Follow UNISPAL Twitter RSS
Agenda items 65 to 81 (continued)
General debate on all disarmament and international security items
Mr. Erwa (Sudan) (spoke in Arabic): ...
The Sudan shares the rest of the international community’s interest in transparency in armaments as a means of consolidating international peace and security. At the same time, we note that the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms is anything but transparent; it is high time that the Register were expanded to include data on weapons of mass destruction and on advanced technology used for military purposes. The Register does not take into account the situation in the Middle East, where Israel continues to occupy Arab territories and to possess the most advanced and destructive weaponry. Israel is now using such weapons against defenceless civilians in Palestine, including women and children. Israel is defying the will of the international community and continues to refuse to accede to the NPT, as called for by participants in the 2000 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Final Document of which stressed how important it was for Israel to accede to the Treaty and to place its installations under comprehensive International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Israel’s continued defiance of the international community, the encouragement it receives from a super-Power and that super-Power’s silence in the face of Israel’s aggressive intentions and practices and its refusal to participate in disarmament efforts reflect the policies of hypocrisy and double standard practised by that Power, which pressures vulnerable States to accede even to conventions that are less important than the NPT while shamelessly placing all its nuclear and military expertise at Israel’s disposal.
Mr. Akram (Pakistan): ...
Regional approaches to international security, disarmament and non-proliferation have assumed special importance in the current international environment. The success or failure of security and disarmament measures in North-East Asia, the Middle East, South-East Asia and South Asia will have an important regional and global impact. Pakistan will once again submit a draft resolution on regional disarmament this year.
Pakistan welcomes the positive trends, including in the disarmament sphere, which have been witnessed recently in North-East Asia. In the Middle East, although the prospects of peace and disarmament have been damaged by recent developments, hopefully these have not been defeated. Pakistan deplores the loss of innocent lives. Peace in the Middle East, as elsewhere, must be based on equal security for all States of the region and the realization of the right of peoples to self-determination.
Mr. Issacharoff (Israel): I would like, on behalf of the Israeli delegation, to congratulate you, Sir, on the assumption of your position as Chairman of this important international body. This Committee is indeed charged with issues that are critical to the security and welfare of nations. In our region of the world, these notions have great resonance and relevance at this time and we hope that this body, under your able and professional guidance, will enrich our deliberations and fortify potential areas of agreement. My delegation will be happy to cooperate with you fully in this endeavour. We also extend our congratulations to the other members of the Bureau.
Allow me at the outset to state in no uncertain terms that peace remains Israel’s overriding strategic objective. While we cannot ignore the security risks and threats inherent in the consolidation of peace and other dangers that are beginning to cast an ever growing shadow over the area as a whole, Israel views peace as the vital component of any regional stability in our area.
Successive Israeli Governments have sought to advance peace and contend with a wide array of threats to Israel’s security emanating from various adversaries on different levels, some of which might remain even after the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The relationship between the quest for peace and the need for security has assumed a complexity in our region well beyond the straightforward assumption that in an era of greater peace, there should be fewer security concerns. We are now facing major challenges to the peace process itself and we must find a way to overcome these obstacles.
The Israeli-Palestinian track is now having to contend with the essence of the conflict and sensitive questions that have so far defied resolution. I hope that the Palestinians will not continue to turn their backs on the peace process. On the Syrian track, Prime Minister Barak put on the table far-reaching proposals, which unfortunately were rejected in Geneva earlier this year. In addition, the Government of Israel fulfilled in June its undertaking to remove troops of the Israel Defence Force from South Lebanon in complete accordance with Security Council resolution 425 (1978). Israel has always been a partner in any effort to forward genuine peace.
The relationship between peace and security is also critical in view of the existing and evolving threats to the Middle East, particularly from Iraq and, in a different fashion, from Iran. These countries are not engaged in, and in fact actively oppose, any compromise or resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. These two countries through their own acts and declarations, constitute a significant threat to Israel and to other countries in the area. In this context, with regard to Iran, I would like to state that Israel has no dispute with the Iranian people and seeks no conflict with the Iranian Government. We cannot, however, fail to be worried by the overt hostility Iran projects towards Israel and its recent long-range missile tests.
The threat of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles is not theoretical and these capabilities have actually been used in our area. Israel itself was targeted by Iraqi missiles in the Gulf War and this sobering experience remains fresh in our minds. The international community would also be well advised to consider current Libyan activities in the missile area. Other examples regarding the use of chemical weapons in the Middle East are, sadly, a matter of historical record.
