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UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


GA/DIS/3237
21 October 2002

Fifty-seventh General Assembly
First Committee
17th Meeting (AM)

URGENT RATIFICATION OF COMPREHENSIVE NUCLEAR-TEST-BAN TREATY
CALLED FOR IN ONE OF NINE TEXTS APPROVED BY FIRST COMMITTEE

United States Votes against Draft;
Says Opposed to CTBT, Will Not Seek Reconsideration of Senate’s Rejection


Stressing that a universal and effectively verifiable Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was a fundamental instrument in the field of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, the General Assembly would stress the importance and urgency of signature and ratification, without delay and without conditions, according to one of nine draft texts approved this morning by the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).

Other drafts were on the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free southern hemisphere and Middle East, assurances for non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, negotiations for a fissile material cut-off treaty, reducing nuclear danger, a convention prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons, a conference on eliminating nuclear dangers, and follow-up to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.

The Committee approved the draft resolution on the CTBT by a recorded vote of 125 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 4 abstentions (Colombia, India, Mauritius, and Syria).  The text urged all States to remain seized of the matter at the "highest political level".  (For details of the vote see annex I).

Explaining his opposition to that text, the United States representative said his Government did not support the CTBT.  In October 1999, the United States Senate had voted not to give its advice and consent to ratification of that Treaty, and the Administration did not plan to seek reconsideration of that vote.  All States, meanwhile, must maintain their moratoriums on nuclear testing.

By a recorded vote of 148 in favour to 3 against, with 4 abstentions (annex V), the Committee approved a draft resolution on a nuclear-weapon-free southern hemisphere, by which the Assembly would express its determination to pursue the total elimination of nuclear weapons and call for the ratification of existing nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties in the regions of Latin America and the Caribbean, South Pacific, South-East Asia, Africa, and Antarctica.

Prior to approving the draft as a whole, the Committee took two separate votes.  The first was on the phrase "and South Asia" in operative paragraph 3, which called on States to consider relevant proposals for the establishment of such zones, including in the Middle East and South Asia.  The phrase was approved by a vote of 141 in favour to 2 against (India, Pakistan), with 8 abstentions (Cuba, France, Israel, Mauritius, Myanmar, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States)(annex III).

The Committee approved the third operative paragraph as a whole by a vote of 148 in favour to 3 against (France, United Kingdom, United States), with 4 abstentions (Israel, India, Russian Federation, Spain) (annex V).

A proposal for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in South Asia had as much validity as proposals for such zones in East Asia, or Western Europe or North America, the representative of India asserted after approval of the text.  The contradiction in operative paragraph 3 was even starker when seen in the context of current realities.  Given those distortions and contradictions, he had voted against that paragraph and the phrase "and South Asia", and had abstained in the vote on the draft as a whole.

Similarly, the representative of Pakistan said he had supported the objectives of the draft and voted in its favour, but he was perplexed by the call for the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in South Asia.  He had sought to promote that objective, unsuccessfully, for more than two decades, but, following the nuclear weapons explosions in his neighbourhood in 1998, the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in South Asia had become redundant. 

A draft resolution calling for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East was approved without a vote.  The representative of Israel said he had joined consensus on that text, as his country had for the past 20 years, notwithstanding substantive and important reservations to some of its elements.  Israel supported the eventual establishment of a verifiable zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, as well as ballistic missiles.  But, the reality in the Middle East required a step-by-step approach that included peaceful relations, reconciliation and possible arms control measures.

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Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to begin its third phase of work, namely decisions on all security and disarmament-related items.

The third phase of work of the First Committee is divided into 10 clusters:  nuclear weapons; other weapons of mass destruction; outer space; conventional weapons; regional disarmament and security; confidence-building measures, including transparency in armaments; disarmament machinery; other disarmament measures; related measures of disarmament and international security; and international security.

