAD ALNUAIMI (United Arab Emirates) described the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as the lynchpin of the global non-proliferation regime. He stressed the importance of its three pillars and urged all States to renew their commitments to use nuclear power for peaceful purposes. In this regard, it is critical to adopt a transparent and verifiable approach in line with the NPT and other relevant treaties. Establishing a Middle East zone free of nuclear and other mass destruction weapons is of the utmost importance to his country. On the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), he urged ratification by the Annex II countries. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards plays an important role, and his country is undertaking its nuclear programmes in line with this system.
BOSTJAN JERMAN (Slovenia) said that the NPT is a framework to rid the world of nuclear weapons. The conclusion of a fissile material cut-off treaty should be the next step towards nuclear disarmament. Until then, the international community should build national moratoriums on producing fissile materials. The national reporting on NPT implementation and nuclear risk reduction efforts are necessary steps towards nuclear disarmament for both nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon States. More transparency is needed to improve confidence-building between those groups of countries and contribute to risk reduction. Nuclear disarmament verification also represents a new avenue towards nuclear disarmament. A Group of Governmental Experts recently delivered its report and recommendations. Work should be based on these suggestions, including the creation of a group of scientific and technical experts. Slovenia is co-sponsoring the draft on nuclear disarmament verification proposed by Brazil and Norway.
CHOLA MILAMBO (Zambia) said that as long as nuclear States continue holding on to their nuclear weapons, there is a “probable risk” that humanity may be subjected to a nuclear war. “Nuclear weapons have no place in the modern world, thus there is no justification for nuclear weapon proliferation, testing and stockpiling,” he stressed. The most compelling argument for nuclear disarmament lies in the catastrophic humanitarian consequences they would inflict if detonated. Their “sheer destructive power” has fuelled international tensions and created an uncertain and unsafe world. Contrary to popular justification by nuclear-weapon States that nuclear weapons serve as a deterrent, nuclear weapons do not guarantee national security. “Relying on nuclear deterrence as a security means only perpetuates a cycle of fear, where the possibility of mutually assured destruction looms over the international community,” he added.
BALQEES JANAHI (Bahrain) emphasized that the threat of use or use of nuclear weapons is prohibited by the NPT’s article VI. All States must join the NPT and subject their nuclear facilities to IAEA comprehensive safeguards. She reiterated full support for establishing a Middle East zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. She also reiterated the right of Member States to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and encouraged the exchange of expertise on such use. Bahrain values technical cooperation with the IAEA and seeks to develop its national capacities in nuclear sciences, environment, health and clean energy.
KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar) pointed out that the NPT’s three pillars have not been implemented in a balanced manner. The CTBT’s ratification has been on the rise but it has not entered force. Annex II States should not condition their ratification on that of other Annex II States. He urged the building of momentum towards the universalization of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and stressed the need to resolve differences on a fissile material cut-off treaty in the Conference on Disarmament. Myanmar will table a resolution on nuclear disarmament, which advocates for comprehensive measures in this domain. The situation in his country is heart-breaking as the military junta commits crimes against humanity. An embargo is the only way to stop their brutality. He implored some States to stop selling weapons to the junta, whose ambition to build nuclear reactors must also be scrutinized by the international community.
NOHRA MARIA QUINTERO CORREA (Colombia) expressed deep concern that bilateral strategic dialogue between two major nuclear Powers has been suspended. One of them has even suspended its participation in the New START Treaty and in conversations on a legal follow-up mechanism, which expires in 2026. Owing to the “fragility of the premise that nuclear weapons defensive systems and systems of deterrence”, the policy does not provide security. Nuclear weapons challenge the very existence of humankind. “We are on the brink of an abyss; disagreements are increasing and the spectre of nuclear threat as well as the horrific nightmare of a nuclear winter looms,” she warned. Nuclear war would be a catastrophe, unleashing a domino effect that could ultimately lead to the collapse of human civilization. The risk of a nuclear war is not zero, and the assumption that it would be possible to contain the fallout is merely a “pipe dream”.
HELENA NDAPEWA KUZEE (Namibia), recognizing nuclear weapons as the most inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created, warned that they remain a constant spectre of destruction, capable of unimaginable harm to humanity and the planet. She called on all nations to support and ratify the NPT, TPNW and CTBT. Disarmament is not a lofty ideal, but a practical imperative. The sheer existence of nuclear weapons creates both the temptation and risk of their use. Her country remains concerned that nuclear-weapon States continue to spend exorbitant amounts on modernization. She called for the scale-up of investments in disarmament education and awareness programmes. Decisions made today will impact the planet left to future generations.