Israel is profoundly concerned about the present situation with regard to Iraq and the lack of any monitoring and inspection mechanism in that country for the last two years. Saddam Hussein has not changed and he continues to constitute a real threat to his neighbours and the region. The United Nations bears a critical responsibility to the countries of the Middle East to ensure that Iraq is disarmed of all its weapons of mass destruction and missile capabilities in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions.
During the next decade, certain countries in the area could significantly expand their existing weapons of mass destruction and long-range missile capabilities as they have done in recent years. They could also acquire capabilities that will threaten areas well beyond the Middle East, such as Europe and South Asia. These threats continue to expand in gravity, range and scope.
One the essential challenges, therefore, remains in finding the right balance between the security implications inherent in a comprehensive peace and to maintain overall security in a wider regional context.
The Middle East is undergoing change in a more distinct way than the dramatic change in the European continent over the last decade.
In Europe the term “cold war” has been consigned to history, and the notion of a major conventional conflict or a nuclear exchange between East and West has receded significantly. Generally speaking, the lines in Europe are being fashioned more by cooperation than confrontation and Europeans can therefore feel that much safer and that much more secure.
I would note that even in times of tension, prior to the end of the cold war, the major Powers sought to lessen tensions through the creation of confidence-building measures. Subsequently, even when the tension subsided, both East and West maintained their strategic deterrent capabilities.
In the Middle East the picture is different. Notwithstanding much progress in the peace process over the last decade, the region has developed, instead of a cold war, the notion of a cold peace. What should be normalization between peoples, as a vital security component and a dynamic vehicle for cooperation, has itself become a matter of contention. The multilateral working groups established after the Madrid Peace Conference have not continued their valuable work aimed at fostering and encouraging modest confidence-building measures and regional cooperation.
Unfortunately, the level of rhetoric against Israel in certain parts of the Middle Eastern media has not decreased, and this too directly impacts and reinforces Israeli threat perceptions. We believe the Middle East should learn from the valuable experience of Europe in using confidence-building measures as a vital instrument in lessening tensions between peoples in their quest for peace and security.
People in Israel on a personal level do not necessarily feel safer or more secure. In fact, over the last two decades we have witnessed the growing trend of directing the conflict to our population centres, away from the conventional battlefield.
Added to this, other countries in the area are no less conscious than Israel of the threats emanating from Iraq and Iran. Various countries in the region have also sought to improve their conventional capabilities to counter these threats. They have the means to acquire state-of-the-art equipment and here again the levels of sophisticated armaments have increased significantly over the last decade. Armies in the region have not become smaller or less threatening.
These factors, while not necessarily connected to Israel, have an impact on the nature of our security environment and increase the risk factors we will have to take into account in the future.
All this leads to the central and disturbing conclusion that over the next decade current trends indicate that countries in the Middle East could come to possess greater quantities of sophisticated conventional armaments, chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities and long-range missiles. It could well be the worst of all worlds and most definitely not the new Middle East we hoped for.
I would like to stress the following points:
First, Israel will remain committed to the peace process and will do its utmost to bring about a permanent, comprehensive and durable solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Naturally, we will seek adequate security safeguards to cope with risk factors and threats within the process itself and beyond the present circle of negotiations.
Secondly, the longer range threats to Israel and to other countries in the area, as a whole, could become more profound and existential.
Thirdly, preventing Iraq from reconstituting its weapons of mass destruction and missile capabilities and from presenting a threat to the countries in the region will remain a critical factor in regional efforts to reduce arms levels in the area as a whole and, possibly, to moderate Iran’s military aspirations.
Fourthly, we hope that Iran will modify its ongoing plans to develop and procure weapons of mass destruction and missile capabilities that will continue to be dependent on external assistance.
It is with these basic considerations in mind that Israel has had to forge its policy on regional security and arms control. I will try now to outline our approach in the context of this broader regional perspective.
Israel attaches primary importance to regional arrangements that could provide an answer to questions regarding security and stability in the Middle East. At the same time, this approach has not prevented Israel from supporting the efforts of the international community in curbing the proliferation of conventional and non-conventional weapons and, where appropriate, from endorsing global arrangements that do not impair Israel’s vital security margins and could complement those required at the regional level.
Over the years, Israel has consistently supported the principle of non-proliferation and has never adopted a policy against the NPT regime. Israel believes, however, that the Treaty cannot be a substitute for a regional arrangement in the Middle East, where wars, armed conflicts, political hostility and non-recognition are still prevalent. These political realities in our area mandate a practical step-by-step approach, bearing in mind the ultimate goal of achieving a comprehensive peace between all the States of the region.
