Biological, Chemical Agents of War Morally Repugnant, Terrorist Breeding Ground, Say First Committee Speakers, Pointing Fingers at Convention Offenders
Delegates in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today traded allegations over non-compliance with treaties banning biological and chemical weapons, which some called “morally repugnant” and a “breeding ground” for terrorists.
As thematic debate on mass destruction weapons moved into its second day, the United States’ representative said his country irreversibly destroyed the last chemical munition in its stockpile in July. This is a vivid demonstration of its commitment to international cooperation and transparency in arms control, he said, regretting that some others “seem bent on tearing down all we have built”.
Picking up on that thread, the representatives of Norway and Switzerland noted that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations have concluded that Syria has conducted nine chemical weapons attacks against its own citizens since acceding to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
The United Kingdom’s delegate said the Russian Federation used a Novichok nerve agent in Salisbury and against Alexei Navalny and warned that any chemical or biological weapons use in Ukraine will bring severe consequences. Russian use of riot-control agents in combat, reported by Russian Officers, violates the Chemical Weapons Convention and is clearly unacceptable, he said.
Canada’s speaker said the Russian Federation continues to make unfounded allegations against the United States and Ukraine. It also persists in a blatant disinformation campaign, misusing the Biological Weapons Convention as a “political pulpit”. The Chemical Weapons Convention’s Fifth Review Conference failed to adopt a final outcome document, due largely to the intransigence of a few States which continue to defend the actions of the Assad regime.
Syria’s representative said his country has fulfilled all its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention in record time through full cooperation with the OPCW. He regrets that some States “insist on politicizing the chemical file”. He cited “unprofessional” reports by the OPCW. Some Western States use that Organisation to implement their political agenda, he added.
The representative of the Russian Federation drew attention to a military biological programme in Ukraine, which he said has the support of the United States. Biological weapons components are being developed near Russian territory, he added, calling for the development of an effective verification mechanism under the Biological Weapons Convention. Bolstering the Convention, however, has been blocked by Washington, D.C., since 2001, he said.
Along those lines, China’s delegate said the international community put forward a series of questions about the United States’ bio-military activities, but Washington, D.C., has neither provided meaningful clarifications nor taken measures to improve transparency.
Several speakers voiced profound concern over the potential of mass destruction weapons falling into the hands of terrorists and non-State actors. For its part, India supports stronger international cooperation to address it, said the country’s speaker. In 2022, India’s domestic legislative framework was amended to include prohibition of financing for these weapons.
The First Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., Thursday, 19 October, to conclude its thematic debate on mass destruction weapons and begin debate on prevention of an outer space arms race.
Thematic Debate, Other Weapons of Mass Destruction
CAMILLE PETIT (France) said that, in recent years, the taboo on the use of chemical weapons has been broken several times. She condemned the repeated use of those weapons by the Syrian regime on its own population, which has been repeatedly documented by independent mechanisms and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Damascus must be transparent about the status of its chemical weapons stockpiles in line with Security Council resolution 2118 (2013). Only strict compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) will allow Syria to restore its rights and privileges as a State party.
She said that the assassination attempt on Alexei Navalny in August 2020 with a nerve agent, as confirmed by the OPCW, is another illustration of the use of a chemical weapon on the territory of a CWC State party. France will continue to lead the fight against impunity.
CAROLINE WÖRGÖTTER (Austria) urged the Russian Federation to allow an international investigation into the attempted assassination of Alexei Navalny and to answer questions under the CWC’s Article IX. She also urgently called on the Russian Federation to stop disinformation, which carries the dangerous potential for escalation and runs counter to the Biological (BWC) and Chemical Weapons Conventions (CWC). Austria is strongly concerned about Syria’s continued lack of compliance with CWC obligations and called on the country to resolve all pending issues and fully cooperate with the OPCW. Austria fully supports the OPCW and strongly rejects any attempts to discredit it. She also reiterated unwavering support for the Secretary-General’s Mechanism (UNSGM) and its independence as a crucial international investigative instrument.
ESSA ABDULLA AL-MEHAIZAA (Qatar) recalled that the international community is cognizant of the dangers represented by weapons of mass destruction and must save humanity from the consequences of their use — especially in light of the irresponsible behaviour of certain parties flouting international law. “That is why we must continue our efforts to ban these weapons and prohibit their use for any reason,” he stressed. Peaceful settlement is the ideal choice, to rid the world of conflicts that have been exploited by terrorist groups attempting to get their hands on mass destruction weapons. He called on countries to emplace effective laws to prevent non-State actors from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction and avoid the creation of breeding grounds for terrorist groups. He reaffirmed his Government’s commitment to efforts to guarantee regional and international security and to implement all obligations as a State party to international conventions and treaties.
