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        General Assembly
15 October 2003

Official Records
General Assembly
Fifty-eighth session
First Committee
9th meeting
Wednesday, 15 October 2003, 3 p.m.
New York

President:Mr. Sareva ........................................................(Finland)
The meeting was called to order at 3.10 p.m.

Agenda items 62 to 80 (continued )

General debate on all disarmament and international security agenda items


Mr. Mekel (Israel): Allow me at the outset, Sir, to congratulate you on your assumption of the chairmanship of the First Committee. We are confident of your ability to guide us through our deliberations. As the world faces change and the international community seeks better ways to improve the security of mankind through future arms control, your task is certainly not easy and is very challenging. Let me assure you, Sir, of my delegation’s full support during the weeks ahead under your guidance. I should also like to congratulate Under-Secretary-General Abe on his recent appointment to his important position and wish him much success in carrying out his important task.

During the past year we have witnessed some promising developments that we hope will contribute to security, peace and international stability. At the same time, the international community has also had a sobering experience as it has become more aware of the growing threats that undermine the prospects for a safer world. The menace posed by Saddam Hussein to the peoples of the region and to international stability has been removed. At the same time, the continued proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, as well as actions by some States that violate their international commitments, have evolved from being a topic of discussion in closed intelligence and policy circles to a problem widely recognized by Governments and peoples. This reality, together with the fear of terrorism directed at the civilian population by means of man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS), for example, and in particular the possibility that terrorists will start using nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, presents innocent civilians throughout the world with a more concrete threat this year. The increased attention of the international community to the threats presented by rogue States and terrorist organizations inspires hope that at this juncture we are on the verge of conceptual change and that next year we will see more focus and practical actions to overcome very real threats to security and stability. Unfortunately, a large part of this reality is playing itself out in the Middle East.

The continued proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles, together with the reluctance of certain States to comply with their international commitments, does grave harm to the credibility of disarmament and arms control efforts and their ability to promote security and stability in the Middle East. We believe the time has come to admit that not all States have equally noble intentions when they commit themselves to arms control treaties. It is not always possible to count on their genuine cooperation. Regrettably, some join those arrangements only in order to obtain technology for military purposes under false pretexts. In our attempt to promote conventions and multilateral agreements in the field of disarmament and arms control, we must not forget that they are not in themselves the goal but merely one of the means to an end, namely the achievement of peace, security, stability and trust among nations. We should also be realistic in our assessments and not deny the limited ability of arms control mechanisms effectively to address security challenges.

These challenges emanate from certain regional conditions and thus require regional solutions. Israel is a committed and active partner in the effort to promote global peace and security through arms control, disarmament and proliferation prevention. This year is particularly noteworthy in this regard as Israel took upon itself for the first time the rotating presidency of the Conference on Disarmament and served as a Vice-Chairman of the Working Group charged with preparing for the fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament (SSOD-IV). In addition, Israel was active in other groups, such as the Group of Governmental Experts on the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, and other international forums that seek to promote security and stability. Israel is looking forward to expanding its involvement in the international quest for a way effectively to curb proliferation.

The reality of the Middle East is unique. Israel must face countries and organizations with declared intentions to destroy it — enemies that are constantly acting to terrorize and harm Israel’s civilian population, and neighbours that have never given up their ambitions to develop their weapons-of-mass-destruction capabilities, either clandestinely or openly. When there are attempts to undermine, weaken and limit Israel’s ability to defend itself and there is no process of building confidence, peace, reconciliation and hope, the unavoidable result is less security and less stability. In this reality, the options of unilateral transparency, unilateral disarmament, and unilateral arms limitations cannot contribute to peace, security and stability, but may actually lead to escalation of the conflict.

If there is to be any chance of common security, arms control and disarmament in the Middle East, all of the peoples in the region must come to terms with the existence of the State of Israel, establish a stable relationship of peace and conciliation with Israel, and cease their political and military attempts to threaten its existence. The next step would then be to embark on a joint process aimed at regional security-building. Concurrently, it is important to act with courage and determination with regard to the trend towards proliferation among the States in the region, their reluctance to comply with their arms control commitments, and their tendency to shelter and support terrorist organizations.

For its part, Israel has consistently attached great importance to the proliferation challenge and has placed that challenge high on its security policy priorities. We share the view of those States that have placed this issue at the top of the arms control agenda. Accordingly, Israel fully supports the efforts of potential suppliers to enhance cooperation and coordination in order to improve export controls over sensitive items. Israel associates itself with these efforts and acts accordingly. Peace and conciliation on the one hand and the prevention of terrorism and weapons-of-mass-destruction proliferation on the other, constitute the necessary foundations for progress in disarmament and arms control initiatives in the context of the Middle East.

