First Committee Sends 8 Drafts to General Assembly, including Text Aimed at Identifying, Holding Perpetrators of Chemical Weapon Use Accountable

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today approved eight draft texts, including one that would have the Assembly re-emphasize its support for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to continue to establish the facts surrounding allegations of chemical weapon use in Syria and identify, where possible, the perpetrators of such crimes.

During the meeting, the Committee took up the draft resolution Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (document A/C.1/73/L.20). By the terms of the text, the General Assembly would reaffirm its condemnation of the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances, emphasizing that any use of them anywhere, at any time, by anyone, under any circumstances is unacceptable and would be a violation of international law.

Also by the text, the Assembly would express its strong conviction that those individuals responsible for the use of chemical weapons must and should be held accountable. In addition, it would stress the importance of implementing a decision made in June at the fourth Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention in accordance with the instrument.

Prior to approving the text as a whole, by a recorded vote of 148 in favour to 7 against (Cambodia, China, Iran, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria, Zimbabwe), with 23 abstentions, the Committee held separate recorded votes on five preambular and operative paragraphs.

Acknowledging the division among Member States over provisions of L.20, Poland's representative, the sole sponsor of the draft resolution, said it was regrettable that the draft resolution lost its consensual character in 2017. Facing fundamental challenges with the Convention, the international community needs to signal its strong support for the comprehensive implementation of the instrument. Indeed, the international community cannot be silent on the recent use of chemical weapons, he said.

Turning to the June decision at the fourth Special Session to expand the OPCW mandate to be able to identify perpetrators, he said the language in L.20 does not reflect any legal assessment and is factual, without prejudging what the process in The Hague will look like in the future. Similarly, France's delegate said that in terms of substance, the June decision does not change the mandates of OPCW or the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Convention has always provided OPCW with an attribution mechanism. Indeed, the June decision was not to change their mandate, but to give it the resources to carry it out, he said.

Among those who voted against L.20, several delegates expressed concern about the increased politicization of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Iran's representative said it is unfortunate that the instrument is being used for political ends, deepening divisions among States parties and contributing to further polarization. Meanwhile, China's delegate said that L.20 has deviated from its purpose and politicized the matter. Likewise, the Russian Federation's representative said his delegation rejected Western States' politicization of the issue that led to a decision to equip OPCW with an attribution function.

Also on weapons of mass destruction, the Committee approved, by a recorded vote of 178 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (Israel, United States), the draft resolution Measures to uphold the authority of the 1925 Geneva Protocol (document A/C.1/73/L.17). The text would have the Assembly renew its previous call to all States to observe strictly the principles and objectives of the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare.

Acting without a vote, the Committee also approved three other draft resolutions under that cluster: Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (document A/C.1/73/L.9); Measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction (document A/C.1/73/L.42); and Preventing the acquisition by terrorists of radioactive sources (document A/C.1/73/L.59).

Turning to disarmament aspects of outer space, the draft resolution No first placement of weapons in outer space (document A/C.1/73/L.51) was approved by a recorded vote of 129 in favour to 12 against, with 40 abstentions. That text would have the Assembly urge an early commencement of substantive work based on the updated draft treaty on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space and of the threat or use of force against outer space objects, introduced by China and the Russian Federation at the Conference on Disarmament in 2008.

The Committee also approved the draft decision Further practical measures for the prevention of an arms race in outer space (document A/C.1/73/L.50), by a recorded vote of 127 in favour to 3 against (Israel, Ukraine, United States), with 49 abstentions. By that text, the Assembly would welcome the commencement of the work of the Group of Governmental Experts tasked with considering and making recommendations on substantial elements of an international legally binding instrument on the prevention of an arms race in outer space, including, inter alia, on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space.

In addition, the Committee approved two related draft resolutions. By a recorded vote of 176 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (Cameroon, Palau), it approved one on transparency and confidence building measures in outer space activities (document A/C.1/73/L.68/Rev.1).