WICHAYAPORN KHUNDEE (Thailand), expressing support for the OPCW, voiced hope that the failure to adopt the outcome of the last review conference would not become a recurring pattern in the global disarmament architecture. She endorsed the strengthening of the BWC, particularly through the establishment of an effective verification mechanism. In that, she welcomed the decision to create a working group dedicated to that purpose. Thailand recognizes the vital role of Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004) in preventing mass destruction weapons’ proliferation, possession or use, she said, highlighting the risk of those substances falling into the wrong hands. In this context, she pointed to the Regional Industry Outreach Conference for Southeast Asia, which Thailand co-hosts with Germany and the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, aimed at promoting collaboration between governments and industry to support the implementation of the 1540 (2004). At the same time, Thailand strongly supports the peaceful and legitimate use of biochemical research and industry.
ARSEN OMAROV (Kazakhstan) expressed a commitment to the CWC and welcomed the United States’ announcement on the destruction of its last stockpile. He also reaffirmed the fundamental importance of the BWC. The COVID-19 pandemic created a political momentum to look closely at the intersecting issues of health and security. The missing element in this domain is a mechanism to enforce the prohibition of biological weapons and promote peaceful use of biotechnologies under the BWC. Kazakhstan’s President proposed establishment of an international agency for biological safety and security guided by the BWC. Such a step would strengthen the Convention’s institutionalization and enable a peaceful exchange of biotechnologies. Astana is strictly committed to implementing Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) and has been improving the system of combating illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials.
HUSHAM AHMED (Pakistan) stated that the real challenge for the chemical and biological regimes is to mitigate unprecedented risks from evolving technology, while harnessing its peaceful benefits without impeding access or raising new barriers for cooperation. Control measures should be commensurate and applied in a non-discriminatory manner. While reaffirming the OPCW’s efficacy and impartiality, he said that extending the Secretariat’s remit to attribution is inconsistent with the technical nature of its work. It is for States parties to consider attribution issues in light of the Secretariat’s technical findings. Pakistan also supports the call for regular review of the UNSGM guidelines and procedures. Moreover, concluding a legally binding verification protocol under the BWC would prevent biological weapons use.
AL ASHKAR ADIB (Syria) said his country has adhered to the CWC and BWC, proceeding from its belief that any use of chemical weapons by any party, anywhere, under any circumstances is prohibited. His Government is also seeking to make the Middle East a region free of all weapons of mass destruction, and tabled a draft resolution on the matter during its membership on the Security Council. The fundamental obstacle to creating a zone free of such weapons in his region is Israeli intransigence and refusal to join the related conventions, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), under the cover of its friends and allies and the United States “umbrella” of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The Israeli entity is alone in the Middle East in having acquired mass destruction weapons and refusing to join any major non-proliferation instrument, making it the central threat to regional peace and security.
Syria, he said, has met all its obligations under the CWC in record time through full cooperation with the OPCW. It is regrettable that some States “insist on politicizing the chemical file”, continuing to accuse Syria, doubting its cooperation with the Organisation. He further cited the unprofessional reports issued by the OPCW in that regard. Those same States manipulated the Convention to impose a resolution against Syria at the twenty-fifth Conference of States parties, while the OPCW’s use by some Western States to implement their political agenda have harmed its credibility. In light of the serious threats posed by terrorist groups’ acquisition of chemical weapons, he recalled that his delegation has addressed the “1540 Committee” in order to achieve a coordinated international response. An international coordination mechanism should be established, as well as a convention in that regard.
MUHAMMAD ABDUL MUHITH (Bangladesh) emphasizing the grave danger that weapons of mass destruction pose to global peace and the moral fabric of humanity, expressed deep concern about the increasing risk of terrorists and non-State actors accessing or using them. Bangladesh remains dedicated to the full, effective and non-discriminatory implementation of all CWC provisions. Upholding the credibility and integrity of the OPCW is crucial, and Bangladesh cooperates with the Organisation to promote the peaceful use of chemicals, ensuring preparedness for chemical incidents in Bangladeshi hospitals since 2019. On biological weapons, he underscored the need for collective action in addressing present and future biological threats, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which “revealed our shared vulnerability to the potentially catastrophic consequences of pathogens and other biological threats”. In this regard, he called for effective implementation of Article 10 of the BWC, fostering international cooperation, assistance and technology exchanges for peaceful purposes.
