Question of Palestine home
2 November 1998
Monday, 2 November 1998, 3 p.m.
Mr. Mernier ..............................(Belgium)
The meeting was called to order at 3 p.m.
Agenda items 63 to 80
Thematic discussion on item subjects; introduction and consideration of all draft resolutions submitted under all items
(Egypt): It is a personal source of pleasure for me to take the floor under your chairmanship, Sir. The delegation of Egypt has the honour to present, on behalf of States members of the League of Arab States, draft resolution A/C.1/53/L.21/Rev.1 under agenda item 74 entitled “The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East”.
In order to accommodate the different concerns of the many interested delegations, the draft was the subject of intensive consultations which led to the submission of this revised text. This new draft is based on the resolution adopted last year by the General Assembly under the same agenda item. It does, however, take into account the prevailing realities as they stand today in the region of the Middle East.
Such realities underline a basic fact in the Middle East, namely, that Israel remains the only State in the region which has not yet acceded to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and that is exactly what the seventh preambular paragraph objectively states. This, as we underscore, is not name-calling or singling out but is simply a clear and accurate reflection of reality, stated in a carefully measured and descriptive manner. It is, in fact, an invitation to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We have used neutral language that simply states an undeniable reality and is therefore not subjective in any manner, no matter how hard Israel attempts to delude us.
As we stated before the Committee in the general debate, only one country in the Middle East is widely believed to possess a significant arsenal of nuclear weapons. Only one country in the Middle East operates unsafeguarded nuclear installations and activities. Only one country in the Middle East refuses to adhere to the NPT and refuses to discuss the nuclear issue. Only one country in the Middle East refuses full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. The identity of that country is now widely acknowledged — Israel. Let us not be deluded. Israel has singled itself out, no one else. It is not our doing. The credit goes back to Israel. Nonetheless the reaction of the international community to this dangerous, provocative and roguish situation, when compared with other examples, remains mitigated and muted at best.
The achievement of universal adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty remains a cardinal priority not only for the Middle East region but also for the international community as a whole. Universality consolidates the edifice of the NPT regime. This has been underscored by the Treaty itself and subsequently confirmed by the decision on principles and objectives for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament adopted on 11 May 1995 by the Review and Extension Conference of Parties to the Treaty on the Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, as well as in the provisions of the resolution on the Middle East adopted by consensus by that Conference. It is for these reasons that we consider that Israel’s refusal to accede to the NPT impedes the realization of the objective of attaining universal adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Needless to say, the continuation of such imbalance and asymmetry in the legal obligations and commitments of the States of the Middle East cannot but further aggravate serious security concerns over the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and consequently undermine the efforts by various regional and extraregional parties to establish confidence-building measures, in particular those efforts aimed at the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.
Regional parties that have renounced the nuclear option and acceded to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as non-nuclear-weapon States are now questioning the effect of their accession on their own national security. “Has our accession”, they ask, “increased our security?” It is a very pertinent question and deserves repetition: “Has our accession”, they ask, “increased our security?” How can our security be safeguarded while Israel continues its refusal to join the NPT and to place all its nuclear facilities under full-scope IAEA safeguards? Arab States have delivered and honoured their promise. Since 1995 the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Djibouti have all acceded, leaving Israel as the only State that still refuses to accede, nor has it declared an intention to do so. The draft resolution is saying only that. Again, this is a factual descriptive statement and is not in any way name-calling, as some would wish us to believe.
A few years ago, as a token of our support for collective efforts, the title of this very item was changed from “Israeli nuclear armament” to “The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East”. The change highlighted an attempt to depart from confrontation, arrive at reconciliation and move towards confidence-building. Now it is Israel’s turn to make a positive gesture by joining all States of the region in acceding to the NPT, the cornerstone of the nonproliferation regime.
Egypt, on behalf of States members of the League of Arab States, hopes to receive the same, if not more, overwhelming support from Member States for this draft resolution. Last year an unprecedented 147 votes in favour of the draft resolution came as direct support for our endeavours. That support came from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and elsewhere. We hope that this year the draft resolution will receive even more support. The message we see from such support is clear and undeniable, support for achieving the objectives of the non-proliferation regime, the consolidation of which is a solemn duty and sacred responsibility which we should all work and aspire to realize faithfully without any exceptions or double standards.
(Israel): As this is my first time addressing the Committee I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate you, Sir, together with the members of the Bureau, and assure you of our continuing full cooperation.
As in recent years the draft resolution entitled “The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East” is once again submitted by Egypt, though it is at best redundant and in fact inflammatory. Moreover, the language of the draft this year is more severe when compared with last year’s resolution.
The political motivation behind it is clearly indicated by the singling out of Israel. It should be noted here that no other draft resolution, even the new draft on nuclear testing, mentions any single Member State by name. In addition, the risk resolution focuses entirely on one region while ignoring nuclear proliferation in others. It also neglects the fact that the real risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East emanates from countries which, despite being parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, are engaged in ongoing efforts to acquire nuclear capabilities. Many developments have occurred in the nuclear realm in the Middle East in recent years: the sombre experience gained by the United Nations Special Commission, the action team of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Iraq, other dangerous proliferation efforts in our region and other current events known only too well to the General Assembly. None of these developments involved Israel. On the contrary, Israel has never been a threat to any of its neighbours, nor has it acted in defiance of international norms. In fact, Israel has always demonstrated the responsibility commensurate with the sensitivity of the nuclear domain.