It also approved, by a recorded vote of 181 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 1 abstention (Palau), the draft resolution Prevention of an arms race in outer space (document A/C.1/73/L.3), in which the Assembly would call upon all States to contribute actively to the objective of the peaceful use of outer space and of the prevention of an arms race in this sphere and to refrain from actions contrary to this objective.

Speaking in explanation of position were the representatives of Syria, India, Brazil, Algeria, Cuba, Venezuela, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Viet Nam, Japan, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Egypt, Austria, Mexico, Switzerland, Canada and the United States.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of the Russian Federation, Syria, China and the United States.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 6 November, to continue its consideration of all draft resolutions and decisions before it.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to take action on all draft resolutions and decisions before it. For background, see Press Release GA/DIS/3597 of 8 October.

Action on Draft Texts

The representative of Poland, making a general statement on the draft resolution Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (document A/C.1/73/L.20), said as its sole sponsor, the draft has contributed to international peace and security and the strengthening of the Chemical Weapons Convention. While the Committee has been able to gain consensus on the draft in the past, it regrettably lost its consensual character in 2017. Facing fundamental challenges with the Convention, the international community needs to signal its strong support for the comprehensive implementation of the instrument. In this regard, Member States must also support the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and its Technical Secretariat. L.20 reflects the current state of the Convention in recent months, with references to universality, stockpiles, national implementation and verification, risks of chemical weapon use by non-State actors and a need for international cooperation. The international community cannot be silent on the recent use of chemical weapons. Concerning the fourth Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention held in June and its decision to expand the OPCW mandate to be able to identify perpetrators, the language in L.20 does not reflect any legal assessment, but is based on facts. Indeed, the draft is factual without prejudging what the process in The Hague will look like in the future. Building common understanding on these issues proved to be very challenging. The end result is the product of an open and transparent process he said, urging Member States to retake a positive stance toward the current text and take a step closer to a world free of chemical weapons.

The representative of Syria said his country is party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, provided all its chemical weapons to OPCW and ended its chemical programme. He rejected all false accusations claiming that his Government's army has used chemical weapons against civilians. The Government of Syria does not possess such weapons. Anyone who thinks so must look for the real criminals. In fact, his Government condemns the use of such weapons and supports a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. Syria has acceded to the Convention to prove that it is against the use of such weapons. Despite harsh circumstances, Syria has met its obligations to the Convention. This was confirmed by the head of the United Nations-OPCW Joint Mission, Sigrid Haag, in a 2015 report to the Security Council. His delegation is deeply concerned about blackmailing and threats by the United States, United Kingdom and France, who have pushed for a resolution to be adopted at the fourth Special Session to allow OPCW to attack Syria under the pretext of the Convention. OPCW deals with scientific and technical matters and does not have a mandate for criminal matters. The resolution coming out of the fourth Special Session lacks legitimacy, as it was adopted by 82 out of 193 States, less than half of States parties to the Convention. In addition, it will only add further complications to OPCW to undertake its mandate and will paralyse it and lead to further division and polarization.

The representative of France said his delegation and Germany are introducing the draft resolution Preventing the acquisition by terrorists of radioactive sources (document A/C.1/73/L.59), which would have the Assembly urge Member States to take and strengthen national measures and capabilities, as appropriate, to prevent terrorist attacks on nuclear plants and facilities and the acquisition and use by terrorists of radioactive sources and, if necessary, to suppress such acts. Seeking the adoption of L.59 by consensus, he said the text highlights counter-terrorism efforts, cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and alternative energy sources.

The representative of India called for support for the draft resolution Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (document A/C.1/73/L.9), by which the Assembly would take note of the consensus outcome of and the decisions on all its provisions reached at the eighth Review Conference of the States Parties to the Convention. The Assembly would also call upon States parties to the Convention to participate and actively engage in its continued implementation. Under India's chairmanship, State parties agreed to hold an intersessional programme towards the 2021 Review Conference, he said, also underscoring a need to enhance stability and predictability of financial resources for the Convention's implementation.