YOON SEONGMEE (Republic of Korea) referring to the ongoing war in Ukraine, noted that, despite the remarkable achievement of the CWC, the current international security environment is posing serious challenges. The use of chemical weapons can never be tolerated by anyone under any circumstances, she said, expressing deep concern over the lack of progress in the investigation of the alleged use of those weapons in Syria. In this context, she urged Syria to cooperate with the OPCW to redress the situation immediately. Warning against the re-emergence of chemical weapons, she called on the four remaining non-States parties to join the CWC as early as possible, without any precondition. Recalling the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, she pointed to the need to strengthen national and global capacity against biological threats. In this regard, the Republic of Korea attaches great importance to enhancing biosafety and biosecurity by fully implementing the BWC.
KONSTANTIN VORONTSOV (Russian Federation) said that his country, as a BWC depositary State, has consistently implemented all its provisions. The implementation of a military biological programme in Ukraine with support of the Pentagon requires the closest attention. Biological weapons components are being developed near Russian territory. Moscow provides a huge amount of available materials, but its well-founded questions to the United States and Ukraine have not yet received a proper response. The adoption of a universal, legally binding, non-discriminatory protocol to the BWC, with an effective verification mechanism, would greatly enhance the Convention’s effectiveness. The development of such an instrument has been blocked by Washington, D.C. since 2001. This, together with the Ukrainian case, only strengthens suspicions regarding that country’s military biological activities around the world under the guise of cooperation for peaceful purposes.
He said that the international community must strengthen the expert and technical potential of the Secretary-General’s Mechanism for Investigation of the Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons (UNSGM). Moscow sent a message to the Secretary-General on 14 June calling for a review of the Mechanism’s existing principles and procedures. The problem of “chemical terrorism” in the Middle East is of particular relevance, as is a high risk of provocations at chemical industry facilities by neo-Nazi armed groups in Ukraine. The excessive politicization of the OPCW’s work by the United States and its Euro-Atlantic allies does not allow the entity to respond adequately to new challenges. As a result of this destructive policy, the CWC Fifth Review Conference failed to make recommendations on its future activities.
JIKITA DE SCHOT (New Zealand) condemned Syria’s chemical weapons use, about which the evidence is indisputable. She called on Syria to meet its CWC obligations, declare and destroy its entire chemical weapons programme, and cooperate fully and in good faith with the OPCW. New Zealand also continues to urge the Russian Federation to cooperate fully with the OPCW and the international community to provide answers regarding Navalny’s poisoning. Additionally, she called on the OPCW’s members to provide necessary political and financial support at next month’s Conference of State Parties, including the timely and complete payment of assessed contributions.
OGASAWARA ICHIRO (Japan) stressed the importance of reenforcing and universalizing the CWC, the BWC and other relevant regimes, as pillars of the fight against weapons of mass destruction. He welcomed declarations by CWC States parties and the OPCW on the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles — with the last initiative completed by the United States in July. However, the repeated use of chemical weapons in recent years remains a serious concern, especially the alleged use by the Syrian Air Force in 2017. He urged that State to address all outstanding issues and ensure accountability. He cited Japan’s commitment to the destruction of its abandoned chemical weapons, investing approximately 3.2 billion Euros to cover all related costs, and successfully destroying approximately 78,000 items, with bilateral cooperation from China.
CAOIMHE UDOM (Ireland) called on States who have not yet joined the BWC and CWC to accede without delay. The OPCW’s findings of reasonable grounds that Syria used chemical weapons in 2018 deserve absolute condemnation and represent a serious violation of the CWC. Ireland fully supports these findings and rejects continued efforts to undermine the OPCW’s legitimacy and credibility. She called on all States parties to comply with their CWC obligations and urged the Russian Federation to provide substantial answers regarding the assassination attempt against Navalny. Ireland is deeply concerned by reported use of riot-control agents for warfare in Ukraine. She condemned the Russian Federation for continuing dangerous disinformation campaigns about weapons of mass destruction against Ukraine, the United States, and others across multiple forums.
MANUEL DEL ROSARIO VELA (Spain) condemned unjustified and illegal aggression against Ukraine by the Russian Federation and emphasized the continued priority for Member States to prevent conflicts and the illegal use of weapons of mass destruction. He expressed full confidence in the OPCW, highlighting the transformation of its laboratory into a hub for improving capacity and verification. While the recent CWC Review Conference achieved broad support for eliminating chemical weapon arsenals, the tensions created by the Russian Federation, Syria and Iran prevented adoption of a previously negotiated text of the working group. He hoped that the consensus reached on most of the text can serve as a foundation for future discussions on verification, counter-terrorism and governance. He supports efforts to develop a treaty prohibiting radiological weapons and urges the Disarmament Conference to include this topic on its agenda.