LARBI ABDELFATTAH LEBBAZ (Algeria) noted that the catastrophic consequences of the use of nuclear weapons are referenced in numerous UN resolutions. Nuclear disarmament is not just a legal obligation but a moral one. His country reiterates its unwavering commitments to implement the NPT’s three pillars. He urged nuclear-weapon States to fulfil their primary responsibility, and expressed regret over the deadlock at the NPT Review Conferences and its preparatory process. It is crucial to preserve the credibility of that regime. He also called for implementation of the TPNW and its Vienna Action Plan. Algeria is steadfast in implementing the CTBT, urging the eight Annex II States to ratify it without delay. His country is among the first African States to join the region’s nuclear-weapon-free zone. Demands for such a zone in the Middle East are legitimate. Closing, he called for legally binding negative security assurances.
GABRIELE CACCIA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, said that when nuclear war becomes a reality, it is regrettable that the international community has collectively moved in the wrong direction, discarding important treaties on arms control, disarmament and transparency. The global disarmament machinery remains deadlocked. The Holy See was disappointed at the increased levels of polarization and mistrust at the first preparatory session of the NPT’s eleventh Review Conference. Also regrettable is the inability of the Conference on Disarmament to adopt a work programme, and the failure of the Disarmament Commission to reach consensus on recommendations for achieving nuclear disarmament and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
When flexibility is needed most, he said, there is a “downward spiral” of arms control and disarmament policies. In response to these stumbling blocks, Member States, especially those with nuclear weapons, should recall their responsibility under the UN Charter and take effective collective measures for the preservation and removal of threats to peace. This responsibility must extend to the elimination of nuclear weapons, given their catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Syria responded to the statement delivered yesterday by the Israeli representative. “She made unfounded accusations,” he said. That entity has escalated the criminal attacks, which has taken an unprecedented toll on civilians. The entity continues to attack cities, airports and other civilian structures in Syria. The “Zionist entity” has terrorized Palestinians and Arabs.
There has been proof that “the entity” supported the “Al-Nusra Group” in the Golan region and cared for them in Israeli hospitals, he continued. Israel, whose representative speaks about respecting international law and civilians, continues to launch attacks against civilians. The claim that Syria used chemical weapons is “an act of propaganda” launched by an “entity” that occupies Syrian Territory and, therefore, is not worthy of a response.
Thematic Debate, Other Weapons of Mass Destruction
ANDY ARON (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed grave concern regarding reported Israeli use of harmful and potentially fatal incendiary weapons, such as white phosphorus, in Palestinian civilian areas. He reiterated the Movement’s call for a thorough investigation by relevant bodies under appropriate international agreements. He also reiterated condemnation of Israeli military aggression against the Gaza Strip in 2009 and 2014, as well as the occupying Power’s indiscriminate shelling and bombing of Palestinian civilian areas. He invited all States that have not yet signed or ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to do so as soon as possible. He again called on developed countries to promote international cooperation through the transfer of technology, material and equipment for peaceful chemical activities.
On biological weapons, he called for the resumption of multilateral negotiations for a non-discriminatory, legally binding protocol to strengthen the Convention in a balanced and comprehensive manner, including with verification measures. He urged the State party rejecting negotiations to reconsider its policy. Regarding Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) and subsequent resolutions, he underscored the need to ensure that any Council action does not undermine the functions and power of the General Assembly. He cautioned against the Council’s continuing practice of using its authority to define legislative requirements for Member States. He also stressed that the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by non-State actors should be addressed in an inclusive and non-discriminatory manner by the Assembly, taking into account all Member States’ views.
ANOUPARB VONGNORKEO (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), recognized the challenges posed by current and emerging traditional and non-traditional security issues such as terrorism, and chemical, biological and radiological threats. These require all countries to strengthen cooperation. ASEAN recognizes the CWC as a successful multilateral agreement. All 10 ASEAN member States are parties to it. He urged those States that have not yet signed or ratified it to do so as soon as possible, in the interest of achieving its universality. ASEAN is also committed to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) and recognizes the need for multilateral negotiations, particularly on a verification measure, the lack of which challenges the Treaty’s effectiveness.