The representative of the Russian Federation said it is time to take a sober look at the situation concerning chemical weapon disarmament, drawing attention to remarks just made by his counterpart from Syria, who laid out the facts in this area. The Chemical Weapons Convention is the most successful international disarmament instrument. Syria acceded to it and destroyed chemical weapons under strict international monitoring. In 2017, the Russian Federation also concluded the destruction of its chemical weapons inherited from the former Soviet Union. The largest Western Power, however, continues to preserve its chemical weapon stockpiles and continues to possess the largest stockpile. Instead of pointing fingers at others, Western States should look in the mirror. He rejected Western States' politicization of the issue that led to a decision to equip OPCW with an attribution function.

The representative of Brazil, explaining his position before the vote, said his delegation is in favour of L.20, as it supports the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention, but some parts of operative paragraphs 4 and 15 include language that does not contribute to alleviating the existing division over the issue of the use of chemical weapons. As such, the draft resolution should not prejudge discussions taking place in The Hague.

The representative of Syria said his delegation had anticipated that L.20 could achieve consensus, but certain delegations have shown an unwillingness to participate in deliberations. Highlighting the bias of the United States, United Kingdom and France, he said certain delegations supporting L.20 are attempting to free the region of weapons of mass destruction, while reports have shown that Israel is the only one to have a nuclear, chemical and biological arsenal. But, this has not stopped certain countries from supporting Israel and allowing it to become party to weapon of mass destruction conventions. The Syrian Government condemns the use of chemical weapons, is a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, remains committed to implementing its provisions, has fulfilled its obligations and cooperated with international investigators and work teams. The West has launched fabrications against Syria, which has provided concrete data and evidence and has shown that such weapons were used by other actors in the region with the support of other countries. The Joint Investigative Mechanism report contains a pretext for further investigation and hysteria while working in ways that are irregular and run counter to OPCW provisions. The Joint Investigative Mechanism is conducting investigations remotely and has not visited the alleged sites of the incidents. Its work also runs counter to chain of custody procedures and its working methods are illogical. Moreover, investigations are based on sources within terrorist groups or their backers and the white helmets. Attempts by certain countries to politicize L.20 and make it focused on Syria is unacceptable, as it is a full member of OPCW and a party to the Convention. He urged Member States to vote against certain provisions of the draft resolution.

The representative of Egypt said his delegation would cast an abstention on L.20. While Egypt voted in favour of the draft resolution in previous years and supports the total elimination of all weapons of mass destruction, it can no longer continue to support the draft when certain countries cannot support a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East because of deteriorating security conditions. Exhibiting a double standard, many of the States that support L.20 strongly resist any genuine effort to eliminate nuclear weapons because of the security environment. Human values and moral standards are indivisible and the security of some States is not more valuable than the security of others. Moreover, Egypt is not a member of OPCW and its politicization undermines its value, he said, expressing regret to note that a nuclear-weapon-free zone could have prevented the use of weapons of mass destruction in recent years.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that as was the case in 2017, his delegation will vote against L.20 as a whole. It is regrettable that the draft, which previously enjoyed consensus, has become an example of how Western countries are trying to turn previously successful disarmament mechanisms into levers of pressure on certain States. The West is breaking down OPCW and the Convention, a serious development that is undermining international security. At the same time, they want to task the Technical Secretariat with illegitimate functions. No United Nations body gave them the right to make such attempts. A total of 111 countries did not support the June decision at the fourth Special Session, as it went beyond the Conference's mandate and impinges on the purview of the Security Council. Now, attempts are being made to ensure the budget is approved for the upcoming year and it is tailored to fit this illegitimate mandate. The Russian Federation will continue to demand investigations on chemical weapons use to be carried out in an impartial manner according to the high standards set by the Convention. This should be done by the Security Council, as his Government has previously proposed. It is regrettable that there has been no discussion of bringing the draft back into a normal framework. As such, he called on all Member States to take an attentive look at what is happening and make responsible decisions on L.20 that are not based on pressure from the West.

