Question of Palestine home
22 October 1997
Wednesday, 22 October 1997, 10 a.m.
Mr. Nkgowe .........................(Botswana)
The meeting was called to order at 10.15 a.m.
Agenda items 62 to 82
General debate on all disarmament and international security items
(Israel): Let me begin by congratulating you, Sir, on your election as Chairman of this Committee. With your long experience, we are assured of skilful steering of our work. My delegation can assure you of its full cooperation.
In his recent address before the fifty-second session of the General Assembly, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel, Mr. David Levy, proposed a binding code of conduct for relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The purpose of such a code, on the eve of the resumed negotiations, would be to facilitate uninterrupted negotiations and crisis management and to create an atmosphere of dialogue. It would also contribute to renewed trust between the leaders and greater confidence and understanding between the peoples.
This code of conduct should include a mutual agreement rejecting violence as a means for achieving political goals and encouraging a framework of direct negotiations. It would also institutionalize permanent channels of communication, especially during times of crisis, and ensure the cessation of incitement to violence and enhance reconciliation and mutual respect. It would also contain a mutual undertaking to advance and encourage normalization, as well as support for regional activities.
There is no doubt that a similar code of conduct, based on similar principles, could also be instrumental in facilitating the ground rules required for the advancement of regional security and arms control efforts between the parties in the Middle East.
Concomitant with maintaining adequate military preparedness to contain radical regimes in the region and to prevent military adventurism, Israel aspires to achieve a regional security framework, encompassing all countries of the Middle East, to provide a cooperative multilateral response to all the security problems of the region.
True, in the present regional circumstances, this goal is not yet within our reach. Still, the future of the Middle East as a whole requires that the goal of a regional security framework be supported and nurtured constantly. Regional security dialogue and a gradual implementation of confidence-building measures, in parallel with the bilateral peace process between Israel and its neighbours and the abatement of hostilities between other long- time regional rivals, will enable more ambitious arms control and disarmament measures to be taken.
It should be remembered that, ultimately, it is the progress achieved in the transformation of the whole region into a more peaceful, stable and secure environment that will govern the pace and the scope of arms control measures in the region.
The Middle East could certainly learn from the experiences of other regions, where genuine efforts on the regional level have created mutually beneficial regional security frameworks. Still, there are several characteristics of the Middle East which affect, among other things, arms control and disarmament endeavours and their pace.
First, the region as a whole still lacks formal mutual recognition by and between all States, agreed mutual borders and a common acceptance of peaceful means as the only tools of regional policy.
Secondly, interregional relations are characterized by a multitude of conflicts and hostilities, rather than by shared values of democracy, pluralism and partnership.
Thirdly, there are shifting regional alliances and rivalries.
Fourthly, there is a lack of common understanding regarding the delineation of the region for regional security and arms control purposes.
Fifthly, there are multiple structural imbalances in such spheres as political culture and regime, geography, demography, structure of armed forces and distribution of natural resources and wealth.
Lastly, all of us hope that all States in the Middle East might move from considering their security perceptions as a zero-sum game to an evolving cooperative structure.
The multilateral Working Group on Arms Control and Regional Security, established in the context of the Middle East peace process initiated in Madrid in 1991, has been recognized as the appropriate framework for discussing all outstanding issues pertinent to the regional security and arms control agenda. We regret that the promising discussions and activities of this Working Group have been brought to a halt by placing overly ambitious and politically unrealistic objectives on its agenda. We call upon all concerned in the region to demonstrate the required flexibility in order to overcome the disagreements that are hindering the continuation of the talks.
In this context, Israel attaches considerable importance to the participation of Syria and Lebanon in the Working Group, hoping that this might assist in the attainment of confidence-building and conventional arms control measures which will ultimately apply to all States in the region.
Israel attaches primacy to regional arrangements which attempt to provide an answer to security and stability problems in the entire region. At the same time, this approach has not prevented Israel from taking part in or supporting the concerted effort of the international community to curb the proliferation of conventional as well as non-conventional weapons and, where appropriate, from endorsing global agreements which could complement those to be established at the regional level.
The agenda of the fifty-second session of the General Assembly, in relation to the work of this Committee, contains two items which are directly concerned with the Middle East. Those are agenda item 67, “Establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East”, and agenda item 74, entitled “The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East”.
Much has already been said regarding a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. Repetition of arguments and counter-arguments will not advance the issue.
The regional parties do not see eye to eye on some very basic premises, the required prerequisites and guidelines and/or the modalities of its eventual establishment.
All support the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free zone. Some agree that such a nuclear-weapon-free zone must take into account specific characteristics of the Middle East. But that alone serves as too narrow a basis for a common approach to this complex matter and task.