He said that under the ambit of the Network of ASEAN Chemical, Biological and Radiological Defence Experts, established in 2018, several meetings, visits, workshops and virtual table-top exercises have been organized to strengthen regional preparedness and cooperation against chemical, biological and radiological threats. In addition, the Regional Secretariat of the European Union Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence in Southeast Asia has been working closely with the Network of ASEAN Chemical, Biological and Radiological Defence Experts. Building on this cooperation, the workshop on detection, response and deterrence of biological and radiological incidents will be jointly organized from 30 October to 3 November in Singapore.
BRIAN CHRISTOPHER MANLEY WALLACE (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that the use of chemical weapons and toxic chemicals as weapons anywhere, by anyone, under any circumstances, is unjustifiable and contrary to international law. The use of those weapons poses environmental and health consequences. Thus, their use must be fully and impartially investigated, and those responsible must be held accountable. Accountability contributes to strengthening the norm against chemical weapons’ use and provides a mechanism to offer redress to victims. The Caribbean region is dedicated to ensuring that its collective efforts can make the world safe from the threat of chemical warfare.
He warned that developments in science and technology are increasing the possibilities for the acquisition, access to and use of biological weapons, including by non-State actors. “This is a major concern,” he added. The region is also mindful that its porous maritime and land borders can create added challenges to its peace and security. In that regard, he is deeply concerned at the increasing challenges to international peace and security by terrorists and other non-State actors, particularly their possession of any type of weapons of mass destruction. To this end, the Community is working towards enhancing a counter-terrorism strategy in collaboration with the UN. Its purpose is to reduce the risk of terrorism and violent extremism and build resilience to extremist ideology.
KONSTANTIN VORONTSOV (Russian Federation), speaking on behalf of a group of countries, urged all States parties to the CWC and BWC to fully comply with all obligations. Stating that the use of chemical or biological weapons would be repugnant to humankind’s conscience, the group is determined to condemn their use by anyone, anywhere, at any time, and to hold accountable those responsible. Noting recent developments in science and technology, he called on the Secretary-General to organize a review of current guidelines and procedures of his Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons, and to revise them as necessary for submission to the General Assembly upon its request.
SULTAN NATHEIR MUSTAFA ALQAISI (Jordan), speaking for the Arab Group, recalled the General Assembly’s first special session on disarmament. Top priority was given to nuclear disarmament, but no progress has been made on this front. However, progress has been made on disarmament of other weapons of mass destruction. The Group is committed to support the CWC and BWC. Israel’s accession to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon State would lead to regional and international security and promote confidence as well as strengthen the regime’s credibility.
He said that Israel is the only State in the Middle East that has not joined the relevant treaties on weapons of mass destruction. The Group expanded arms control to include other weapons of mass destruction to refute the argument of one party for deterrence. He stressed the need to establish a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, in line with UN resolutions on the matter. He welcomed the holding of three conferences to that end, respectively, under the presidency of Jordan, Kuwait and Lebanon. The Group looks forward to the fourth meeting under Libya’s presidency. The Group fully supports efforts to prevent the acquisition by terrorists of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.
CARINE CLAEYS, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said that in recent years the world has witnessed the horrific use of chemical weapons in Iraq, Syria, the United Kingdom, the Russian Federation and Malaysia. Syria, in order to regain its rights and privileges under the CWC, needs to resolve, in full cooperation with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), pending issues, declare the full extent of its chemical weapons programme and fully comply with the Convention. The Union is united in its support for the total prohibition and elimination of chemical weapons. It is encouraged by the productivity of the Working Group on the Strengthening of the BWC in August and committed to contribute to work on all items on the agenda.
She condemned the Russian Federation’s disinformation campaigns, which undermine international peace and security as well as cooperation and assistance between States parties to the mass destruction weapons conventions. “It is unacceptable that Russia, as part of its attempts to excuse its unprovoked, unjustified and illegal war of aggression against Ukraine, continues to make unsubstantiated and false claims against Ukraine, the United States and others,” she said. The only existing international mechanism for investigating the alleged use of biological weapons is the UN Secretary-General's investigative Mechanism. The Union fully supported the establishment in the Middle East of a zone free of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.
SHUAIB MAHOMED (South Africa), noting the total elimination of all weapons of mass destruction as a key foreign policy priority, called on States not yet party to the CWC and BWC to join without delay. He called on all CWC States parties to redouble efforts to cultivate a culture of consensus and restore an environment of cooperation and mutual agreement. He urged the OPCW to intensify efforts to improve the gender balance and insist on equitable geographic distribution of staff at all levels. Drawing attention to the OPCW Africa Programme, he stressed its importance and the need to fully fund its future phases of work to guarantee sustainability. His country continues to support the Non-Aligned Movement’s position on strengthening the BWC with multilateral negotiations on a legally binding protocol.