Israel intends to continue and increase its cooperation with international efforts to curb illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons, and to curtail the trafficking of weapons-related materials, both conventional and non-conventional, wherever there is a danger that they will reach the hands of terrorists and their supporters. States have a national responsibility to increase control over dangerous substances and small arms and light weapons within their borders and to exercise strict and robust control over their export.

Over the years the First Committee has become an arena for wrangling between the different interests of groups and States. That situation is particularly true in the case of Israel, in that resolutions have usually amounted to no more than counterproductive condemnations divorced from the reality in our region. The time has come for the Committee to reassess its approach to the handling of issues in its field, so that the real threats posed to the security of mankind are effectively addressed. After all, that is the reason behind the establishment of the First Committee. We have an important task at hand for the sake of future generations. We believe that we are now standing at a turning point that calls for wise and careful consideration of the way we conduct our business. We must make better use of our time and resources to deal with the serious problems regarding global peace and security, rather than repeating anachronistic declarations and resolutions. One cannot solve old problems with new mistakes.

In the course of our deliberations our delegation to the First Committee intends to clarify Israel’s position regarding various draft resolutions on the agenda, including, of course, those concerning the Middle East. We trust that the First Committee will rise to the daunting challenges that face it and we wish it much success in enhancing the security of us all.


Mr. Ben Youssef (Tunisia) (spoke in French): ...


The creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at among the States of the region concerned, as well as zones free of weapons of mass destruction, represents an important means to promote non-proliferation at both the regional and international levels. The Middle East continues to be one of the most tense regions in the world owing to the refusal by Israel, an undeclared nuclear-weapon State, to accede to the NPT and place all its nuclear installations unconditionally under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards system, despite the many appeals made by countries of the region and by the General Assembly in its many resolutions on this issue. The parties to the NPT made the same request at the preparatory meeting for the 2005 NPT Review Conference. Israel’s obstinate behaviour represents a serious obstacle to disarmament in general and to the creation of lasting peace in the region. We also see an exaggerated militarization by Israel, which holds other weapons of mass destruction as well. In the face of this threat it is not reasonable today to deal with the situation on the basis of double standards. We call upon the international community, in particular the Powers with influence, to take credible steps to oblige Israel to respect its international obligations.


Mr. Alhariri (Syrian Arab Republic) (spoke in Arabic): ...


The Middle East is distinguished by something really horrifying that threatens the stability and security of the area and the world. Israel, by possessing a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, by its continuing occupation of Arab territories, by waging war on Arab States that entrenches its expansionist and aggressive policies against Arab States, and by its continued refusal to adhere to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon State and to subject all its nuclear activities to the comprehensive regime of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), threatens the security of the region and the world. All the Arab countries and the countries of the Middle East have adhered to the NPT except Israel, which still refuses to adhere to the Treaty and impedes the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. My country, on the basis of its belief in the importance of establishing such a nuclear-weapon-free zone, presented an initiative to the Security Council in June 2003 that aims at eradicating from the region all types of weapons of mass destruction, whether chemical, biological or nuclear. But those who accuse others of acq uiring such weapons are the ones who have obstructed and impeded our initiative. Syria once again reaffirms its call to the international community to support this initiative and to give it the necessary momentum to bring about its implementation.

Israel refuses to abide by international legality to bring about a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), the Madrid Conference, and the Arab initiative adopted by the Beirut summit in 2002. It continues its aggressive expansionist policies, which are based on a huge arsenal of all forms of conventional and non-conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction, prominent among which are nuclear weapons. Israel continues to seek to escalate the situation in the region and to export its internal crises, which are caused by occupation and by not recognizing the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent state on their own soil, and continues its repressive policies against the Palestinians by killing women and children, demolishing houses, closures and assassinations. The aggression undertaken by Israel against my country on 5 October is further evidence of the terrorist and aggressive policies of Israel, which aim at escalating the situation and making it volatile until it reaches a point where it cannot be controlled. It disregards the fact that its continued occupation of Arab territories and its repressive policies are the only reasons for the crisis which it is trying to export to the area. In response to this, Syria has resorted to the United Nations and to international legality as the United Nations is the appropriate place to deal with this matter and in order to condemn Israel and deter it from continuing its aggressive policies in the region.

We reaffirm once again that the presence of sincere political will is the only true way to bring about general and complete disarmament under full international supervision. Sincere political will, a commitment to international legality and to implementing United Nations resolutions, will bring about what humanity looks forward to in terms of international peace and security.