Moreover, there have been no promising developments recently that could make a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region more attainable in the near future — certainly not the advocacy of the destruction of Israel by some and the relentless pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery by several regional States which, at the same time, have pledged, by their accession to relevant international legal instruments, to forsake possession of such weapons.
The position of my Government on this subject is clear. After peaceful relations and reconciliation are established among all States in the region, Israel will most definitely want to see the establishment in the Middle East — through direct negotiations among all its members — of a zone free of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, as well as ballistic missiles, that is based on mutual and effective verification. This position is reflected in Israel’s reply pursuant to paragraph 10 of resolution 51/41, as set out in the report of the Secretary-General in document A/52/271 of 6 August 1997.
We see no reason to change this position. What should be changed in the Middle East, first and foremost, is the general state of military threat, instability, violence and unwillingness to renounce the use of force as a legitimate instrument of policy.
We have not seen in other regions any breakthrough in major arms control and disarmament endeavours as long as war was being advocated by some members of the region vis-à-vis their neighbours. The Secretary-General has acknowledged in his report that
“a nuclear-weapon-free zone cannot be conceived of or implemented in a political vacuum, separate from the process of mutual reconciliation” [A/48/399, para. 22]
The agenda item entitled “The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East” reflects a transparent political motivation to single out the State of Israel and to divert attention from the true risk of proliferation in the Middle East region, which derives from such regional States as Iraq and Iran, which are engaged in ongoing clandestine efforts to preserve or to acquire military nuclear capabilities. No carefully worded, so-called mild resolution addressed to my country can conceal this fact.
As I have already mentioned, Israel supports and takes part in the concerted effort of the international community to curb the proliferation of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, not least through its adherence to export control mechanisms. With this commitment to non-proliferation in mind, Israel voted in favour of General Assembly resolution 2373 (XXII) of 1968 adopting the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). It also welcomed the indefinite extension of the Treaty. At the same time, Israel does not find in the NPT an adequate response to its security problems and regional concerns. In our own region, NPT membership by itself is not a panacea, and events in the Middle East in this context have, unfortunately, proved that point time and again.
Israel’s attitude towards the NPT has become, unjustifiably, a major subject of criticism in annual resolutions submitted under this agenda item. No other United Nations Member State — including those that, for national security reasons, have found it impossible to join the NPT —has ever been subject to repeated condemnatory resolutions regarding the question of their Treaty membership.
There is no place for criticism of Israel based on external perceptions of Israel’s political and security situation or on subjective national experiences and lessons in other regions. This subject has always been, and will remain, a distinct question of Israel’s sovereign security interests. We therefore call upon all delegations to resist the annual temptation to demonstrate their support for the NPT in terms of Israel’s condemnation. It is about time for the renouncement of such discriminatory practices by the General Assembly and its Committees to become an integral element of the overall concept of United Nations reform.
If this Committee wishes to be of any relevance to the evolving situation in the Middle East with respect to the real and dangerous consequences of proliferation, it should address itself to the dangers posed by Iran and Iraq.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel recently put this reminder before the General Assembly:
“It was only a few years ago that the entire world was forced into forming a coalition to combat an aggressive dictator who sought to conquer a neighbouring country and to terrorize our entire region. Today, we face new and even more extreme dangers, but the lessons of recent experience have not been learned, and many countries turn a blind eye to the threat.
“The leadership of Iran continues to speak in terms that threaten the State of Israel and call for its destruction. Yet the international community continues to remain deaf and refuses to speak out against Iran’s policies, declarations and actions.
“Iran’s efforts ... represent the greatest threat to security and stability in the Middle East and beyond. The ramifications of Iran’s weapons programme extend far beyond the geographical confines of our region. They threaten the security of other members of the international community and their interests.” [See
Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty-second Session, Plenary Meetings
, 15th meeting]
It is therefore incumbent upon all Member States that have an interest in preventing further deterioration and dangerous developments to exercise the full weight of their influence and to take concrete steps before it is too late. The lessons taught by the course of events in Iraq should be heeded.
I wish now to make a few concluding remarks. The peace process between Israel and its neighbours may witness temporary setbacks or periods of stalemate due to the crucial issues at stake and their implications for the national interests of the parties concerned. Yet one should not lose sight of the remarkable achievements of this relatively young process, initiated 20 years ago against all the odds and in the face of many hurdles and much scepticism. The Israeli-Arab relations of 1997 are different in many positive respects, as a result of the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and the historic reconciliation with the Palestinians.
Future prospects for regional security and arms control in the Middle East as a whole depend on the pace of its transformation into a more hospitable and peaceful part of the globe. Israeli-Arab relations are only one element of a much larger and complex Middle Eastern picture. An improved political climate and the gradual building of trust and confidence through regional security and arms control measures could be mutually reinforcing. Both should be goals to which all should aspire and which all should pursue.