MARIA BENEDICTA DIAH KRISTANTI (Indonesia) said that use of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological weapons, by anyone, anywhere and under any circumstances cannot be justified. This act is inhumane and has no legal validity. Her country has no interest in producing or possessing such arms. The global disarmament and non-proliferation regimes should be guided by the CWC and BWC. All declared chemical weapons have been destroyed, but undeclared stockpiles still exist. The OPCW should perform its duties free of politicization, and international cooperation should be promoted without restriction. Indonesia also upholds the norms for biological weapons. It is necessary to take a step forward in verification in this domain and ensure the full and effective implementation of article 10. On Security Council resolution 2663 (2022) on the comprehensive review of resolution 1540 (2004), the process should be inclusive and not duplicate the existing mechanisms.
AMR ESSAMELDIN SADEK AHMED (Egypt) condemned any use of weapons of mass destruction by any State or non-State actor under any circumstance. “We highlight once more the double standards in the position expressed by some Member States when they call on certain Member States by name to accede to the Conventions on Chemical and Biological Weapons, while not calling on the only Member States in the Middle East which has not joined the NPT, to do so,” he said. Egypt signed and ratified the NPT in good faith and implemented all its obligations, including the adherence to comprehensive safeguards agreements with the IAEA. Egypt calls for immediate action to address the state of strategic imbalance in the Middle East. This consistently alarming situation hampers the realization of sustainable regional security and stability and contributes to the plethora of security risks and threats that further strain the region.
PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka) urged the international community to not only uphold the CWC and BWC, but also to strengthen their implementation and verification to avoid the shocking devastation that would result from those weapons’ use. He also called for more international cooperation, and scientific and technology exchanges for peaceful purposes. The peaceful use of biotechnology has great potential and should not be hindered, because there is no peace without development. Regarding Security Council resolution 1540 (2004), he stressed that any review of its implementation should strictly abide by the UN Charter and relevant international legally binding instruments.
DIANE SHAYNE DELA FUENTE LIPANA (Philippines) said her country is steadfast in its commitment to upholding, enriching and strengthening global governance structures that prohibit the use of weapons of mass destruction and prevent their proliferation. These exigencies emphasize the need for robust strategic trade management at the national level, and bilateral, regional and international cooperation in reinforcing global non-proliferation norms. Nationally, Manila remains committed to Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) and, to that end, established a strategic trade management office, which implements relevant non-proliferation obligations. Bilaterally, the country conducted capacity-building and training activities with partners including Australia, the European Union and the United States on weapons of mass destruction and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials. Regionally, the Philippines played a crucial role in establishing in Manila the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Centres in South-East Asia.
SHIVANAND SIVAMOHAN (Malaysia) condemned in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons by anyone, under any circumstances. The re-emergence of chemical weapon attacks is a matter of great concern. “As we work to strengthen international cooperation and assistance in chemical safety and security, all discriminatory restrictions that are contrary to the spirit of the CWC should be removed,” he stressed. Transfer of chemical technology, material and equipment from developed to developing countries, for peaceful purposes, also remains important. Malaysia stands ready to consider facilitating the exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the use of biological agents and toxins for peaceful purposes. The total elimination of all weapons of mass destruction is a pressing security and ethical imperative, and a goal to which Malaysia is firmly committed to advancing,” he pledged.
JAROSLAV ŠTĚPÁNEK (Czech Republic) stated that the Russian Federation continues to spread disinformation about the Syrian chemical dossier, still challenging two international investigating bodies that concluded that the Syrian Government used chemical weapons against its population. Also, in an attempt to divert attention from its military aggression against Ukraine, the Russian Federation continues to spread “wild stories” of an alleged military-grade biological programme in Ukraine. He emphasized that no attacks against international organizations will divert focus from upholding international law and that these attacks will not constitute extenuating circumstances for committed crimes. Moreover, he underscored continued support for the Secretary-General’s Mechanism and called on States to strengthen it by nominating experts and laboratories put at its disposal.