Accordingly, Israel supports the eventual establishment of the Middle East as a zone free of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, through arrangements freely negotiated by the regional parties and emanating from, and encompassing all the States in the region. Indeed, for the last 20 years, Israel has been part of the consensus in the First Committee regarding the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, and we hope that this consensus will be preserved.
In addition, we note that the agenda item entitled “The Risk of Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East” is still on our agenda, reflecting a transparent political attempt to single out Israel in an amplified way. Resolutions on this item have diverted attention from the very real and pressing proliferation problems in our area. The item ignores the ongoing problem of Iraq and the continuing efforts of Iran in the nuclear and missile areas. In short, we believe that such an agenda item has no place in an objective and professional body, which should engage in more constructive confidence-building measures so deeply needed in our area.
We also believe that this body, before taking action on this item, should also bear in mind the other concrete steps Israel has taken in the arms control area in recent years. The Foreign Minister of Israel signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in New York on 25 September 1996. This was an important and significant expression of Israel’s commitment to the principle of the Treaty. Currently, Israel is one of the most active States in the Preparatory Commission of the CTBT in Vienna, seeking to bring about conditions that will enable Israel to ratify the convention.
In addition, Israel signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1993 and is committed to its objectives. We note with concern that certain Arab countries have not signed or ratified this Convention, particularly bearing in mind that such weapons have been used more than once in our area.
I would like now to refer to conventional weapons. Israel believes that the spread of such weapons continues to be one of the acute primary day-to-day threats to security and stability in many areas of the world, and no less so in the Middle East. Accordingly, Israel has participated in the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms over the last years. We believe that a significantly wider participation of our Arab neighbours in the United Nations Register would serve to enhance mutual confidence and underline the continued importance of focusing attention on the dangers of conventional weaponry.
Mr. Amar (Morocco) (spoke in French): Allow me first, on behalf of my delegation and on my own behalf, to congratulate you, Sir, on your accession to the chairmanship of the First Committee of the General Assembly. Confident of your human and professional qualities and of your in-depth knowledge of disarmament and international-security issues, my delegation is certain that you will guide our work to the successful outcome we all await.
The Sixth Review Conference of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) held in New York was able, though not without difficulty, to adopt by consensus a final document that encapsulated the views and objectives of the States parties to this Treaty. This Conference will likely prove to have been an event of major importance given that it was the first Review Conference after the 1995 Conference, which indefinitely extended the NPT. The minimalist approach would have it that the NPT has largely done what it has to do and is of unquestionable value to the maintenance of international peace and stability. The maximalist approach continues to deny that the NPT has led to any progress in the fields of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. Between these two, one could take an objective and realistic view that the Sixth NPT Review Conference, in spite of the lacunae and omissions of which it could be accused, has been able to take clearly positive positions as regards both practical disarmament measures to be undertaken by the nuclear-weapon States and the question of the Middle East.
In effect, the Conference agreed for the first time to cite Israel for being the only State in the region that was not a party to the NPT, and it appealed to Israel to accede to this Treaty and to submit all its nuclear installations to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards system. If Israel hears it, the appeal could contribute to buttressing regional peace and security and to the implementation of the decision to create a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region. Morocco hopes the international community will bring to bear the necessary pressure so that this appeal is heard and responded to actively.
The Chairman: I shall now call on those representatives who wish to make statements in exercise of the right of reply.
May I remind members that, in accordance with decision 34/401 of the General Assembly, statements in the exercise of the right of reply are limited to two interventions. The first intervention is limited to 10 minutes and the second to five minutes.
Mr. Baeidi Nejad (Islamic Republic of Iran): The representative of Israel, a country which does not respect in any way the principles of peace, security and disarmament, as enshrined in the various documents of the international community in the form of treaties and guidelines, made baseless accusations in his statement today.
First, the nature of the statement by Israel is a reflection of the legitimacy problem that it faces in the region. Surprisingly, in his statement the Israeli representative on numerous occasions accused my country of striving to develop weapons of mass destruction. There is a famous proverb stating that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Let us look at the record. Israel is not a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and has not placed its facilities under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, but operates secret nuclear programmes, especially in Demona, which is a matter of deep concern to the international community.
The 2000 NPT Conference, held some months ago, called on Israel by name to accede to the NPT, which is in itself a manifestation of the recognition of such a threat in the region. It also urged all States to push this regime to accede to such an important Treaty. Nor has Israel joined and ratified the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) or the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which accordingly gives rise to serious questions as to the commitment of this regime to banning weapons of mass destruction.