IAN FLOYD (United Kingdom) emphasized the OPCW’s independent and impartial work as a “jewel” in the non-proliferation architecture, which must be protected by all. Recalling the Russian Federation’s use of a Novichok nerve agent in Salisbury and against Navalny, he underscored that any chemical or biological weapons use in Ukraine will bring severe consequences. Russian use of riot-control agents in combat, as reported by Russian officers and clearly banned by the CWC is unacceptable. The Russian Federation is also persistently sowing disinformation, with baseless allegations, about peaceful public health cooperation between the United States and Ukraine.
Additionally, he said, Syria has relied on obstruction and lies instead of fully adhering to the CWC, after its chemical weapons attack in Ghouta 10 years ago. The international community has repeatedly urged Syria to fully comply, as Syria’s non-compliance presents a serious proliferation risk — its programme remains a threat to international security. Furthermore, threats from biological weapons continue to evolve. Rapid scientific advances offer great benefits for peaceful research but may also increase threats from those intending to misuse biotechnology. He called for constructive engagement to agree on mechanisms to review science and technology and strengthen international cooperation. The United Kingdom also robustly opposes any attempts to undermine the Secretary-General’s effectiveness and independence.
ASADALLAH ESHRAGH JAHROMI (Iran) noted that last week, in partnership with the OPCW, his country hosted the eleventh international course on the medical treatment of victims of chemical weapons. It remains committed to sharing its medical achievements and expertise. He recalled that Article XI has played a vital role in garnering global support for the CWC, ensuring its goals are met — protecting the inherent rights of States parties to pursue economic and technological growth without hindering international information, technology, material and equipment exchange for peaceful purposes. States parties must refrain from imposing restrictions, such as unilateral sanctions, that stifle trade and scientific advancement. Unfortunately, some parties, including the United States, constantly fail to fulfill their obligations in this field. He, therefore, stressed the need for an action plan to tackle such obstacles.
Turning to the medical needs of tens of thousands of victims of chemical weapons in Iran, he said that was the result of the most systematic such use in contemporary history by Saddam Hussein’s regime against Iran in 1980s. Following Iran’s proposal to establish an international fund to support those victims, he emphasized the effective implementation of the Convention’s Article X. He recalled that resumption of negotiations for a legally binding protocol for the BWC has been hindered since the United States objected to its strengthening in 1996. He urged Washington, D.C., to both withdraw its objection and refrain from opposing the development of the Convention, particularly given reports of its involvement in biological weapons development. Without the accession of the Israeli regime to the CWC and BWC, security in the Middle East will be endangered.
JULIEN THÖNI (Switzerland) said that independent and impartial investigations by the UN and the OPCW established reasonable grounds to believe that the responsibility for the chemical attacks in nine cases lies with Syria. There are still gaps and inconsistencies in that country’s initial declaration of stockpiles that need to be clarified. Damascus should fully comply with its CWC obligations. Reports of the use of riot-control agents in Ukraine are worrying. Should these allegations be confirmed, they would constitute a violation of international law, including the CWC. Bolstering the Secretary-General’s Mechanism and the preservation of its independence go hand-in-hand and contribute to the strengthening of the BWC. Any request by Member States to initiate a revision of its guidelines is problematic. It is up to the Secretary-General to take such decisions independently.
LEONARDO BENCINI (Italy) said he had presided over the Ninth BWC Review Conference, which agreed by consensus, on a final document. The Secretary-General described it as “a glimmer of hope in an overall bleak international security environment”. The Conference broke the deadlock that had prevented all progress on BWC implementation for more than 20 years by establishing a working group tasked with identifying, examining and developing measures to strengthen the Convention. The Conference also agreed on a clear road map for the entire four-year review cycle and decided that no issue would be off the table, including that of verification and of a possible legally binding instrument.
In addition, he said, the Conference advanced the Convention’s institutionalization by agreeing to develop two mechanisms, one on internal cooperation and assistance under Article X and the other to review technological and scientific developments. The review’s positive outcome proves that, with commitment and dialogue from all sides, good results can be achieved. On the CWC, he regrets that the Russian Federation and Syria blocked the adoption of a joint outcome document at the conclusion of its Fifth Review Conference because they objected to any mention of Syria’s well-documented chemical weapons use.