(Bahrain) (interpretation from Arabic): ...
The creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones in various parts of the world is one of those steps that can guarantee the non-proliferation of such weapons. It is also a positive step towards the final objective: international nuclear disarmament. And it is one of the means of achieving general and complete disarmament and of protecting States in certain regions from the threat or use of such weapons. This is why Bahrain has supported all the initiatives undertaken in this field, including the idea of creating a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly.
Bahrain is convinced of the need to safeguard peace and stability in the region. This will make it possible for the countries there to avoid the devastating consequences of these weapons and to finance their development projects to improve the standard of living of their peoples. Such efforts will also make a positive contribution to the peace process and strengthen trust and peace at the international and regional levels.
Israel is the only country in that part of the world that is not a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Israel continues to reject the resolutions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which demand that Israel place its nuclear installations under the Agency’s safeguards regime. Israel’s accession to the NPT and its respect for IAEA resolutions are essential to the creation of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, in the Middle East. This is essential if we are to create the conditions for just and lasting peace in the region.
(Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) (interpretation from Arabic): ...
With regard to discarding the nuclear option, we have the example of the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, notably in Latin America, the South Pacific, South-East Asia and Africa. My country supports the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and signed a regional treaty in that regard. Tel Aviv’s possession of nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction and missiles has cast the Middle East into a shadowy place at a great remove from the ideal of nuclear-weapon-free zones. That part of the world is threatened by instability and nuclear weapons. The fact that Tel Aviv has taken that option and is terrorizing the countries of the region, as well as its refusal to adhere to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and to heed the appeals of the international community to renounce its nuclear weapons, is underpinned by the technical support of States that claim to be concerned with international opinion. Weapons are destroyed on a selective basis, without affording the Islamic or Arab States of the third world the opportunity to guarantee their own security.
One must wonder why this is so. This imbalanced situation will surely affect the countries of the world and international security. It will also impede the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone. In the light of these developments in the field of disarmament, the holding of the fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament seems to us a very wise idea, as it would make it possible to review the disarmament agenda and define ways to achieve the objectives of the Final Document of the first special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament. As far as we are concerned, that document provides an essential foundation for disarmament.
The establishment of zones of peace throughout the world would be one way to enhance peace and security at the regional and international levels. This is why my country, which borders the Mediterranean, attaches the highest importance to enhancing security in that region, with a view to ensuring that it becomes a sea of peace and cooperation among the coastal States. The only problem is the existence of military bases and foreign fleets, as well as weapons of mass destruction. These are a source of instability and danger and seriously impede the strengthening of peace in the region. There is no doubt that it will not be possible to strengthen peace and stability in that region if the military bases, foreign fleets and weapons of mass destruction are not removed from the area.
(Syrian Arab Republic) (interpretation from Arabic): ...
In common with most of the non-nuclear-weapon States, we acceded to the Treaty in spite of its shortcomings, in the hope of effectively limiting the dangers inherent in the proliferation of nuclear arms, and in order to achieve their complete elimination and to obtain the technical assistance which the nuclear States parties to the Treaty undertook to provide with respect to the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes.
However, certain nuclear-weapon States have impeded the transfer of technology for peaceful purposes to non-nuclear-weapon States parties to the Treaty, which are obliged to respect its provisions. At the same time, they have accepted, overtly and covertly, the fact that certain advanced technology has been given to Israel, which has always refused to accede to the NPT. This has enabled Israel to achieve a military nuclear capacity, which is contrary to the letter and spirit of the Treaty. We therefore believe that the international community should establish a mechanism that will allow for the elimination of all nuclear weapons, put an end to their manufacture and liquidate the vast stocks in every country of the world in which they exist, without exception. Such a measure would be facilitated by the fact that the cold war has ended, an important and encouraging factor in this regard.
Syria is profoundly convinced that the NPT will not be able to achieve the objectives that we seek unless all the countries in the world accede to it without exception, both nuclear-weapon States and non-nuclear-weapon States. The credibility of this Treaty and the achievement of its objectives are conditional on its universality. This is true at the international as well as at the regional level. The creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones in various parts of the world is also a positive step towards bringing about a world free of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons. My country supports and welcomes the declarations establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones. Unfortunately, there is no such zone in the Middle East, the region in which my country is located, because of Israel’s refusal to help in any way to achieve that objective. Israel is the only country in the region that has refused to accede to the NPT and to the safeguards system, contrary to the actions of other countries in the region whose aim is to ensure that the Middle East becomes a region free from any kind of weapon of mass destruction.