The representative of Algeria said his delegation supports the peaceful use of chemical agents to help States in their development activities. The transfer of these technologies for peaceful purposes is among the objectives of this Chemical Weapons Convention. His delegation will refrain from voting on certain paragraphs of L.20, as some parts are unbalanced and include issues contrary to the objectives of the Convention and issues to be discussed in OPCW.

The representative of Cuba said her delegation is fully committed to the Convention and abides by the instrument, categorically rejecting the use of such weapons by anyone anywhere. However, Havana is not in a position to support L.20 because Cuba's proposal to restore the traditional balance was not taken into account due to the politicization of the matter. Therefore, it will refrain from voting, abstain on some paragraphs and vote against paragraphs that refer to the fourth Special Session decision to give OPCW an attribution mandate.

The representative of Iran said his delegation will vote against L.20, as the draft has been politicized. Iran reaffirms its strong support and commitment to the Chemical Weapons Convention. It is essential to preserve the effectiveness of the Convention, but unfortunately the instrument is being used for political ends, deepening divisions among States parties and contributing to further polarization. Regarding L.59, Iran fully supports the main objective of the draft, but if the sponsor wants consensus, it should remove text of a technical nature, which should be exclusively considered within IAEA.

The representative of France said his delegation would vote in favour of L.20 because it considers the June decision in The Hague an important development. This is an historic vote that means that States parties to the Convention signalled their rejection of impunity and reaffirmed that the use of chemical weapons would not go unaddressed. It was taken without blackmail and according to rules of procedures. The countries who are challenging it are challenging multilateralism. In terms of substance, the June decision does not change the mandates of OPCW or the Convention. The Convention has always provided OPCW with an attribution mechanism. Indeed, the June decision was not to change their mandate, but to give it the resources it would need in this regard. The vote on L.20 is an important one, he said, calling on all Member States to take responsibility and stand against impunity.

The representative of Venezuela, referring to L.20, condemned the use of chemical weapons by anyone, including the attacks conducted by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh) in Syria. He called for the full implementation of the Convention and its provisions. However, L.20 is unbalanced and politically motivated, placing responsibility on certain States in a selective approach that counters the spirit of the draft resolution. As this makes it impossible to achieve consensus, his delegation will abstain.

The Committee then took action on draft texts under its cluster on other weapons of mass destruction, first taking up the draft resolution Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (document A/C.1/73/L.9).

The Committee approved the draft without a vote.

The Committee then turned to the draft resolution Measures to uphold the authority of the 1925 Geneva Protocol (document A/C.1/73/L.17), which would have the Assembly renew its previous call to all States to observe strictly the principles and objectives of the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, and call upon those States that continue to maintain reservations to the 1925 Geneva Protocol to withdraw them.

The Committee approved the draft by a vote of 178 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (Israel, United States).

The Committee then took action on the draft resolution Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (document A/C.1/73/L.20). By the text, the Assembly would reaffirm its condemnation in the strongest possible terms of the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances, emphasizing that any use of chemical weapons anywhere, at any time, by anyone, under any circumstances is unacceptable and would be a violation of international law. The Assembly would also express its strong conviction that those individuals responsible for the use of chemical weapons must and should be held accountable.

Prior to approving that draft text, as a whole, the Committee held separate recorded votes to retain preambular paragraph 4 and operative paragraphs 2, 3, 4, and 16.

