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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · Geneva



30 January 2003

CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT DEBATES MIDDLE EAST,
NORTH KOREAN WITHDRAWAL FROM MISSILE TREATY, OTHER TOPICS

A series of national representatives addressed the Conference on Disarmament this morning as a statement by Israel was followed by a debate on the Middle East conflict and as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and other states sparred over North Korea's announced withdrawal on 10 January from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

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A pre-scheduled statement by Israel which touched -- among other things -- on the issues of terrorism and the threat of terrorists obtaining weapons of mass destruction drew responses from Iraq, Algeria, and Syria. Iraq and Syria charged that Israel had not taken steps toward nuclear disarmament and contended that those resisting Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories were not "terrorists".

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Participants in both the Middle East and NPT debates noted repeatedly that the Conference, which is dedicated to multilateral disarmament negotiations, was not the proper forum for such discussions.

Also speaking at today's plenary meeting were representatives of the Netherlands, Austria, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Belgium, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru.

Statements

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YAAKOV LEVY (Israel) said establishment of peace in the Middle East should be accompanied and strengthened by confidence-building measures and arrangements regarding conventional weapons, culminating in the eventual establishment of a mutually verifiable zone free of ballistic missiles and of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. The absence of recognition, lack of direct contact, and the refusal of some States to accept the right of one State in the region to exist undermined the attainment of confidence and trust. It was therefore Israel's strong belief that the regional context should be the primary and essential framework for advancing critical arms control measures, predicated on a comprehensive and durable peace in the Middle East. In recent years Israel had sought to lay the foundation for peace and stability, among other things through bilateral peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

Israel was aware of the difficulties and disagreements regarding the programme of work of the Conference, Mr. Levy said; it had followed carefully the different proposals that had been made, and when one of these was broadly accepted, primarily by the relevant parties to the current disagreement, Israel would determine its position on the merits.

Israel unfortunately had been at the forefront of countries victimized by terrorism, Mr. Levy said; terror had recently taken the unbelievable form of young people, brainwashed by their peers, committing the ultimate insanity of suicide bombings in crowded places. Terror also had taken the form of cross-border attacks and hijackings and attacks on civil aviation. Terror had become a strategic weapon not only in the Middle East but around the world. The danger of a link between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction cast a dark shadow, and there existed a real danger that countries that nurtured terrorism as a tool of diplomacy would provide terrorist groups with non-conventional weapons. The threat of even unconventional attacks had become a normal aspect of daily life in Israel. During the Gulf War 12 years ago, under the orders of the same leader who today was the cause of regional and worldwide instability, Israel had been the target of 39 unprovoked missile attacks. This was the same leader who had used chemical weapons against his own countrymen and had threatened on more than one occasion to use non-conventional weapons against Israel. It was important for member States of the Conference to reflect on the true purpose of their work; disarmament was a fragile and indispensable tool for ensuring the security and well-being of the world. All needed to live up to the Conference's great responsibility.

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A representative of Iraq said it was necessary to reply to what was said by the Ambassador of Israel. Israel, while showing no restraint itself, wished to forbid other people from doing as they wished. Israel had put forward inaccurate statements. The international community had not seen any real, practical steps taken by Israel to disarm in the nuclear field. As all knew, Israel had nuclear weapons. It had signed the treaties prohibiting chemical and biological weapons, and yet no one knew where its stocks of those weapons were. Israel complained that it was subjected to terrorist actions yet forgot that it had annexed the territories of other countries, had erected unlawful settlements and killed women and children. When people resisted such an invasion, there were called "terrorists". Whereas Israel claimed it had peaceful goals, it constantly pursued expansionist designs that violated international standards and Security Council resolutions. Since Israel's house was made of glass, it shouldn't throw any stones.

