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


Fifty-eighth General Assembly
First Committee
17th Meeting (AM)
GA/DIS/3263
28 October 2003

DISARMAMENT COMMITTEE APPROVES TEXT TO ENSURE EFFECTIVENESS OF UNITED NATIONS CONVENTIONAL ARMS REGISTER

Legality of Nuclear Weapons, Regional Disarmament
Among Other Issues Addressed, as 9 More Texts Recommended to General Assembly


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Background

When the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its third and final phase of work, namely action on all draft resolutions and decisions, it had before it texts related to nuclear and conventional weapons, regional disarmament and security, confidence-building measures including transparency in armaments, and disarmament machinery.

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Draft Summaries

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Cluster 6

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By a draft resolution on transparency in armaments (document A/C.1/58/L.45), the Assembly would reaffirm its determination to ensure the effective operation of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.  With a view to achieving universal participation, it would also call upon Member States to provide the Secretary-General by 31 May annually with the requested data and information for the Register, including nil reports if appropriate.

By a further term, it would invite Member States in a position to do so, pending further development of the Register, to provide additional information on procurement from national production and military holdings and to make use of the “Remarks” column in the standardized reporting form to provide additional information such as types or models.

It would also reiterate its call upon all Member States to cooperate at the regional and subregional levels, taking fully into account the specific conditions prevailing in the region or subregion, with a view to enhancing and coordinating international efforts aimed at increased openness and transparency in armaments.

The draft resolution is sponsored by Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Canada, Chile, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Monaco, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Serbia and Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela and Zambia.

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Action on Texts

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The Committee then took up draft resolutions from cluster 6.

Speaking before the votes, the representative of Syria said that, in light of the draft resolution on transparency in armaments (document A/C.1/58/L.45), he supported a world free from the use of force or threat of force, in which peace, equality and justice prevailed.  He also stated that his country was prepared to participate in any international efforts aimed at attaining such a world.

However, he added, the draft at hand did not take into account the specific situation in the Middle East.  In that region, there was a prolonged conflict because of Israel’s continued occupation of Arab territories and its failure to implement Security Council resolutions.  Also noting that Israel possessed the deadliest and most sophisticated of weapons, he found it disturbing that that country’s expressed wishes for transparency only covered the tiniest part of its sophisticated arsenal.

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The draft as a whole on transparency in armaments (document A/C.1/58/L.45) was approved by a recorded vote of 140 in favour to none against, with 23 abstentions (Annex VII).

Speaking after the vote, the representative of Iran said he had abstained.  That was consistent with his country’s position advocating a more comprehensive approach to transparency in armaments.  After more than 10 years of the Register’s operation, for the first time the group of governmental experts had moved “some inches forward” and added new items to the list of seven categories.  While Iran had actively participated in the work of the group, it had repeatedly announced that transparency in conventional arms without transparency in weapons of mass destruction was imbalanced and lacked comprehensiveness.

He said that was particularly so in the sensitive region of the Middle East, where Israel remained the only non-party to the NPT and continued to possess nuclear and other mass destruction weapons.  There had been a pattern concerning the lack of participation of the countries in West Asia and North Africa in the Register.  That pattern demonstrated that the Register, which had been in force more than a decade, was not a popular confidence-building mechanism in West Asia and its neighbourhood, due to the legitimate concerns of the countries in the region.

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The representative of Syria, on behalf of the Arab Group, said the Register on Conventional Arms, in order to become more relevant, had to become more non-discriminatory.  Expressing concern that many countries had not submitted any information to the Register, he said the instrument needed to be expanded.  Rather than being limited to 7 categories of conventional arms, it should encompass weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.  Such a change would make the Register more comprehensive and less discriminatory, and that would encourage more countries to participate.  As it stood currently, the instrument failed to address many countries’ security concerns.

Turning to the Middle East, he said the great military imbalance there represented a special case.  In that context, ignoring the most lethal, destructive weapons would only make the Register less relevant in his region.  Noting that Israel continued to occupy Arab lands, possessed weapons of mass destruction, had not acceded to the NPT, and had failed to subject its nuclear facilities to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, he said it was especially worrying that the group of governmental experts had not been able to expand the Register’s scope to include weapons of mass destruction.  In that regard, the instrument had failed to serve as an adequate confidence-building tool.

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The representative of Israel then took the floor to explain his vote on the draft on transparency (document A/C.1/58/L.45).  However, the representative of Syria, in a point of order, declared that, as a co-sponsor, Israel had no right to explain his vote.  Acknowledging that the Syrian representative was correct, the Chairman of the Committee said the Israeli delegate could, however, make a general statement if he so desired.  The representative of Israel responded that he was actually not a co-sponsor of the draft.  The Chair acknowledged the validity of that statement and allowed the Israeli representative to take the floor in explanation of his vote.

Speaking after the vote, the representative of Israel said that, as in previous years, he had been forced to listen to a long list of baseless accusations against his country’s self-defence policies, in the context of the Register.  The accusations, however, had nothing to do with the Register and were, in fact, being made by representatives of countries that were not even participants in the instrument.  Stating that the Register did not pretend to be a solution for every issue, he noted that his country participated in it because it represented an important confidence-building measure.

Unfortunately, gradual confidence-building was a problem for certain States, which continued to express concern over his country’s self-defence policies.  That was ironic considering other more pressing areas of alarm.  Noting that countries that were not hostile to Israel were also not worried about its capabilities to defend itself, he maintained that participating in the Register constituted a stepin the right direction, and he called on his neighbours to join it. Only when relations warmed could the instrument be further developed.  To further put his Syrian counterpart at ease, he said he would like to add his delegation to the list of the draft resolution’s co-sponsors.

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