ROBERT IN DEN BOSCH (Netherlands) spotlighted the differential gendered impacts in the domain of biological and chemical safety and security. Women are underrepresented in disarmament diplomacy, leading to exclusion of their experiences and perspectives. Research suggests that women and girls face different and, on occasion, even greater physical, psychological and social harm when biological and chemical incidents occur or when chemical and biological weapons are used. He, therefore, advocates for several concrete actions: enable research on the differentiated impacts of biological and toxic agents on women, men, girls and boys; provide gender-responsive assistance to survivors of biological and chemical incidents; adopt agenda items that consider gender perspectives in the implementation of the BWC and CWC; incorporate sex and gender analysis into public health systems; collect sex- and age-disaggregated data in public health systems and in the event of the use of biological or chemical weapons; and identify and overcome gendered communication barriers.
SANTIAGO YARAHUÁN DODERO (Mexico) said his delegation’s position is clear when it comes to the repudiation of all weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological weapons. “We reiterate that these weapons must not be used by any actor, anywhere, under any circumstance,” he stressed. Mexico believes that following the destruction of the United States’ stockpiles, it is crucially important to establish strategic opportunities for the OPCW. “We stand now before a major window of opportunity, and we stand before challenges arising from progress made in science and technologies,” he said, warning of the potential of new technologies developed in the fields of synthetic biology, biotechnology and biogenetics. All countries must have the opportunity to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, despite all the massive progress made in the fields of health, agriculture and industry, the abovementioned technologies have a dual use, which can produce risks with catastrophic global impact.
BENJAMIN HIMMLER (Germany) denounced the Russian Federation’s false allegations against biological threat reduction projects in Ukraine as an abuse of the BWC and CWC, as well as another futile attempt to justify its war of aggression. He also rejected the Russian Federation’s “thinly veiled attempts” to “review” the Secretary-General’s Mechanism, with the intention of weakening it and subjecting it to a possible Security Council veto. Regarding the well-documented cases of chemical weapons use in Syria, he strongly called on that country to fully comply with CWC obligations by resolving all pending issues and to fully cooperate with the OPCW. Germany is equally concerned about the use of internationally banned nerve agents against Sergei Skripal and Alexei Navalny, “for which there can be no other plausible explanation than Russian involvement and responsibility”. In closing, he fully supported the United States’ efforts to establish a global norm prohibiting the use of radiological weapons, which would also serve to reinvigorate the Conference on Disarmament.
RUTH HILL (Australia) said her country supports the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team in Syria. Damascus must comply with its obligations and permit verification of the complete dismantlement and destruction of its chemical weapons programme. Reports of use of prohibited riot-control agents in Ukraine by the Russian Federation’s military are deeply concerning, as is the poisoning of Alexei Navalny in 2020 with a Novichok nerve agent. Australia urges Moscow to cooperate with the OPCW Technical Secretariat. Her country condemns the Kremlin’s continued efforts to malign legitimate international cooperation and assistance activities, undertaken pursuant to the BWC article 10. Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) plays a crucial role in preventing mass destruction weapons and their delivery means from falling into the hands of non-State actors, including terrorists. Export controls and their regimes, such as the Australia Group, help States fulfil their non-proliferation objectives under the BWC and CWC, and under that Council resolution.
JORGE VIDAL (Chile) condemned the military use of biological and chemical weapons in all circumstances, at any time and in any context. These acts cannot be accepted, and he champions work that ensures they are not used. Chile is committed to the CWC and the Geneva Protocol, he said, drawing attention to the recent second meeting of the Working Group on the Strengthening of the BWC held in Geneva. All national authorities must step up actions that are under way in the field of biosecurity and bio-custodianship within this Convention. “Constant vigilance must be exercised,” he stressed. Chile also promotes the universalization of the CWC.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Russian Federation, in right of reply, rejected the “clumsily fabricated stories” about Skripal and Navalny as part of an “unbridled propaganda campaign” to exert further political and economic pressure on his country. The United Kingdom continues to refuse to engage in real discussion about what happened in Salisbury, which resulted in the injury of a Russian citizen. The United States and its allies have unleashed a story about the poisoning, while Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Sweden have all refused to cooperate or respond to his country’s questions. The OPCW has not responded to many requests for documentation either.
Referring to “unfounded accusations” against his country regarding its alleged willingness to carry out chemical attacks in Ukraine, he said his country “regularly informed” the OPCW about Ukraine’s plans to carry out chemical provocations and the provision of Ukrainian nationalists with chemical agents. He reaffirms his country’s “strict commitment” to its CWC obligations and calls on Member States to exert pressure on Ukraine to take measures preventing the use of toxic nerve agents for military purposes.