Action was expected today on the following texts from cluster one:  the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT); a United Nations conference to identify ways of eliminating nuclear dangers in the context of nuclear disarmament; the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East; a nuclear-weapon-free southern hemisphere;

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A draft text sponsored by Egypt on behalf of the Arab League on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East (document A/C.1/57/L.28) would have the Assembly urge all parties directly concerned to consider seriously taking the practical and urgent steps required for the implementation of the proposal to establish such a zone, and, as a means of promoting that objective, would invite the countries concerned to adhere to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

The Assembly would call upon all countries of the region that had not yet done so, pending the zone's establishment, to agree to place all their nuclear activities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.  It would invite the nuclear-weapon States and all others to render their assistance in establishing such a zone and, at the same time, to refrain from any action that ran counter to both the letter and spirit of the present text.

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Action on Drafts

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Turning to draft texts in cluster 1 on nuclear weapons, the Committee approved the draft resolution on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) (document A/C.1/57/L.4/Rev.1) by a recorded vote of 125 in favour to 1 against (the United States), with 4 abstentions (Colombia, India, Mauritius, and Syria).  (See Annex I).

Speaking after the vote, the representative of Syria said he abstained in the vote because a text on a Treaty as important and sensitive as the CTBT, and its obligations on all Member States, should not ignore the legitimate concerns of non-nuclear-weapon States.  Those countries had received no guarantees against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, nor had they had access to certain advanced technologies essential for their development.  Further, the text had not included an obligation of the nuclear Powers to eliminate their nuclear arsenals within a reasonable time frame, nor had it explicitly referred to the illegality of the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. 

He said that the text had referred to nuclear detonations, but it had not  referred to laboratory experiments or the qualitative upgrading of nuclear weapons.  The possible misuse by nations of the verification mechanism had also not been mentioned, and the text had ignored the right of a country to decide for itself whether or not to accede to that Treaty.  The tense situation in the Middle East was another reason for his abstention in that vote.  Israel was the only country in the region with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, yet it had refused to adhere to the NPT and subject its nuclear facilities to the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), thus impeding efforts to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. 

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The representative of Israel said his country signed the CTBT in September 1996 as a demonstration of its long-standing policy to support international efforts to prevent proliferation, taking into account the specific situation in the Middle East.  It had also played an active role in negotiating that Treaty in Geneva.  Since the establishment of the Preparatory Commission in November    1996, Israel had played a major part in developing the verification regime.  It decided to vote in favour of the draft resolution because of the importance it attached to the objectives of the CTBT, notwithstanding its reservation to some of the wording in operative paragraph 1, which stressed the importance and urgency of signature and ratification, without delay and without conditions. 

He said Israel remained committed to the objectives of the CTBT, but had lamented that only moderate progress had been made on certain important issues, including completion of the verification regime.  That should be a robust system for protecting compliance, immune from abuse, and allowing each signatory to protect its State interests.  Meanwhile, several salient political issues remained unresolved, particularly those relating to the Middle East and South Asia.  Those problems were further compounded by the lack of acceptance of the CTBT by some States in the Middle East.  He was concerned with the negative dynamics evolving in his region, which were slowing the pace of development of certain aspects of the verification regime. 

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Acting without a vote, the Committee approved the draft resolution on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East (document A/C.1/57/L.28).

Speaking after approval of that text, the representative of Israel said his delegation had joined the consensus, as it had done for the past 20 years, notwithstanding substantive and important reservations to some of its elements.  Israel had always maintained that the nuclear issues, as well as all regional security issues, should be dealt with within the full context of the peace process.  Israel supported the eventual establishment of a verifiable zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, as well as ballistic missiles.  The reality in the Middle East, however, required a step-by-step approach that included peaceful relations, reconciliation and possible conventional and non-conventional arms control measures. 

That process could perhaps lead to more ambitious goals, such as the proposed nuclear-weapon-free zone, he said.  But, such a zone could not be established other than by the parties themselves.  Nor could it be established in a situation where some States maintained that they were in a state of war with each other.  There were continuing threats by "elements", in the region and beyond, against Israel's very existence.  That had had a critical impact on the region's ability to establish such a zone.  The region should be focused on the creation of a stable environment of peace and reconciliation.  Israel would do its utmost to achieve that goal and it called upon its neighbours to do the same.

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