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The meeting was called to order at 10.10 a.m.
Agenda items 62 to 80 (continued )
Thematic discussion on item subjects and introduction and consideration of all draft resolutions submitted under all disarmament and international security items
Mr. Bar (Israel): I would like to make a general statement outlining Israel’s position with regard to conventional arms. The First Committee has the task of contributing to international security and arms control. In this regard conventional arms control deserves particular attention by the international community in view of the growing amount of casualties and human suffering caused by misuse and indiscriminate use of conventional weapons.
The history of warfare is one in which tremendous civilian casualties have resulted solely from the use of conventional weapons. Conventional weapons in the hands of terrorists or countries that support terrorists can have a clear strategic impact. It is this history that offers us several important lessons with regard to conventional arms and armaments.
First, armaments in and of themselves do not pose threats: as was aptly stated many years ago “A sword never kills anybody; it is a tool in the killer’s hand”. The poisonous combination of extensive armaments and hostile intentions is what poses a genuine strategic threat. Israel therefore believes that the best antidote to the threat of armaments is the creation of an environment of confidence and trust.
Secondly, States must bear in mind that the need for armaments is in most cases a direct response to a given situation in which States are compelled to defend and secure their territory. Building trust and confidence in a region will necessarily reduce the need for armaments. When nations live together in a spirit of peace and good neighbourliness, it will be possible to reduce armaments and to increase transparency.
At the same time it is important that arms be controlled and the restraint be instituted so as to create the proper balance between legitimate security needs and the desire to prevent the unnecessary human suffering and loss of innocent life that result from irresponsible policies with respect to conventional arms proliferation. It is for this reason that my Government views the irresponsible use and transfer of conventional arms as a serious threat to regional and global security and stability. The spread of these weapons, or worse their acquisition by terrorists or criminal elements, invariably results in the loss of innocent life. Israel believes that the humanitarian dimension of this problem must remain foremost in our minds and serve to guide our deliberations on this matter.
Israel also believes that the best way to curb illicit arms proliferation throughout the world is through strong national commitment and determination. It is our view that States bear the primary responsibility for ensuring that no weapons are transferred from their territory without proper oversight. States must undertake marking and recording procedures for all weapons, stringent export controls, securing stockpiles and appropriate national legislation to prevent the misuse and proliferation of arms.
One important way to reduce tensions is through confidence-building measures. These are measures that are mutually agreed upon and whose objective is to enhance a State’s sense of security and reduce tensions. In considering such steps, however, we must bear in mind the specific nature of the conflicts, circumstances and threats in different regions. Some measures that are applicable in certain regions and can contribute to stability can have the opposite effect in other regions and could result in a reckless arms race.
In this context it should be noted that confidence-building measures are a means to achieve peace and security. They cannot be considered a reward, as they are an essential element in the embarkation on a process leading to an environment of trust, confidence and peace.
Transparency in armaments can serve as a useful instrument for reducing tensions. We believe that, in principle, the success of transparency is contingent upon the normalization of political and military relations among regional States. Israel is convinced that the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms is an important instrument and its contribution to regional and global stability and security is without doubt.
Since the inception of the Register, Israel has responded annually with information concerning the seven categories of major battle weapons. We have done so, despite the fact that our region has suffered continuing threats and lack of basic trust between nations. Israel decided to act this way for the purpose of building confidence and reducing the humanitarian impact of the use of conventional arms. We are encouraged by the valid conclusions reached by the Group of Experts regarding the Register, and particularly by the inclusion of man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) in this instrument. We hope that this will contribute to better control and restraint on the transfer of this type of weapon.
Unfortunately, there has been no significant development in the Middle East region with regard to wider participation of States in the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms or the beginning of a dialogue on regional transparency mechanisms.
Israel supports a gradual transparency process in military affairs, which must begin with regional responses, on a year-by-year basis, to the present United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and then evolve into advanced transparency. Advanced transparency that would encompass military holdings and domestic production capabilities, force projection and force multipliers, as well as advanced hi-tech military technology, can only prove stabilizing, if established as part of a regional security and arms control regime, taking into account national, regional and global security concerns. These should be based on mutually respected principles of reciprocity, comprehensiveness, openness and normalization in political and military relations. We hope that other countries will join us in participating in this instrument with a view towards its universal application.