TAMÁS TALPAI (Hungary) introduced a draft resolution on the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and Their Destruction (BTWC). Hungary is the sole sponsor of the draft resolution, he said, expressing hope that it will again be adopted by consensus, which would reaffirm the international community’s unequivocal support for the prohibition of biological weapons and confirm that the Convention is a fundamental pillar of global efforts against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
BRYAN TOMLINSON (Canada) said that BWC States parties gathered for their ninth review in 2022. There was some measure of success, namely a new inter-sessional processes initiated by Canada and the Netherlands. However, the Review Conference experienced sustained and deliberate obstruction from certain States. This obstructionism has carried over into the meetings of the BWC Working Group on strengthening the Convention. The Russian Federation continues to make unfounded allegations against the United States and Ukraine. It continues a blatant disinformation campaign, misusing the Convention as a “political pulpit”. The CWC Fifth Review Conference failed to adopt a final outcome document, due largely to the intransigence of a few States which continue to defend the actions of the Assad regime. Nine chemical attacks have been attributed to the Syrian armed forces. Despite this, certain States, led by the Russian Federation, shield Syria from accountability.
BRUCE TURNER (United States) stated that the international community can count on his country as a steadfast advocate and partner to diminish threats from chemical and biological weapons, “even as others seem bent on tearing down all we have built together”. The United States irreversibly destroyed the last chemical munition in its stockpile last July — a vivid demonstration of its commitment to international cooperation and transparency in arms control. However, Syria refuses to take any responsibility for its vile chemical weapons use and shows that their threat and use remains real. The OPCW and UN concluded that Syria has conducted nine chemical weapons attacks against its own citizens since acceding to the CWC.
He said that the United States deplores the Russian Federation’s continuing efforts to shield the Assad regime from Security Council oversight and to dispute the OPCW’s credibility. He also condemned Russian use of Novichok nerve agents against Navalny and the Skripals. He rejected Russian allegations of being threatened by international assistance to Ukraine, which protects against chemical weapons. This is expressly provided for in the CWC. Furthermore, the United States strongly supports the UNSGM, despite criticism from the Russian Federation and 13 States during the thematic debate. His country sees no compelling reason to review the Mechanism’s guidelines and procedures. Instead, he called for support to ensure its integrity and that necessary measures for investigations are in place.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India) voiced her profound concern over the potential of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists and non-State actors, supporting stronger international cooperation to address it. India remains firmly committed to preventing the proliferation of those weapons and their delivery systems and, in 2022, amended its domestic legislative framework to include prohibition of financing them. Recognizing the importance of the “1540 Committee”, she said a renewed mandate would assist Member States in implementing the resolution and address contemporary and evolving challenges. Her Government supports the full, effective and non-discriminatory implementation of the CWC and its universalization, and welcomed the complete destruction of declared chemical weapons stockpiles under OPCW verification in July. She stressed the need to preserve the Organization’s impartiality and integrity. She cited the importance of the BWC, calling for negotiation of a legally binding protocol for a universal and non-discriminatory verification mechanism .
ANATOLII ZLENKO (Ukraine) expressed full support for the Secretary-General’s Mechanism and rejected attempts by the Russian Federation to “review” the instrument, with the aim of decreasing its efficacy and undermining its independence and impartiality. He welcomed the complete destruction by the United States of its remaining chemical weapons stockpiles — an important milestone to towards implementation of the CWC. Pointing to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Iraq, Malaysia and the United Kingdom, he said “it is deeply shocking that the international community is still confronted with this issue” 26 years after the treaty’s entry into force. He voiced deep concern “by more evidence coming to light of Russian military forces using riot-control agents against Ukrainian Armed Forces”, noting that these actions violate the Convention. Recalling that Ukraine was one of the co-authors of the BWC, the country has always promoted enhancement of this indispensable instrument. He meanwhile accused the Russian Federation of spreading disinformation about alleged development of programmes related to biological weapons in Ukraine, intended to justify its full-scale war of aggression unleashed by Moscow.
SUN YILIANG (China) notes presentation by his country’s President of a global security initiative. Beijing joins others in promoting international norms for biological security. The BWC’s working group on strengthening the Convention should focus on core issues, including verification and international cooperation. Establishing a verification mechanism is the most effective approach to ensure compliance and mutual trust. The working group should forge political consensus. China encouraged all stakeholders to adopt voluntarily Tianjin biosecurity guidelines for the code of conduct for scientists. The authority of international treaties depends on compliance by States parties.
He said that the international community put forward a series of questions about the United States’ bio-military activities, but Washington, D.C. has neither provided meaningful clarifications nor taken measures to improve transparency. The international community was relieved at the news that the destruction of declared chemical weapon stockpiles was completed. Chemical weapons abandoned in China by Japan’s army pose a grave challenge on the journey towards a world free of such weapons after 26 years of the CWC’s entry into force. Less than one-fourth of such weapons have been destroyed. All parties should monitor Japan.