An observer for the State of Palestine, in right of reply, said nothing justifies the killing by Israel of more than 3,000 civilians in Gaza during the past 10 days. He condemns Israel’s attacks on Gaza. He asked how could self-defence mean killing more than 900 children, more than 900 women who are mothers, teachers and nurses, and more than 15 UN staff members working on the ground. Israel’s full siege of the Strip is depriving 2.3 million people of electricity, food, water and medicine. Gaza no longer has lights, except the explosives raging day and night. Weapons of mass destruction are being used by a country that sees international law as a dead letter. All these crimes are committed under the guise of self-defence while Palestinians are racing against time for humanitarian emergency relief and trying to put an end to the suffering after 17 years of the Gaza blockage and a half-century of occupation.
The representative of Israel said she is compelled to respond to statements made today and yesterday regarding her country. First, she called on the delegate to the Palestinian Authority to join in the call for the terrorist organization Hamas to release all the hostages and put an end to this war and the suffering of all innocent civilians. With regard to Syria, she said there is “clear proof” of the horrific use of chemical weapons in that country, which represents a continued violation of its CWC obligations.
Today is yet another missed opportunity to condemn the barbaric carnage of the 7 October attack on innocent Israeli civilians, she said, adding: “The silence resonates and unveils your true intentions”. The 7 October massacre cannot be justified or “contextualized”. Some invoke UN resolutions and Security Council decisions to try and justify the massacre of civilians. Iran has two faces, which it cleverly uses to distract from the fact that it is a “murderous, genocidal regime”. With one face, it speaks the language of international resolutions, human rights and non-proliferation. With its other, it speaks the language of hate, antisemitism and genocide, and orders the massacre of its own people and execution of “LGBT” persons. What would Iranian girls who were poisoned by their own government feel upon hearing its sudden adherence to human rights? she asked. By invoking UN Security Council resolutions as justification for mass murder, Iran is really unveiling the utter disdain that it has towards these very institutions.
The representative of Syria, in right of reply, responded to statements by a number of speakers regarding his country’s alleged use of chemical weapons. The large number of European Union countries that accuse his country continues to undermine the OPCW’s work by pushing for measures based on reports “fabricated in intelligence bureaus of Western States” and other parties hostile towards Syria. These countries are derailing and politicizing the OPCW’s work by prompting it to adopt resolutions that run counter to the CWC. Syria previously listed comments on the OPCW verification teams’ reports and clarified their shortcomings, including a lack of objectivity and professionalism. Syria is committed to the CWC and is ready to prove it has not used chemical weapons. The country is “enthusiastic” about the non-proliferation regime, whereas Israel should better adhere to relevant conventions on weapons of mass destruction and submit its installations to international safeguards.
The representative of the Netherlands, in right of reply, said accusations of use of riot-control agents in Ukraine by the Russian Federation’s military are extremely serious. So far, Moscow has failed to respond to requests made by several delegations at OPCW meetings, including at its last executive conference. His delegation will keep monitoring the situation. He urged all, including the OPCW Technical Secretariat, to do the same. The Russian Federation has submitted a note verbale, but that does not satisfactorily reply to the questions raised.
The representative of Ukraine, in right of reply, said his country adheres strictly to the provisions of the CWC. The Russian Federation, on the other hand, regularly violates the Convention’s provisions. Ukraine provides the OPCW Technical Secretariat with information of the Russian Federation’s use of chemical agents on the territory of Ukraine. “During the past few months, we have provided some significant information on the attacks in different regions of Ukraine, where the hostilities take place,” he said.
The Russian Federation, he continued, constantly violates the provisions of the Convention to gain a tactical advantage on the battlefield. But, despite such “barbaric methods of using riot control agents as a method of warfare”, the Ukrainian side is gathering facts and important evidence of the Russian Federation’s use of chemical weapons. Ukraine will continue to update the Technical Secretariat on the investigation of chemical agents’ use by the Russian armed forces.
The representative of Iran, in right of reply, rejected the Israeli claims against his country. No one expects this criminal regime to live up to international obligations. Since its inception, the Zionist regime has survived only through murder, crime and an iron-fist policy. Killing and destruction have been the hallmark of this regime in various wars, with the latest being the siege, forceful displacement and slaughter in Gaza, which has been made the largest open-air prison. For the past 75 years, the regime carried out more than 2,700 assassinations, an average of 78 per year, inside and outside the occupied land. He rejected Israel’s destructive actions to vilify Iran, create divisions between Iran and its neighbours, and undermine Tehran’s diplomatic efforts to resolve disputes. “Shedding crocodile tears will not cloud the truth,” he said.