Question of Palestine home
19 October 1999
Tuesday, 19 October 1999, 10 a.m.
The meeting was called to order at 10.05 a.m.
Agenda items 64, 65 and 67 to 85
General debate on all disarmament and international security items
spoke in Arabic
The establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones is an important measure related to nuclear disarmament. It is also an important confidence-building measure at the regional level, and a step that will contribute to general and complete disarmament and help to protect the countries in such regions from the use or threat of use of such weapons. That is why Bahrain has supported all the initiatives taken in this direction, particularly the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones and zones free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, in accordance with relevant General Assembly resolutions. We firmly believe that it is essential to safeguard stability and security in the region and to protect its countries from such destructive weapons, thus allowing them to finance their development projects and raise the standard of living of their peoples.
Israel is the only country in the region not to have acceded to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Moreover, Israel continues to refuse to abide by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolutions calling for the submission of its nuclear establishments to the safeguards regime, a very important step towards establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone and a zone free of other weapons of mass destruction, which is essential for the establishment of a comprehensive and just peace in the region.
International cooperation to curb armaments, be they conventional weapons or nuclear weapons, remain one of the main objectives of the United Nations and the international community as we approach the end of this century. Our delegation believes that with a spirit of understanding prevailing in the world we could build a humanitarian and civilized society that will live in peace, prosperity and security for generations to come.
(Saudi Arabia) (
spoke in Arabic
The Kingdom also lauded the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), issued on 8 July 1996, which affirmed that all countries should be committed to pursue in good faith negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control. It also actively participated in the intensive efforts of the technical committee set up by the Arab League to formulate a treaty to turn the Middle East into a zone free of weapons of mass destruction.
All the above efforts and positions are true evidence of the good intentions of Saudi Arabia regarding the issues of disarmament and international security, in addition to creating a safe international environment, free from nuclear and other lethal weapons.
The success in establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones in certain parts of the world as a result of cooperation
between the countries involved and their belief in peaceful coexistence is a positive step towards creating a world free of weapons of mass destruction. Regrettably, the Middle East is not free of nuclear weapons, because of Israel’s refusal to establish such a zone. Israel still creates obstacles by linking nuclear weapons to the peace process and to the participation of all parties concerned. Israel still refuses to accede to calls from the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to desist from developing, producing and testing nuclear weapons. Israel also refuses to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or to subject its nuclear facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s safeguards regime. Thus Israel remains the only country in the region to possess nuclear weapons and programmes and chemical weapons that are not subject to international inspection.
The Israeli position and justifications concerning the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East clearly contradicts its declarations of peace. Real peace should be founded on trust and good intentions among the countries and peoples of the region and not on the possession of nuclear weapons, the threat of their use, and Israel’s attempts to impose its hegemonic political will on neighbouring countries. Such a policy will also threaten international peace and security.
Proceeding from this premise, the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia calls upon Israel, the only country in the region that did not accede to the NPT, to take the necessary steps to do so immediately, in accordance with General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. All Israeli nuclear activities should be subjected to the safeguards regime of the International Atomic Energy Agency so that the Middle East can become a zone free from nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.
(Syrian Arab Republic) (
spoke in Arabic
Many nuclear-weapon-free zones have been created in various regions of the world. Nevertheless, in the Middle East, which is a key strategic area, only Israel has refused to adhere to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In addition, Israel has nuclear installations which it refuses to put under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) global safeguards regime. In that way, it benefits from the support of nuclear Powers that helped it acquire nuclear weapons. According to the
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist
, a specialized publication published in the United States, Israel is ranked sixth, after the five nuclear-weapon States, in the possession of plutonium for military purposes, of which it has approximately 500 kilograms, not counting the nuclear missiles, which are well known to all. It is not acceptable for States to continue a nuclear policy using double standards: to see one State benefit from every type of support and protection and to have access to the most modern technology and most advanced weapons, including nuclear weapons, while other States are denied access even to the most simple technology which they need for peaceful purposes, especially for development.
The international community is required today more than ever to put pressure on Israel and urge it to adhere to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and make its installations subject to the IAEA’s safeguards regime; to renounce its warlike policy of possessing nuclear armaments in that region of the world; and to end its occupation of Arab territories, which threatens peace and security not just in the region but throughout the world.
(Israel): Please accept my delegation’s congratulations, Sir, on your assumption of the chairmanship of this Committee of the General Assembly. Please be assured that you enjoy our full support and cooperation in the task ahead of us. At the same time, I would like to express our thanks to your predecessor for the efficient way in which he conducted our deliberations during the previous session.
The last decade in the Middle East has followed the Dickensian formula of being the best of times and the worst of times. It was the best of times due to the peace process that began between Israel and Egypt and was expanded to an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians through the Oslo process and to the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. Moreover, new ties were established with other States in the region, ties which continue to expand. We also made some progress on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks of the peace process, and Israel is willing to resume these negotiations vigorously, aware that they may lead us to assume calculated security risks as part of an agreement.
Furthermore, on 13 September Israel and the PLO restarted negotiations towards reaching a resolution of the permanent status issues. This followed the Sharm el-Sheikh
Memorandum, signed on 4 September, which is in the process of implementation. The way is now paved for the resumption of a vigorous peace process reflecting Israel’s determination to reach peace, stability and security on a bilateral as well as on a regional level.