By a recorded vote of 128 in favour to 7 against (Belarus, Cambodia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria), with 30 abstentions, the Committee approved the retention of preambular paragraph 4, which would have the Assembly re-emphasize its unequivocal support for the decision of the OPCW Director General to continue the mission to establish the facts surrounding the allegations of the use of chemical weapons, including toxic chemicals, for hostile purposes in Syria. Stressing that the safety and security of mission personnel remains the top priority, the Assembly would also recall the work, pursuant to Security Council resolutions 2235 (2015) and 2319 (2016), of the United Nations-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism, established to identify to the greatest extent feasible individuals, entities, groups or Governments that were perpetrators, organizers, sponsors or otherwise involved in the use of chemicals as weapons, including chlorine or any other toxic chemical, in Syria, where the OPCW fact-finding mission determined that a specific incident in Syria involved or likely involved the use of chemicals as weapons.

By a recorded vote of 120 in favour to 14 against, with 32 abstentions, the Committee approved the retention of operative paragraph 2, which would have the Assembly condemn in the strongest possible terms that chemical weapons have since 2012 been used in Iraq, Malaysia, Syria and the United Kingdom, including as reported by the United Nations-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism. Cited findings in this paragraph include reports of 24 August 2016 and 21 October 2016, which concluded that there was sufficient information to determine that the Syrian Arab Armed Forces were responsible for the attacks which released toxic substances in Talmenes, on 21 April 2014, and in Sarmin and Qmenas, on 16 March 2015, and that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh) used sulfur mustard in Marea, on 21 August 2015.

By a recorded vote of 123 in favour to 13 against, with 33 abstentions, the Committee approved the retention of operative paragraph 3, which would have the Assembly note with great concern the fact-find mission reports regarding alleged incidents in Ltamenah (documents S/1548/2017 and S/1636/2018)), Saraqib (document S/1626/2018) and the interim report regarding the incident of the alleged use of toxic chemicals as a weapon in Douma (document S/1645/2018).

By a recorded vote of 113 in favour to 19 against, with 34 abstentions, the Committee approved the retention of operative paragraph 4, which would have the Assembly recall the adoption of the decision of the fourth Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, Addressing the threat from chemical weapons use (document C-SS-4/DEC.3), of 27 June 2018. Also by the text of the paragraph, the Assembly would stress the importance of the decision's implementation, in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention.

By a recorded vote of 112 in favour to 15 against, with 39 abstentions, the Committee approved the retention of operative paragraph 16, which would have the Assembly express grave concern that � despite the verified destruction of all 27 chemical weapons production facilities declared by Syria � the Technical Secretariat, as reported by the Director General, cannot fully verify that Syria has submitted a declaration that can be considered accurate and complete and underscores the importance of a full verification.

Taking up the draft, as a whole, the Committee approved it by a vote of 148 in favour to 7 against (Cambodia, China, Iran, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria, Zimbabwe), with 23 abstentions.

It then took action on the draft resolution Measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction (document A/C.1/73/L.42), which would have the Assembly urge all Member States to take and strengthen national measures, as appropriate, to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and materials and technologies related to their manufacture. It would also have the Assembly request the Secretary-General compile a report on measures already taken by international organizations on issues relating to the linkage between the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The Committee approved the draft without a vote.

The Committee turned to the draft resolution Preventing the acquisition by terrorists of radioactive sources (document A/C.1/73/L.59), which would have the Assembly urge Member States to take and strengthen national measures and capabilities, as appropriate, to prevent the acquisition and use by terrorists of radioactive sources and terrorist attacks on nuclear plants and facilities and, if necessary, to suppress such acts.

The Committee then approved the draft without a vote.

The representative of China, in explaining his delegation's position on L.20, said his country is opposed to the use of chemical weapons by any individuals, under any circumstances. His Government supports impartial investigations based on hard evidence that produce findings that lead to justice. While it supports the existing provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the June decision at the fourth Special Session showed a wide divergence of views on attribution. Without full consultations, a vote was forced on a major issue. He urged parties to resolve their differences through consultations to avoid causing a negative impact on the Convention. While L.20 should advance the Convention's implementation, it has deviated from its purpose, trending towards politicizing the matter. As such, China voted against L.20 as a whole and with regard to its relevant provisions.