Illicit proliferation and use of small arms and light weapons has affected many societies worldwide, causing suffering primarily to civilian populations, who must pay a high price. This phenomenon exacerbates internal conflicts, thereby increasing human suffering and threatening peace and security. Not only does it generate humanitarian problems but it also has a considerable impact upon all levels of society, be it economic or social. We therefore view the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms as timely and important.
Over the years, the international debate and initiatives related to small arms and light weapons have raised public awareness of the humanitarian problems caused by these weapons. This debate has also helped define and clarify different aspects of the issue.
Israel believes that small arms and light weapons must be controlled and restraints instituted, but in a way that takes into account legitimate security needs and at the same time preventing unnecessary human suffering and the loss of innocent life. We are certain that for many States the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms is not merely another theoretical exercise but rather a daily practice.
Israel shares the concern of the international community for the humanitarian cost of the irresponsible use and transfer of small arms and light weapons and has taken steps to curb their proliferation. Israel actively participated in the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects and calls on all States to implement the provisions of the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms. Israel warmly welcomes the Programme of Action in the sincere hope that it will contribute to human security and peace. We would like to add our name to the sponsors of draft resolution A/C.1/58/L.47, which promotes the implementation of the Programme of Action on a regional level.
Israeli civilians have been particularly vulnerable to the effects of the illicit transfer and use of small arms and light weapons. The terrorist attack in Mombasa, Kenya at the end of November 2002, where anti-aircraft missiles were fired at an Israeli civilian aircraft carrying more than a hundred passengers, highlights the problem of man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) falling into the wrong hands, especially those of terrorists. There must be safeguards to ensure that these weapons are not supplied to clients that may transfer them to terrorists. For Israel, as well as for other States in our region and the international community, the implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action has become even more relevant.
It is precisely the failure of some of our neighbours to control the flow of arms to and from the territory under their control and collect illegal arms from terrorist groups, that constitutes the major obstacle to implementation of the road map back to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
The continuation of the smuggling of arms, the extensive circulation of illicit small arms and light weapons and the extensive clandestine production of explosives and rockets have a devastating effect on our region and obliges Israel to take the necessary measures to protect itself and makes progress in the peace process impossible. Firm determination should be demonstrated by all in this regard. What is the contribution of the international community if we turn a blind eye to the continuation of illegal arms trafficking to terrorist groups?
Israel attaches particular importance to action aimed at preventing and minimizing the human suffering resulting from the indiscriminate use of anti-personnel landmines. Israel believes that an integral component in the effort to address this threat is cooperation. Cooperative initiatives in the areas of mine clearance, mine awareness and victim rehabilitation are of tremendous importance and contribute greatly to efforts aimed at alleviating the humanitarian problems associated with landmines.
Israel has taken a number of unilateral steps as well, including ceasing all production of anti-personnel landmines, declaring a moratorium on the export of all types of anti-personnel mines and ratifying the amended Protocol II annexed to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). Israel hopes that other nations in the region will join with it in establishing cooperative mechanisms aimed at reducing that threat, preferably within the context of a comprehensive regional peace.
As a High Contracting Party to the CCW, we see the Convention as a good example of how States can act to restrain the use of arms while not causing harm to their vital national security interests. Israel is participating in the current negotiations on an international instrument on explosive remnants of war with a view to reducing their humanitarian effects in post-conflict situations. Israel can contribute to this joint endeavour towards finding the proper balance between the legitimate security needs of States and our moral imperative to reduce human suffering.
Although Israel shares the humanitarian objectives of the Ottawa Convention, due to regional circumstances and the continued threat of terrorism, it cannot commit itself to a total ban on the use of anti-personnel landmines. We have, however, taken part in several international initiatives aimed at promoting mine awareness and support for victims of these terrible weapons.
Finally, it is our common objective to achieve peace and security and we all hope to come to an era where “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks”. This vision unfortunately, is yet to be achieved by those who seek to live in peace and security as it is underscored by the growing threat of terrorism. The loss of innocent life is always painful. Terrorism does not distinguish among its victims. All of us are threatened by this phenomenon and all of us have a responsibility to stop it. We repeat our call to our neighbours and other States to cease all support for the perpetrators of such crimes, including supplying them with weapons and explosives. Terrorism, after all, is only viable if countries allow, and even support its fortification through weapons transfers.
We therefore hope that the international community will consolidate its efforts towards ensuring the compliance of States with their international obligations. The fundamental commitment of States to resolve disputes peacefully, to cease support for terrorism, and to live peacefully within secure boundaries can lay the foundation for future disarmament of conventional arms.
The meeting rose at 1 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.