As we review the security of our region we can see, however, that the last decade was also the worst of times. The increasing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, along with the inability of the international security and arms control regimes to adequately meet the challenge of this proliferation in the Middle East, gives ample cause for alarm. Moreover, the last decade has seen the increase in the danger posed by terrorists, both to the peace process and to the internal stability of various countries. In addition, we may yet witness the rise of non-conventional terrorism as a threat in the not very distant future.
Therefore, our approach to regional security in the Middle East consists of the following components.
The first is the primacy of the peace process and the eventual resolution which is to lead to a durable and comprehensive peace. All regional security and arms control issues should be dealt with in this context.
Secondly, the peace process is a regional one and must embrace every country in the region. Within this framework, confidence-building and security measures have to be developed. Only on such a basis can regional arms control arrangements be achieved. Confidence-building measures have a role to play here, and the regional ACRS talks were a step in this direction.
Thirdly, a step-by-step approach is required. Any attempt to advance items on the overall agenda which should only be addressed at a later stage in the process will be self-defeating.
Fourthly, ultimately it is the progress achieved in the transformation of the region into a more peaceful, stable and secure environment that will set the pace and scope of arms control measures negotiated and effectively implemented in the region.
Fifthly, it is imperative to keep the peace process free of terrorism and violence. Terrorism, conventional and potentially unconventional, is supported, financed, encouraged and practised by the radicals in our region. It has assumed many forms, which are designed to disrupt the daily life of the civilian population, to undermine its resolve and to damage the economy. Above all, terrorism aims at derailing the peace processes which the Government of Israel and others in the region and beyond are striving to advance.
Sixthly, all steps and measures to be adopted through the arms control, regional security and peace processes must be designed to increase the overall stability of the region. At no point should they diminish the security of any State, nor should they allow any party to abuse these processes in order to acquire military advantages over the others.
Seventhly, every State is entitled to an equally high level of overall security, defined as freedom from threats to its existence and well-being. Thus, structural vulnerabilities should be compensated for by offsetting capabilities. Requirements for self-defence and deterrence of aggression are the only legitimate needs that should be taken into consideration in the arms control and regional security process.
Eighthly, the process and the agreements that may be reached should consider not only the threats from and capabilities of individual States, and non-State entities, but also those emanating from coalitions, treaties, political and regional military alliances, and from accords between States of the region.
Israel has aspired to achieve peace and security for all the peoples of the Middle East, with a life free of threats from the use of force. In this context, we hope that the day will come when a regional security framework, encompassing all countries of the Middle East, as the region shall be defined, will provide a cooperative multilateral response to the security problems in the region. We believe that the process of peace, arms control and regional security should enhance the security of each and every one of the States taking part in it, thereby contributing to the stability and security of the region as a whole.
This is the right moment, therefore, to examine the Middle East issues on the Committee’s agenda. First, Israel firmly believes in the eventual establishment of a mutually verifiable nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. We would like to see such a zone free of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, as well as ballistic weapons. We believe such a zone should be established by direct negotiations between States after they recognize each other and have established full peaceful relations between them. It cannot be established by those other than the parties themselves, nor
can it be established in a situation where some of the States maintain that they are in a state of war with another and refuse in principle to maintain peaceful relations.
In this context, it should be reiterated that, unlike other regions in the world where a nuclear-weapon-free zone has been established, in the Middle East there is a continuing threat against the very existence of one State in the region, Israel, and this bears directly upon the region’s ability to establish such a zone. Such a zone, therefore, would have to be directly negotiated and mutually verifiable. Only then would it achieve, on a regional basis, the non-proliferation goals of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Secondly, agenda item 79, “The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East” is a blatant political manoeuvre. As we proceed to a sounder and more secure environment in our region, the raising once again of the biased draft resolution under it will be interpreted as a clear manifestation of the misguided way in which United Nations bodies approach Middle East security dilemmas. Moreover, in terms of substance, the draft resolution has no added value beyond other draft resolutions already under discussion in the First Committee. One might also wonder at the incongruity of singling out Israel negatively while calling upon Israel to join the consensus on the nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. The so-called “risk” draft resolution focuses entirely on one region, ignoring nuclear proliferation in others. It also neglects the fact that the real risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East emanates from countries that, despite being parties to the NPT, were, and presumably are, engaged in ongoing efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.
The singling out of Israel clearly reveals the one-sided motivation of this draft resolution. No other draft resolution specifically calls on only one named State among the non-parties to accede to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, or to any other treaty.
In view of all that, Israel urges the international community to demonstrate its disapproval of this destructive diplomatic practice, and show its support for the peace process, by removing this item from the United Nations agenda.
Israel, of course, also takes part in the concerted efforts of the international community to curb the proliferation of conventional and non-conventional weapons and, where appropriate, endorses global agreements which could complement those established at the regional level. Indeed, Israel has been actively supporting and participating in efforts of the international community to prevent the proliferation of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, not least through export control mechanisms inspired by those of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Australia Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime, of which Israel is an adherent.
Israel and the Jewish people have recently celebrated the Jewish New Year of 5760 in prayers for peace and harmony on earth. Israel’s new Government is willing to take courageous and bold steps to promote reconciliation between us and our Palestinian neighbours. Further, as stated, we are actively seeking to achieve peace with our neighbours, including Syria, even as this may lead to the assumption of calculated security risks.
However, that will not happen if it is not accompanied by freedom from threats of annihilation, terrorism and war. Only then will we live to see the fulfilment of the vision of the ancient prophets:
“they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (
It is in our hands to reach this goal. The window of opportunity is open. Let us not miss it.
The meeting rose at 1.15 p.m.