The representative of Indonesia said his delegation voted in favour of L.20, as the draft deals with one of the most important instruments in chemical weapons disarmament. But, several references are open to further misinterpretations and are based on unfinished findings. OPCW should not be politicized, he said, noting that Indonesia abstained on operative paragraphs 3, 4 and 16.

The representative of Singapore said her delegation voted in favour of L.20, as use of chemical weapons poses a threat to the rules-based international order. It condemns the use of such weapons by any party, under any circumstance. Her delegation has consistently supported this resolution. Regarding the decision to give OPCW an attribution mandate, she said her delegation anticipates the plan to be presented by the OPCW Director General and expressed hope that this process is inclusive and transparent.

The representative of India said her delegation voted in favour of L.20, given the high importance her country attaches to the Chemical Weapons Convention, but voted against operative paragraph 4 and abstained on operative paragraph 16.

The representative of Malaysia, referring to L.20, said his delegation supports the Chemical Weapons Convention and the valuable contributions OPCW makes in upholding the instrument. However, Malaysia is concerned about the implications of the June decision, which have yet to be fully considered. The meeting was not the appropriate avenue for Member States to take action on matters that would affect the scope of OPCW, which must be protected from influence in the conduct of its work. For this reason, Malaysia abstained on operative paragraphs 4 and 16.

The representative of Viet Nam said his delegation abstained from several provisions of L.20, but voted in favour of the draft resolution, as a whole. He reaffirmed the importance his Government attaches to compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The representative of the United States, also speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said it voted in favour of L.20, as the draft reflects goals of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the extraordinary work done by OPCW in investigating attacks in Syria and elsewhere. While his delegation had been striving for stronger language, L.20 highlights the grave concerns of chemical weapon use in Syria, Malaysia and the United Kingdom and condemns the horrific acts while calling on perpetrators to be held accountable. The historic June decision at the fourth Special Session preserved the international norms and standards against the use of chemical weapons. States parties must stand together and recognize the important role of OPCW and condemn chemical weapon terrorism. Member States cannot turn a blind eye to this threat. As responsible nations, Member States must have the courage to banish the scourge of such weapons to the past.

The representative of Japan said his delegation voted in favour of L.20 because it emphasized a need to identify the perpetrators of use of chemical weapons. Japan welcomes the decision concerning the OPCW attribution mechanism and calls for the complete implementation of this decision.

The representative of Kazakhstan said his delegation refrained from supporting L.20, as the decision to create the attribution mechanism within the OPCW was not by consensus. His delegation supports the Chemical Weapons Convention and OPCW activities, but not references made in L.20 to the non-consensus decision.

The representative of Belarus said his delegation voted in favour of L.17 due to its importance for international security and wondered why two certain States requested a recorded vote.

The Committee then turned to draft texts under its cluster on the disarmament aspects of outer space, first hearing general statements from delegates.

The representative of Egypt said it is necessary for the United Nations to show its resolve in addressing the alarming threat of an arms race in outer space. He anticipated the adoption of relevant proposals in future sessions and to the commencement of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a treaty to prevent an arms race in outer space.

The representative of Cuba is concerned about the threat of an arms race in outer space, which should be used for peaceful purposes. Cuba is specifically concerned about the aims of the United States to assemble what would constitute a space force. The Government of Cuba support the urgent adoption of a treaty against the placement of weapons in outer space. Her delegation is a co-sponsor of all the drafts under the outer space cluster, including the draft resolutions Prevention of an arms race in outer space (document A/C.1/73/L.3), No first placement of weapons in outer space (document A/C.1/73/L.51) and Transparency and confidence-building measure in outer space (document A/C.1/73/L.68/Rev.1) and the draft decision Further practical measures for the prevention of an arms race in outer space (document A/C.1/73/L.50).