During the Paris Conference in 1989, Syria put forward an initiative to make the Middle East a region free from any weapons of mass destruction —nuclear, chemical or biological —within the framework of the United Nations system. However, Israel ignored these initiatives, as well as those of the United Nations, the Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the appeals made at various summit meetings of the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Israel’s possession of chemical weapons in our very sensitive region will always be a source of anxiety and grave danger, not only for the people of that region, but for the whole world.
We should like to take this opportunity to reiterate our appeal to the international community to call on Israel to accede to the NPT and to submit its sites and its nuclear activities to the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards system so that the region of the Middle East can finally be freed from all nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction. Israel’s current position on this question, and all the justifications that it uses, clearly run counter to its claimed desire for peace in the region. We believe that true peace can be built only by translating good intentions into concrete action and restoring rights to those who have been deprived of them, not by possessing nuclear weapons or threatening to use them, or through the imposition of hegemony or military superiority.
In this respect, I wonder how we can ask a country with no nuclear weapons whatsoever to give assurances to a country that possesses the largest nuclear arsenal. How can we expect the countries in a given region to commit themselves to giving up the possession, production and acquisition of nuclear weapons when just one country in this region is exempt from such obligations — especially when we are sure that that country has an arsenal of hundreds of nuclear bombs and missiles, and is not subject to any form of international surveillance or inspection? The dangerous and deteriorating nature of this situation is evident given that the country in question occupies part of the territories of its neighbours, in defiance of legitimate international resolutions. Furthermore, it possesses and manufactures different types of the most up-to-date weapons, in particular weapons of mass destruction. It launches satellites and flaunts its capacity to spy on the States of the region. Despite all this, it claims that its peace is threatened and demands favours and advantages that are to the detriment of the peace of its neighbours.
Syria firmly believes that transparency in matters of armaments is a means of strengthening international peace and security. We reaffirm our support for the response given by members of the League of Arab States to the Secretary-General of the United Nations with regard to transparency in armaments. In this respect, in its present state the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms lacks transparency. It should be expanded so as to include information about weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, and advanced technology with military applications. We add to that the need to provide detailed reports on the manufacture of weapons on a national scale. The choice of seven categories of defensive weapons does not convince all countries, and can only conceal a discriminatory approach. It falls to take account of the situation in the Middle East, which is characterized by a qualitative lack of balance in the field of armaments.
Syria is aware of its responsibilities with regard to regional security as well as to international peace and security. We are firmly committed to a just and lasting peace in the region. We aspire to a planet Earth that, in the near future, will be free from war and all weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons — one that will make it possible for all peoples to live together in peace and to dedicate themselves to the achievement of development, progress and prosperity.
(Kuwait) (interpretation from Arabic): ...
The creation of a Middle East nuclear-weapon-free zone, sought by all the Arab States, has been substantially impeded by Israel’s refusal to respond to the wishes expressed by the countries in the region and the international community to accede to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to subject its nuclear installations to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. That is why my country appeals to the international community to continue to exert pressure on Israel to accept the international community’s idea of creating a nuclear-weapon-free zone, which would help to stave off the imminent threats to the peace and security of the Middle East region.
My delegation is calling not only for the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone, but also for all weapons of mass destruction to be banned from the Middle East. Such a ban would cover biological and chemical weapons and other weapons that could increase tension and undermine stability in this very important part of the world, which has so long suffered from numerous fierce conflicts. The most recent was the Iraqi regime’s perfidious invasion of Kuwait and that regime’s use of biological and chemical weapons against its own people, in the north of Iraq, action that threatens Iraq’s neighbours.
(Iraq) (interpretation from Arabic): The representative of Israel has falsified facts regarding my country’s compliance with its obligations under Security Council resolution 687 (1991). In this regard, I would like to clarify the following points. Iraq has complied with the basic obligations in section C of resolution 687 (1991). The Executive Chairman of the Special Commission (UNSCOM) refers to this in his report in document S/1997/774 dated 6 October 1997, as does the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in his report in document S/1997/779 dated 8 October 1997.
If the representative of Israel can bemoan the insecurity that prevails in the region and the problem of disarmament, imagine what he could say about Israel’s hundreds of atomic bombs, its extensive stockpile of chemical and biological weapons and long-range ballistic missiles. Imagine what he could also say about his country’s refusal to accede to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to place its nuclear installations under IAEA safeguards. Although Israel is the only country that the Security Council called upon in resolution 487 (1981) to place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards, Israel has not implemented that resolution or other Security Council resolutions that call on it to give up its nuclear options. What is more, this country continues its expansionist policy in the occupied Arab territories, which is the most serious of the threats to international and regional peace and security.
The meeting rose at 1 p.m.