MARIA HUNSKAAR (Norway) again urged the Russian Federation to conduct a thorough investigation of Navalny’s poisoning, share findings with CWC States parties and bring those responsible to justice. Noting that the OPCW and UN have attributed nine cases of chemical weapons use to Syria and two cases to the so-called Islamic State, she expressed deep concern about Syria’s continued failure to close 20 outstanding issues from its initial chemical weapons programme declaration. Norway also remains concerned by Russian and Syrian attempts to undermine cooperation under the CWC. It is steadfastly confident in the OPCW’s work and underscores the importance of upholding the UNSGM’s independence. Norway sees no reason for Member States to initiate an update procedure. She also urged the continued implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) to tackle threats from non-State actors.
MICHAL MAAYAN (Israel) said that the Middle East still struggles with a chronic lack of compliance with non-proliferation and arms control norms, obligations and mechanisms. Chemical weapons use by States in the region against their own populations and neighbouring countries has occurred five times since the Second World War: once in Yemen, twice by the Iraqi regime and twice in Syria by the Assad regime. These were clear violations of the 1925 Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare. Two further cases of the CWC by regional States remain in question, requiring further investigation. She called on the international community to support OPCW. Israel is a party to the Geneva Protocol and a signatory State to the CWC.
Despite the chemical weapons disarmament process in Syria, she said, since 2014, there have been hundreds of incidents of use by the Syrian State. The Organisation’s Investigation and Identification Team Mechanism’s reports clearly call upon that Government to rectify gaps and discrepancies in its declarations on chemical weapons, take full responsibility and be held accountable for its actions. The Team’s comprehensive report on the horrid chemical attack in Duma in 2018 clearly designated Syria as the perpetrator. That Government’s statement has been changed nearly 20 times and cannot be considered complete, even today. Syria clearly retains chemical weapons capabilities “and has never deserted its ambition to acquire further capabilities”, she stressed. She also voiced alarm that Iran is pursuing dual-use central nervous system-acting chemicals for offensive purposes and aiming to arm affiliated terrorist groups, while the international community apparently accepts the existence of such systematic non-compliance.
INDIRA ARYAL (Nepal) pointing to rising intra- and inter-State conflicts globally, warned about devastating consequences on both humanity and the environment if mass destruction weapons fall into the hands of terrorists and non-State actors. The use of these weapons is a crime against humanity, she said, reiterating Nepal’s commitment to implementing disarmament-related international treaties, conventions and programmes of action. On the CWC, she confirmed her county’s use of chemical materials for peaceful purposes, while noting careful regulation of the cross-border movement of dual-use chemicals. Expressing regret over the lack of verification mechanism for the BWC, which has hampered the Convention’s effective implementation, she welcomed the establishment of the Working Group on the Strengthening the BWC. She called for international assistance to developing countries in enhancing their financial and technical resources to enforce compliance with various disarmament-related instruments.
SIARHEI MAKAREVICH (Belarus) said that international security should remain a priority on the global agenda, as it relates to humanity’s very existence. Sensitive issues are being discussed in a narrow confinement or bilaterally. It is imperative to discuss these inclusively in a multilateral space. His delegation is tabling a draft resolution aimed at prohibiting the development and manufacture of new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons. The draft provides for a mechanism to track such development and respond to the challenges in this domain. Belarus submits this draft every three years. This year’s text has only minor technical updates. Calling for support for its consensus adoption, he declared: “The world is too precious to destroy.”
MATEUS LUEMBA (Angola), expressing grave concern about the proliferation of chemical weapons, called for their elimination and direct control to prevent acquisition by criminal or terrorist organizations. To fulfill its CWC obligations, Angola established a National Civil Protection Commission and National Authority for Arms Control and Disarmament, which provide guidance and effective responses to chemical emergencies. His country is also strengthening international cooperation and the exchange of scientific and technical information, including through an online self-assessment tool allowing countries to identify gaps in national regulations and take appropriate measures to improve protection.
FLÁVIO SOARES DAMICO (Brazil) highlighted preliminary take-aways from the intergovernmental debate on the BWC, including inaction by States parties to the Convention allowing other organizations to expand their responsibilities in areas that were under its remit. A mechanism for international cooperation and assistance must be set up to build capacity in developing countries towards implementation of the Convention. Moreover, the international community should not lose sight of the challenges derived from the impact of technological developments in life sciences as well as the potential of new techniques available for the verification of compliance in a manner that is cost-effective.