The representative of the Russian Federation said his country has stood firmly against an arms race in outer space, one of the more important objectives of present day. Space must remain an arena of peaceful interactions of Member States for scientific progress. It is not an arena for opposition and conflict. Unfortunately, the Outer Space Treaty only addresses the placement of weapons of mass destruction. Member States now have an opportunity to ban the placement of conventional weapons, which must be done as soon as possible. Yet, during the Conference on Disarmament session, the Russian-Chinese draft proposal continues to be blocked by a certain country. The adoption of a non-legally binding instrument to not be the first to place weapons in outer space is a political commitment and while it cannot be verified for the time being, it is still a crucial transparency measure that would express the will of all States. Every Member State has a choice in how it wishes to see international security in the future. While highlighting the position of European States, whose priority has always been to prevent the weaponization of outer space, he pointed out that its members are abstaining from discussing the issue due to pressure.

The representative of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, explained his delegation's position before the vote, saying the regional group is not in a position to support L.51. The peaceful uses of outer space is vital and safety and security in outer space is also a key priority. Therefore, the Union supports initiatives to increase confidence and transparency, such as the International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities, which promotes responsible behaviour. This draft does not particularly strengthen trust, but increases a risk of conflict in outer space. Further efforts need to improve the understanding of what constitutes weaponry in outer space.

The representative of the United States said her delegation will vote against L.50 due to the flaws included in the Russian-Chinese draft treaty on prevention of an arms race in outer space, including a lack of a definition of weaponry and of a verification regime. Regarding L.51, her delegation, together with France and the United Kingdom, anticipates constructive engagement on this issue, but the Russian Federation's initiative has numerous problems, and its action does not match the initiative. China also included its geopolitical ambitions in a multilateral document. The best approach is to develop non-legally-binding transparency and confidence-building measures.

The representative of Mexico said that while his delegation has in the past supported the no-first-placement pledge encompassed in L.51, and would continue to do so, it is against the launch of weapons in space under any circumstances. All nuclear weapons should be eliminated regardless of their class.

The Committee then took up the draft resolution Prevention of an arms race in outer space (document A/C.1/73/L.3), by which the Assembly would call upon all States, in particular those with major space capabilities, to contribute actively to the objective of the peaceful use of this sphere and of the prevention of an arms race and to refrain from actions contrary to this objective.

The Committee then approved the draft by a vote of 181 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States) with 1 abstention (Palau).

Following that action, the Committee turned to the draft decision Further practical measures for the prevention of an arms race in outer space (document A/C.1/73/L.50), which would have the Assembly welcome the commencement of the work of the Group of Governmental Experts tasked with considering and making recommendations on substantial elements of an international legally binding instrument on the prevention of an arms race in outer space, including, inter alia, on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space.

The Committee then approved the draft by a vote of 127 in favour to 3 against (Israel, Ukraine, United States), with 49 abstentions.

The Committee then considered the draft resolution No first placement of weapons in outer space (document A/C.1/73/L.51), which would have the Assembly urge an early commencement of substantive work based on the updated draft treaty on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space and of the threat or use of force against outer space objects, introduced by China and the Russian Federation at the Conference on Disarmament in 2008.

The Committee then approved the draft by a vote of 129 in favour to 12 against, with 40 abstentions.

It then turned to the draft resolution Transparency and confidence-building measure in outer space (document A/C.1/73/L.68/Rev.1), which would have the Assembly urge Member States to continue to submit information on the specific unilateral, bilateral, regional and multilateral transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities implemented in accordance with the recommendations contained in the report of the Group of Governmental Experts.

The Committee then approved the draft by a vote of 176 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (Cameroon, Palau).

The representative of India said her delegation voted in favour of L.51, as it has an interest in outer space activities for peaceful uses, noting that this is only a first step to prevent an arms race in outer space.

The representative of Switzerland said his delegation is concerned about ground-based systems that can attack satellites and the testing of such systems. L.51 fails to address these issues and the possibility of the second placement of weapons in outer space, therefore, his delegation abstained. However, it voted in favour of L.50.