Israel has also developed long-range missiles and fighters — up to 5,000 kilometres — which are able to carry weapons of mass destruction. I do not need to refer to the record of my country, which, as a party to the NPT, has placed all of its facilities under IAEA safeguards, is a party to the BWC and the CWC, and, beginning last year, has submitted a draft resolution on missiles, which makes clear our concern about the development of missiles in the region.
Delegations in this room today were waiting and expecting to hear the representative of Israel express his regrets concerning the criminal activities perpetrated and the measures taken by that regime in the occupied territories. Innocent Palestinians have been killed in the streets by the most brutal means, such as armed helicopters and tanks.
It is very surprising that the representatives of this regime, which has failed even to condemn the provocations or to express its regret at the killing of innocent people, is inviting the countries of the region to join in the promotion of confidence.
Let me reaffirm that the only lasting solution for the deep problem in the Middle East is to grant the people of Palestine their inherent rights, as stipulated by the many resolutions adopted by the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Mr. Mekdad (Syrian Arab Republic) (spoke in Arabic): The delegation of the Syrian Arab Republic wishes to exercise its right of reply to the claims that were put forward by the Israeli delegation.
At the outset, I would like to affirm that the Israeli delegation told everything except the truth. It is a well-known fact that peace is closely linked to truth, since truth is the basis on which bridges of peace and justice may be built. Indeed, what is most irritating in the Israeli statement is its insistence on distorting and reversing the facts. We believe that this is “the truth” of the Israeli strategy.
The Israeli delegation speaks of peace while the entire world is witnessing the Israeli mode of achieving peace. The Israeli way is to kill innocent people and to dispatch its army to kill anything alive and moving. The Israeli delegation speaks of peace and disarmament, while Israeli missiles and tanks are killing everything in their way, including women, children and old people among the Palestinians and other Arabs in other regions of the world.
In the course of two weeks, approximately 115 martyrs have fallen. By all standards, this is a massacre perpetrated against an unarmed and defenceless people and against children who are suffering from Israeli oppression. They have nothing to defend themselves with except stones and their own bodies. Where is peace with the Palestinians when defenceless people are being killed and the headquarters of the leadership is being destroyed?
It is surprising that the Israeli delegation speaks of Israel’s full endorsement of every international effort concerning small arms, landmines and missiles, while those very weapons are being used now for destruction and for the killing of innocent people. The level of untruth in the Israeli statement reached a point where the speaker said that Syria did not accept offers and proposals for peace at the Geneva meeting. The fact is that Israel did not make any offers or proposals at the Geneva meeting; the only proposal made was for Syria to give up its territory, its regional waters, its land, its sovereignty and its dignity. That was the Israeli proposal. Is there a single delegation in this room, apart from the Israeli delegation, willing to accept an offer of that kind?
As for the other lie, it is that the Israeli delegate said that there are other countries in the region that manufacture weapons of mass destruction and missiles and other weapons included in the list we are dealing with in this Committee. Everyone knows that Israel started the arms race in the region and that it is armed to the teeth with conventional, nuclear and chemical weapons and with mines. Israeli scientists have declared that Israel has more than 300 nuclear bombs that can be borne by missiles and aircraft and burn up the entire region.
Israeli logic in itself is aggressive. Their pretext of false security allows them to do whatever has been banned internationally. In fact, the ones who need security are the Arabs. Arab territories are occupied and Arab civilians are being murdered. The Arabs are the ones who do not have the weapons to defend themselves.
Another untruth on the part of the Israeli delegation is their claim that they fully agree with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The entire world knows — as has been said at past NPT Review Conferences — that Israel is the only party that has refused to place its nuclear establishments under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
We can speak at length, but I will conclude by saying that peace in the Middle East will not be achieved through arsenals of weapons, or through the threat to use them against others, or through the imposition of Israeli conditions on Arabs. I wish to affirm that Syria has made a strategic choice for a just and lasting peace that can only be achieved by Israel’s total withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories to the 4 June 1967 line, the implementation of the resolutions of international legality, resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), the principle of land for peace and the terms of reference of the Madrid Conference.