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A representative of Algeria said that following that statements made by Israel and Iraq he wished his remarks to be understood as free of any polemical elements. But he felt some sadness that his distinguished colleague of Israel should have presented a strong statement. He wished the representative of Israel could have announced, for example, that his country had decided to submit to inspections by the IAEA. He would have welcomed a statement from Iraq stating that Iraq would comply with relevant Security Council resolutions. He could only hope that these announcements would be made in the countries' next statements. All condemned terrorism, and Algeria had suffered from terrorism long before 11 September, and in the face of universal indifference. All were affected by all civilian victims of terrorism. The Conference was here to work through peaceful dialogue and to build international peace and security. It was time to see beyond the prevailing arguments to the opportunities in the region of the Middle East for peace, such as those broached by the Beirut Summit. Israel's exercise of memory about efforts at peace had been somewhat selective, moreover -- what about the Oslo agreement, for example? Why had Israel skipped over that agreement? Was it that the Oslo agreement was no longer being adhered to?

The representative of Israel, responding, said the statement he had made outlined Israel's views and policies in relation to the Conference. There were sufficient fora elsewhere for discussing the wild accusations launched by the representative of Iraq and the more reasoned issues raised by the representative of Algeria. Israel could discuss terrorism with similar concern and compassion as that expressed by the representative of Algeria. Israel did feel the Oslo Agreement had been abrogated -- by one party, the Palestinian State. But these issues were more for other fora of the United Nations, not for the Conference on Disarmament.

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A representative of Syria said that as if the dilemma of the Conference in not being able to resume its work was not bad enough, the representative of Israel had complicated the matter by talking about things that had nothing to do with this forum. Syria did not want to raise any polemics, but wanted to shed light on some points. Syria, along with other Arab States, condemned terrorism in all its forms, and particularly State terrorism, a form at which Israel had distinguished itself. Israel's acquisition of nuclear weapons was a huge danger to its neighbours and to the region as a whole. Israel not only had these weapons but had means of delivering them to all the countries of the Middle East. And it refused to open its facilities to inspection.

Israel talked of being exposed to terrorism, but when one looked at the Israeli statement today it sounded like what Israel itself was practicing -- attacks, cross-border attacks, hijackings. . . Who was actually perpetrating all this? Who was attacking its neighbours? Israel had attacked Egypt in 1956; it had attacked in 1967 its Arab neighbourly countries; it had attacked Lebanon twice and occupied its territories. Who had attacked an Egyptian airliner and downed it, and a Libyan airliner? Israel had. Israeli mercenaries had abducted Palestinians across borders, and these people were still in detention. Who had led the suicide bombers to the "insanity" the Israeli representative mentioned?

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The representative of Israel said this was not the place for polemics on the situation in the Middle East; there were other fora for that. And he would not therefore go into the history of Syrian aggression in the region, nor would he go into details about the Syrian regime's atrocities against its own citizens and against people in other countries. He would however, read the names of 10 terrorist organizations based in Syria, along with the names of their leaders. It would be a pleasure for the Conference if the Syrian Government took action to close the offices of these organizations and to arrest these leaders of terrorist organizations. This would be much more productive than any eloquent speech Syria could deliver.

The representative of Syria said the drift in this debate was away from disarmament, and this was sad. Perhaps it was because the representative of Israel wished to avoid mention of Israel's nuclear arsenal, let alone discussion of whether Israel would allow inspections of its nuclear facilities. In his other remarks, the Israeli representative had turned truth upside down. The Palestinians mentioned were present in Damascus because Israel was occupying Palestine. If Israel would leave, they would not be in Syria. These groups were protecting Palestinians' right to an independent State and to self-determination. Despite the accusations made, there were only information offices in Syria related to Palestine, and this was a legitimate activity.

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The representative of Israel said he wished to remind the Syrian Ambassador that this was not the Commission on Human Rights; the Commission provided six weeks for exhanging these barbs. But he wishrd to state that the political and electoral procedure in Israel was free and democratic; he would recommend its establishment in the country the Syrian Ambassador represented. It might prove a useful and enlightening innovation.

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The representative of Syria said he had not talked about the political regime or the elections in Israel; he had talked about the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel, not the electoral process. With their ideas, they had inspired the one who had killed Prime Minister Rabin. That was what he had said. How Israel managed its elections was a matter of its own sovereignty and Syria had nothing to say about that.

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The representative of Israel said that for the record, the accusation made by the Syrian Ambassador just now, and others he had made, were false.

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For information media - not an official record