Mr. Al-Banai (Kuwait) (spoke in Arabic): ...


The Iraqi regime and the threat presented by it no longer exist. That regime was in itself a weapon of mass destruction, a weapon that caused the deaths of millions of innocent people. Security Council resolution 687 (1991) was aimed at having the Middle East region free of weapons of mass destruction. Israel continues to constitute the last and main obstacle keeping us from having a region completely free of weapons of mass destruction. Kuwait therefore appeals to all Member States to cease to provide scientific and technological means that facilitate the development of Israel’s nuclear programme. It also appeals to all other States that may wish to develop programmes of weapons of mass destruction to refrain from doing so.


Mr. Al-Aifan (Saudi Arabia) (spoke in Arabic): ...


It also adheres to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and refrains from the production or acquisition of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices or allowing any third party to deploy such weapons on its territory. It has participated effectively in the intensive efforts made by the Arab League through the Ad Hoc Technical Committee entrusted with drawing up a draft convention to establish a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.


My Government gives all its attention to efforts aimed at the elimination of weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East, including the region of the Arab Gulf, through its support for the efforts of the Arab League in accordance with the resolution of the Council of the Arab League at its 101st session. This resolution called for making this sensitive area of the world a region free of all weapons of mass destruction in all their forms, whether nuclear, chemical or biological. The Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in his statement to the General Assembly during the general debate, affirmed that what is a source of real surprise is that at a time when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is intensifying its monitoring and control of the activities of member States of the NPT, we see it ignoring Israel’s continued refusal to adhere to that Treaty. Hence its nuclear programmes are still outside the comprehensive safeguards and controls of the IAEA, thus posing a danger to peace and security in the region. We believe in the importance of the NPT through activating the means of inspection, monitoring and control of the safeguards of such facilities and achieving their universality. We believe that it is very important to set up criteria and benchmarks that will bring about the progress to which we all aspire in the area of disarmament in all weapons of mass destruction. On this basis, we call upon all States that have not yet adhered to the NPT to start taking the necessary steps towards adherence to that Treaty and subjecting their nuclear facilities to international safeguards and control.

Success in establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones in some areas of the world has been achieved by the cooperation of States and the inevitability of peaceful coexistence, which is a positive step towards establishing a world free of weapons of mass destruction. We are sincerely happy about the success that has occurred in these regions. At the same time we view the Middle East with concern, as it has regretfully been unable to achieve a nuclear-weapons-free zone because of Israel’s refusal to listen to the voice of reason and wisdom and because of its continued disregard of the calls of the United Nations, the IAEA, the conferences of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to refrain from developing, producing or testing nuclear weapons. In addition, Israel has not adhered to the NPT, has refused to subject its nuclear facilities to the IAEA’s international full-scope safeguards regime and has not been enthusiastic about establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. Therefore, Israel continues to be the only State in the region possessing nuclear weapons and programmes and chemical weapons outside international controls. That Israeli position, and all the justifications that it presents, blatantly contradict its claim of a sincere wish for peace. Real peace must be based on the confidence and good will of the peoples and countries of the region and not on the basis of the possession of nuclear weapons or the threat of the use of such weapons, or by imposing hegemonistic policies that are a source of concern and a threat to the peoples of the region. It also constitutes a threat to international peace and security. The most important piece of evidence of this is what the Middle East has witnessed today in terms of the escalating, repressive and brutal Isr aeli policies in the occupied Arab territories, which have returned the region to a state of crisis and tension and have obstructed international and Arab efforts aimed at bringing about a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. On this basis, the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia calls upon Israel — the only State in the region that has not yet adhered to the NPT — to take the necessary practical steps as urgently as possible to adhere to that Treaty in accordance with the relevant resolutions adopted by the General Assembly and Security Council. We call upon it to subject all its nuclear activities to the full-scope safeguards of the IAEA so that the Middle East will be a nuclear-weapon-free zone and a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction. We call upon all the States of the world to make every effort possible to change the Israeli Government’s negative approach by refraining from providing any form of financial, scientific or technical assistance that could contribute to the development or continuation of the Israeli nuclear programme.


Mr. Al-Ayashi (Yemen) (spoke in Arabic): ...


Despite all the efforts of the international community to make the Middle East a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, the position of Israel on these weapons is still an impediment to achieving this aim. The fact that Israeli reactors still remain outside international safeguards constitutes a threat to international peace and security and a violation of international resolutions which call on Israel to commit itself to all multilateral treaties. That is why we call on the international community to pressure Israel to accede without conditions to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to subject its nuclear, military and civilian reactors to International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.


The meeting rose at 6.05 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.

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