Mr. Issacharoff (Israel): I will attempt to reply to the statements made by the representatives of Iran and Syria, respectively. First of all, to the Iranian delegate, I would like to state in no uncertain terms that Israel has no problem with its legitimacy, either in the area or beyond it. Secondly, in my statement I recorded Israel’s concerns regarding Iran’s programmes in the weapons of mass destruction and missile areas, and with very good reason. Senior Iranian leaders, including President Khatami, have continued recently — even in the last few days — to call for the destruction of Israel, and President Khatami is supposed to be among the moderate leaders of that country. Various other officials in Iran have repeatedly stated that the Shehab-3 missile is designed to hit Israel. Therefore, I frankly cannot see why he has any problem with my being concerned about these facts.
Regarding the peace process, I would suggest very strongly that he try to let us and the Palestinians come to terms with the problems that we have. They are too serious to make rhetoric out of them. We have tried to move the peace process forward in a very serious and determined way. We have done so for more than 20 years. I would like to say, with regard to the Iranian record on the peace process, that trying to undermine and weaken the peace process and encourage terrorist attacks against those who seek peace has not brought very much honour to that country. So if the Iranian representative thinks I should apologize for Israel’s being concerned about Iran’s activities, I am afraid that I might have to spoil his weekend.
The Syrian representative referred to the truth about the meeting in Geneva. I think I am pretty well up to date, and I know that my Prime Minister submitted very far-reaching proposals for peace with Syria — proposals that have gone very far in trying to relate to the Golan Heights problem and in seeking a wider peace with Syria. Whether these proposals were rejected in the meeting with President Clinton in five or seven minutes by the late President Assad is something I do not know, but they were rejected all the same. Regarding the truth, I wonder, when we have had such far-reaching proposals on peace, whether the rejection of such proposals does not, in fact, indicate that, in the Syrian mind, peace with Israel still remains unacceptable. While I am comforted that they have said, today and on other occasions, that they seek to make a strategic peace with Israel, I would very much like to see how this receives expression in everyday life.
Regarding the events in the territories over recent days, I think it is not appropriate for the Syrians to lecture us and dramatize these events. As I said earlier, I think they are too serious. They have to be addressed in a serious way. Israel did not start those riots; we do not seek them and we have no interest in their continuation. As for massacres, I will reserve my position on the Syrian record in that regard.
Mr. Mekdad (Syrian Arab Republic) (spoke in Arabic): I apologize for using so much precious time — yours, Mr. Chairman, and that of the Committee. It is well known that the Syrian Arab Republic has, indeed, made peace a strategic option. That is a fact. Syria has endeavoured from the beginning of the peace process to the present to achieve a comprehensive and just peace in the region, and I just explained the basis on which such a peace can be established. I am surprised by what I heard from the Israeli representative, who spoke of the proposals made at the Geneva meeting. He says that he does not know everything about those proposals. The proposals did not mention the total withdrawal of Israel from the occupied Arab territories to the line of 4 June 1967. It seems that the Israeli representative is not aware of the policies and practices of his Government in this respect.
It is clear that Israel is not willing or ready to achieve that peace, and what is taking place at the moment bears witness to that. No world event justifies the perpetration of such massacres by Israel. The Israeli representative knows that his Government has to date killed more than 115 Palestinians. These are true massacres, perpetrated against a defenceless and unarmed people. The international community has condemned these massacres. The problem is that we hear much about peace, but we do not see any real measures to achieve such a peace in the territories, on either the Palestinian or Syrian tracks.
As I said, and I would like to affirm this once more before this Committee, the Syrian Arab Republic is totally committed to the internationally binding resolutions of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), which Israel is trying to disregard, to say nothing of Israel’s attempt to humiliate and oppress the Arabs through its current acts in the Palestinian territories. When the Arabs reject such a peace — the Israeli peace — they are bombed, destroyed and killed. Is that peace?
The Chairman: Some delegations have asked to exercise their right of reply for a second time. Because of the lateness of the hour, we will hear them in the afternoon. We will then proceed with our thematic discussion.
We have concluded the first phase of our work, namely, the general debate. In accordance with the adopted programme of work, starting this afternoon, the Committee will begin its second phase of work, namely, the thematic discussion on item subjects as well as the introduction and consideration of all draft resolutions submitted under agenda items 65 to 81. As an easy reference for delegations, document A/C.1/55/CRP.2, containing subjects for thematic discussion, was distributed yesterday. In order to organize these meetings in an orderly manner, delegations are requested to kindly inscribe their names on the list of speakers for the specific meetings, if they are ready.
Before adjourning the meeting, I should like to inform the members of the Committee that the informal consultations on small arms scheduled for this afternoon have been cancelled. Another consultative meeting on small arms, originally scheduled for 16 October, has also been postponed until a later date.
The meeting rose at 1.20 p.m.