The draft resolution also creates an imbalance. It singles out Israel negatively even as Israel is simultaneously called upon to join the consensus on the nuclear-weapon-free zone draft resolution. The adoption of such a resolution would move us to reconsider our position regarding the resolution on a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.
Draft resolutions of this sort serve only to complicate efforts to build trust and confidence among the parties to the Middle East peace process, such as the Wye Memorandum just recently signed by Israel and the PLO, and thus may hinder its progress.
/.,, Mr. Karem
(Egypt): It was not the intention of the delegation of Egypt to speak, but the representative of Israel has delivered a statement that deserves correction. I have known him for a while and have known him to be accurate, and I was therefore rather surprised to learn that he referred to Egypt introducing draft resolution A/C.1/53/L.21. I have seen him here since 3 p.m., and I introduced L.21/Rev.1, not L.21.
Secondly, I should like to invite him to take the floor once again to explain to us where he finds the draft resolution — and I quote his words — “more severe in comparison with last year’s resolution”.
I feel compelled to refer to the intervention by the representative of Israel as he once again, and frankly to our regret, attempts to uphold his theory of delusion while commenting on the draft resolution entitled “Risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East”. To him and to those who ask the question “Why is the draft resolution focusing on the Middle East and ignoring serious developments in other regions?”, we say that Arab countries in the Middle East have indeed met their promises and acceded to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). They have honoured their commitments and renounced the nuclear option. They have placed all their activities, if any, under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. Despite all that they remain under an imminent threat from Israel, which refuses to accede to, or even show a commitment to join, the NPT. Israel continues to refuse to negotiate or even discuss the nuclear issue in any kind of forum.
We may get into hypothetical or even conceptual arguments on the fundamental differences between the region of South Asia and the Middle East. Conceptually we may argue there is no parity in our region and that in terms of obligation and responsibilities and records vis-à-vis the NPT all countries of the Middle East have taken solid steps except Israel, and that the application of an enhanced and more rigorous IAEA verification mechanism, “93+2”, will soon be signed as additional protocols by all countries in the Middle East, with Israel outside this regime. Why? Because it refuses full-scope safeguards.
Again, we also fundamentally differ with the argument he puts that Israel has never been a threat to any of its neighbours, an argument which is once again employed in a renewed attempt at distortion. The argument itself is self-defeating. Allow me to furnish some salient but compelling questions, historical in nature, in order to straighten the facts before the Committee and so as to put them in the right perspective when pondering and reflecting upon them. I list these questions. Why were the nuclear forces of the then two super-Powers in the 1973 war placed on a nuclear alert — particularly Defcon 3? Was it not because of an Israeli nuclear threat?
Another question: is an aging Dimona a threat? What about the contaminating effects of the release of radioactive waste from storage facilities closing the gardens surrounding Dimona several times. Is that not a threat? How did we know all about that? Not from Arab public opinion but from Israeli public opinion and media. May I recommend and invite the attention of the representative of Israel to a book recently published by an Israeli scholar, Abner Cohen, entitled
The Quiet Bomb
. It is hoped this piece of work will help to identify areas of lacuna and to comprehend the anxiety of both Israeli and Arab public opinion.
What is the effect — if I may add to the list of questions — of recent seismological activities and earthquakes on the nuclear structure inside Israel? We would all be better off if reassurances came from the competent international authority, the IAEA. Is that possible? How will that affect underground water resources? Is it not opportune now that the international community should take up the question of nuclear safety inside Israel? Indeed one fails to understand how some can severely condemn and take strong action against one proliferator while all but condoning the actions of another. One also fails to understand how a country can claim to be seeking a just peace in the Middle East while at the same time insisting on maintaining its ability to annihilate its neighbours with more than 200 nuclear weapons.
The draft resolution on the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East is in fact an understatement. The truth of the matter is that we should not remain complacent by voicing concerns over a risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East if this risk situation is not quickly addressed. To the representative of Israel I say that there are no in-betweens. There are no grey areas. There are no attenuating circumstances and there is absolutely no substitute for righteousness which I recommend to the representative of Israel.
(Islamic Republic of Iran): …
Since I have the floor I should like to make a brief statement on draft resolution L.21/Rev.2, entitled “The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East”, sponsored by Egypt on behalf of the Arab League. In the view of my delegation the content of this draft resolution is faithful to the real situation in the Middle East. It calls upon Israel, the only non-party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in the region, to join this Treaty and place its unsafeguarded nuclear weapons programme under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
Despite repeated calls by the General Assembly on Israel to accede to the NPT and to place its nuclear-weapons programme under IAEA safeguards, there has been no change in Israel’s position in this respect. We firmly believe that Israel’s accession to the NPT will lead to the establishment of a zone free from nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.
interpretation from Arabic
): My delegation first wishes to express its full support for draft resolution A/C.1/53/L.21/Rev.1, which represents the absolute minimum that could be said on the issue of the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. There Israel poses the principal danger and the main cause of instability in the area because it possesses a tremendous well-known arsenal of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.
Secondly, all that has been said by the representative of this entity against my country is false, the same fabrications that he echoes every year before this Committee. Here I wish to reaffirm what I said on 20 October this year about Iraq meeting its obligations under resolution
in the field of disarmament, among which is nuclear disarmament.
That representative aims to escape obligations pursuant to international treaties and conventions in force in the field of disarmament, especially nuclear disarmament. Therefore, the attempt could be described as an abysmal failure, the aim of which is well known to everyone.
The meeting rose at 6.50 p.m.