The representative of Canada, also speaking for Norway and the Republic of Korea, said their delegations abstained on L.51 because of concerns that the draft does not address the question of what constitutes weapons in outer space, the feasibility of verification and is silent on ground-based systems.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, took issue with the statement of the United States in support of L.20 that claimed that Moscow is allegedly violating the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention. In fact, the State that currently officially possesses the largest arsenal of chemical weapons is the United States. One of the leaders of chemical weapon disarmament is not able to fulfil its own obligations under the Convention. Meanwhile, the Russian Federation has fully eliminated its chemical weapons. He called on his United States partners to take a more consistent position and not make unsubstantiated statements against Member States. Moreover, the United States has also advanced unfounded allegations against the Government of Syria about chemical weapon use. That allegation is absurd, given that Syria took the unprecedented step of eliminating its chemical weapon arsenal under strict international control. The United States even conducted airstrikes in Syria in response to such allegations, without waiting for an investigation. He anticipated that justice will prevail and the United States will conduct itself with the principles they adhered to when they become members of the United Nations.

The representative of the United States told her Russian counterpart not to mistake her accuracy and truth for nervousness. Regarding the Russian Federation's elimination of its chemical weapons arsenal, Moscow can thank the United States for helping to enable the destruction of the Russian Federation's chemical weapon stockpile on time. In terms of L.20, it is troubling if Member States are present to find the lowest common denominator that enjoys consensus, instead of holding States responsible for grave violations. Indeed, there should be more focus on substance or else Member States risk undermining the work of the First Committee. Wondering what delegations are doing in the Committee if not to use levers of pressure to exert change, she wondered to what end are Member States advancing international security if they fear speaking up.

The representative of Syria said several countries directly armed terrorist groups in his country, in some cases providing them with chemical weapons. He referred to General Lawrence Wilkinson, an aide to former United States Secretary of State Colin Powell, who spoke about parties seeking a pretext for aggression against Syria. Indeed, evidence points to terrorists, and not the Syrian Government, carrying out chemical weapons attacks. Some States, including France, have attempted to analyse the June decision of the fourth Special Session adopted by Member States under duress. In Salisbury, the world saw how chemical weapon programmes had not been declared to OPCW, a clear breach of obligations under the Convention. The Hague resolution is illegal and seeks to change the Chemcial Weapons Convention and change the prerogatives unduly. No provision in the Convention stipulates that OPCW has a criminal investigative mandate. Countries perpetrating aggression are trying to find a pretext and have dispatched terrorists to Syria from around the world to use chemical weapons and agents. These terrorists will return to their countries of origin, which will have to deal with their threats. Those who have financed terrorists in Syria will never overcome Syria. They are trying to win by all means, but they have failed, he said.

The representative of China denied allegations levelled against his country by his counterpart from the United States, underscoring that outer space and cyberspace are faced with the threat of weaponization and militarization. Language used � shared future for humankind � is an objective description of outer space and reflects the desire of countries for peaceful uses of this sphere. It has nothing to do with China's domestic politics. Those who are eager to deploy weapons in outer space do not see this good desire, he said, asking the United States if it sees outer space as a community to be shared by humankind or as a community dominated by a single super-Power.

The representative of the Russian Federation, taking the floor for his second intervention, highlighted that his country and the United States have very different approaches. The Russian Federation and the vast majority of States are in favour of equal and mutually beneficial relationships based on international law. Washington, D.C. no longer follows international law, but norms that protect their national interests. Every State must accept that they live in a fragile interlinked world. In 2001, the United States left the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty [Treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems]. Now, it is now leaving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty [Treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles]. The United States claim there is no need for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. They are destroying the entire arms control machinery. The United States should engage in serious joint work with the Russian Federation on the issue of no first placement of weapons in outer space.

Source: United Nations

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