LARBI A. LEBBAZ (Algeria) said the CWC is a vital instrument for promoting multilateral cooperation and security, while also contributing to economic and social development in developing countries. In this regard, he highlighted the importance of implementing the Convention in such areas as technology transfer for peaceful purposes, especially in connection with public health and economic and social development. He regretted that the CWC’s Fifth Review Conference did not yield results, owing to disputes among member countries. He called for dialogue to resolve disputes and promote peaceful cooperation. A comprehensive implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) is crucial for disarmament efforts, he said, pointing to the need for balancing the promotion of peaceful technology use in development with the necessity of protecting against its misuse by non-State actors.
MARCIAL EDU MBASOGO (Equatorial Guinea) said his country remains committed to implementation of the BWC. He warned that the international community’s efforts to promote peace and security are undermined by weapons of mass destruction, and regretted that the BWC Review Conference did not produce substantial results. He also is concerned that weapons of mass destruction may fall into the hands of non-State actors, such as terrorists. The international community must take action to prevent it. He rejected any military doctrine that justify such weapons. Errors can always occur, and such weapons can exterminate humankind. He, therefore, supports prohibition of developing and stockpiling them, pending their total elimination.
VILMA THOMAS RAMIREZ (Cuba) said her country rejects the existence, proliferation, or use of weapons of mass destruction. Cuba does not possess and does not intend to possess such “morally repugnant” weapons. It supports the adoption of a legally binding protocol to prohibit biological weapons, and that includes a verification mechanism to strengthen the BWC. She rejects the selective, politically motivated enforcement of the CWC and opposes the creation of mechanisms or procedures that would go beyond the OPCW’s technical mandate. She also condemns the imposition of unilateral coercive measures affecting the technological and scientific progress of Member States in the biological and chemical spheres. Finally, it rejects the economic and financial blockade imposed by the United States as a violation of Article X of the BWC and Article XI of the CWC.
Right of Reply — Nuclear Weapons Cluster
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, thanked the Netherlands’ delegation for efforts yesterday to figure out the use of toxic chemical agents and poisons during the special military operation. However, the representative only spoke about the Russian Federation without any comments about Kyiv, calling that a double standard. The “unfounded, baseless allegations of the Kyiv regime” are nothing more than provocations against his country, “nothing but hot air which is not based on any facts”, he emphasized.
Kyiv, along with its Western allies and Japan, should study the Russian Federation’s very clear material on several of Ukraine’s unsuccessful provocations involving the use of toxic nerve and chemical warfare agents including chemical riot-control agents, in an attempt to shift the blame for such crimes onto Russian Federation armed forces. There is no concrete expert evidence of this, and his delegation expects a response from the OPCW to the data it provided based on analyses by Russian Federation military personnel of CWC violations by Ukrainian personnel and mercenaries.
The representative of Israel, in right of reply, condemned Iran for its alleged actions and accused it of spreading evil and hatred in the region and beyond. Noting that the Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) expires today, she said it will be easier for Iran to spread its hatred and proliferate its missiles around the world. She further accused Iran of involvement in conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza “as their drones rain down from the sky and attack innocent civilians”. “The Iranian regime exports their murderous ideology, they export their weapons, they supply capabilities to terrorist groups around the world”, she said, expressing solidarity with young Iranians standing up against the Iranian regime, including its human rights abuses.
Right of Reply — Other Weapons of Mass Destruction
The representative of the Russian Federation, in right of reply, rejected false accusations against his country of using riot-control agents in Ukraine’s territory. On biological laboratories operated by the United States in other countries, he said Washington, D.C. is using these countries as testing grounds and as a means to gain military advantage. These activities are conducted in former Soviet Union territory, far from North America. The Russian Federation, during its special military operation, found evidence that attest that these laboratory activities violate the relevant conventions. Moscow’s questions and complaints on this issue have not been addressed. His country will continue to lay out facts to ensure global biosecurity, he added.
The representative of Syria, in right of reply, called it no secret that the United States, France, the United Kingdom and other countries in their orbit deliberately overlook Syria’s cooperation with the OPCW for destructive political purposes. Since 2011, these countries have spared no effort to undermine Syria’s security and stability, including through terrorist groups and by fabricating incidents of chemical weapons use. These accusations aim to politicize OPCW reports. Paradoxically, these countries claim to defend the non-proliferation regime, but do not seem concerned about Israel’s protection vis-à-vis all forms of weapons of mass destruction. This demonstrates double standards and the lack of genuine political will.
The United States, he said, pays lip service to international law. The country’s military troops are illegally present in Syria and its officials illegally visit north-east Syria to meet with separatist groups in flagrant violation of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The United Kingdom, he added, has obstructed the implementation of its 1995 decision on the Middle East and has continued to cover and support Israel. He further questioned Israel’s credibility on disarmament and rejected its perpetration of crimes and atrocities against innocent people.
The representative of Iran rejected the unfounded allegations leveled by the representative of the Israeli regime, which commits every crime and any inhumane atrocity because it is inherently illegitimate and unlawful. That representative, he noted, is not even following the agenda of the session in throwing out such allegations, related or unrelated to Iran. Human rights reports prove the regime’s brutality in oppressing the defenseless Palestinians, with more than 20 resolutions in different UN bodies addressing it. Nobody can tolerate this regime’s atrocities in Gaza, he stressed — including Jewish religious leaders who disassociate themselves from its horrific behaviour. Turning to the specific agenda of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), he asked how a regime that is not a party to any relevant treaties and conventions can allow itself to comment on Member States that are parties to them.
He recalled that, just yesterday, when that representative was leveling false accusations against Iran and defending its Government’s brutality under the pretext of self-defence against terrorists, more than 500 civilians including children, women and patients were slaughtered in Al-Ahli Hospital. In a tweet following “this genocidal act”, that delegate’s Prime Minister said “this is a struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness, between humanity and the law of the jungle” — and then attributed perpetration of that massacre to the Palestinians. “Lies, lies, lies”, he stated. Further, the United Nations response to Israel’s occupation and other issues serves as evidence of its systemic shortcomings — while States in the Security Council that claim to advocate against the use of veto power in instances of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, voted against a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.
The representative of the Netherlands, speaking in reply to the Russian Federation, clarified that he had drawn attention to the use of riot-control agents by the Russian Federation in military operations in Ukraine without making allegations. He noted that matter was raised in the OPCW’s executive council, however, no satisfactory response has been received from the Russian Federation so far. His country would continue monitoring the situation until it is resolved.
The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, rejected baseless accusations by the Russian Federation that Ukraine is developing biological and chemical weapons. This is another example of Russian propaganda to distract attention from its illegal aggression against Ukraine. Ukraine is a responsible member of the CWC. Moscow must stop disseminating disinformation.
The representative of Israel, in a right of reply to statements by the representatives of Syria and Iran, mourned the loss of innocent lives in Gaza. The tragic events at the al-Ahli hospital yesterday are a new reminder of Hamas’ war crimes, she said. The Islamic Jihad terror organization, Hamas’ partner in the 7 October massacre, fired missiles indiscriminately towards Israeli civilians. One of the missiles misfired and landed on the hospital, resulting in many casualties and severe damage. Some media outlets and Governments were quick to point the finger, but the Israel Defense Forces did not conduct any operations in the area at the time of impact, she said.
She said that, in the last few days, Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired more than 7,000 rockets at civilians in Israel. Each one is a war crime. They launched their attacks from civilian areas in order to use them as human shields — or, even better — as cannon fodder, for which Israel gets blamed. Those who cruelly murdered Israeli children murder their own children as well. Those who truly care about Palestinian civilian lives should clearly condemn the war crimes perpetrated by Hamas and other terrorist organizations, she stressed.
The representative of the Russian Federation rejected the latest round of rhetorical and false allegations against his country by the European Union delegation — calling on it to take note of its observer status and not contribute to politicization of discussions, and abusing the privilege granted to it by Member States. “This is unacceptable, we believe”, he stressed. The Russian Federation is deeply shocked by yesterday’s tragedy in Gaza, he stated, offering condolences to the victims, people and Government of Palestine. He urged the parties to the conflict to de-escalate and comply with international humanitarian law, affirming his delegation’s fundamental opposition to any violence against civilians, medical institutions or other civilian infrastructure. He further called for the opening of humanitarian corridors, stressing the immorality of politicizing that topic.
The representative of Iran, in right of reply, rejected remarks by his Israeli counterpart about the misfiring of a Palestinian rocket. “When we claim this regime is an empire of lies, we are not far from the reality,” he said. As in the past, Israeli regime shifts blame to Hamas. The most significant source of regional insecurity and instability is the action of this occupying regime, which shocked the world by committing crimes defined in international criminal law.
In response to the remarks made by the Russian Federation’s delegate about the right of reply exercised by the European Union’s speaker, the First Committee Chair (Lithuania) said that the Union’s participation has been governed since 2011 by General Assembly resolution 65/276. This is a usual practice. The resolution also allows it to use the right of reply regarding its position, as decided by the presiding officer. This is not a privilege but a right that must be respected.