Press Releases

    GA/DIS/3282
    21 October 2004

    Texts on Outer Space Arms Race, United States-Russian Federation Nuclear Arms Reduction Introduced in First Committee

    NEW YORK, 20 October (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly, recognizing that the prevention of an arms race in outer space would avert a grave danger to international peace and security, would reaffirm the importance and urgency of preventing such an arms race, according to one of two draft resolutions introduced this morning in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).

    Submitting the text, the representative of Egypt said that the draft resolution would demonstrate the clear will of all peoples of the world and that it emphasized the need to ensure that outer space remained for the common good of all mankind.  Her country was sponsoring the draft resolution because it wished to issue a warning against an arms race in outer space and because it believed that outer space should not be allowed to become a place for such a race.

    By the terms of the draft, the Assembly would reaffirm its recognition that the legal regime applicable to outer space did not, in and of itself, guarantee the prevention of an outer space arms race, that the regime played a significant role in the prevention of an arms race in that environment, that there was a need to consolidate and reinforce that regime and enhance its effectiveness and that it was important to comply strictly with existing agreements, both bilateral and multilateral.

    Another draft, presented today by the representative of the Russian Federation, would have the Assembly welcome the entry into force of the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions (Moscow Treaty) and recognize specific steps taken by the Russian Federation and United States to reduce their deployed strategic warheads.  It would also note with approval that, since the end of the cold war, the Russian Federation and United States had halted the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and had committed to eliminate excess fissile material resulting from the dismantling of weapons no longer needed for national security.

    Also today, as the Committee took up its thematic debate on the question of small arms and light weapons, the representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, voiced support for a legally binding international instrument on the tracing of such small arms and light weapons.  Such an agreement should, however, not entail the creation of a new global body but should use existing networks wherever possible.  National focal points, to promote the efficient flow of information, should also be established.

    The representative of Mali said that national actions in the fight against the spread of small arms and light weapons must be part of the multilateral framework, as he welcomed the significant progress that had been achieved in the negotiation of an agreement on the marking and tracing of small arms and light weapons.

    The Representative of Samoa, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group, said that the potential of small arms and light weapons to destabilize societies was great and that they had already undermined good governance and development, as well as exacerbated internal conflicts in his region.

    The representative of the United States made a statement in support of the draft resolution introduced by the representative of the Russian Federation. Statements in the thematic debate were also made by the representatives of the Congo and Sierra Leone.

    The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Thursday, 21 October, to continue its thematic debate on small arms and light weapons and to hear the introduction of new draft texts.

    Background

    The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its thematic debate and hear introductions of draft resolutions.  The topics of the texts were expected to be the prevention of an arms race in outer space and bilateral strategic nuclear arms reductions.

    According to the draft resolution on the prevention of an arms race in outer space (document A/C.1/59/L.36), the Assembly, recognizing that the prevention of an outer space arms race would avert a grave danger for international peace and security, would reaffirm the importance and urgency of preventing such an arms race and the readiness of all States to contribute to that common objective.

    The Assembly would reaffirm its recognition that the legal regime applicable to outer space did not, in and of itself, guarantee the prevention of an outer space arms race, that the regime played a significant role in the prevention of an arms race in that environment, that there was a need to consolidate and reinforce that regime and enhance its effectiveness and that it was important to comply strictly with existing agreements, both bilateral and multilateral.

    It would call on all States, in particular those with major space capabilities, to contribute actively to the peaceful use of outer space and of the prevention of an arms race there and to refrain from actions contrary to that objective and to the relevant existing treaties in the interest of maintaining international peace and security and promoting international cooperation.

    The Conference on Disarmament would be invited to establish an ad hoc committee as early as possible during its 2005 session.

    The draft resolution is sponsored by Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Yemen and Zambia.

    A draft resolution on bilateral strategic nuclear arms reductions and the new strategic framework (document A/C.1/59/L.56), sponsored by the Russian Federation and the United States, would have the Assembly welcome the entry into force of the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions (Moscow Treaty).  It would also recognize specific steps taken by the Russian Federation and United States to reduce their deployed strategic warheads.

    The Assembly would also note with approval that, since the end of the cold war, the Russian Federation and United States had halted the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and had committed to eliminate excess fissile material resulting from the dismantling of weapons no longer needed for national security.

    Statements

    HEBA ELMARASSI (Egypt) introduced the draft resolution on the prevention of an arms race in outer space (document A/C.1/59/L.36).  She said that her country was sponsoring the draft resolution because it wished to issue a warning against an arms race in outer space.  The draft resolution would demonstrate the clear will of all peoples of the world and it emphasized the need to ensure that outer space remained for the common good of mankind.  Outer space should not be allowed to become a place for an arms race.  The international community must be careful to avoid any kind of arms race.  The text, she went on, referred to bilateral and multilateral efforts to prevent an arms race in outer space.  Those who are introducing the draft appreciated the work that had been done by the Conference on Disarmament regarding negotiation of multilateral agreements.  The text calls on the Conference to work to achieve those objectives to avoid arms race in outer space.  This year’s text was akin to last year’s and Egypt hoped that all members of the First Committee would be able to back it.

    ANTON VASILIEV (Russian Federation) introduced a draft resolution on bilateral strategic nuclear arms reductions between his country and the United States(document A/C.1/59/L.56).  Declaring that the nature of Russian-American relations was important to international security, he assured delegates that the two States no longer considered each other enemies or strategic threats.  The Moscow Treaty, which was signed in May 2002 and entered into force in 2003, was helping to decrease the number of the countries’ deployed strategic warheads.  The commitments embodied by that instrument represented a “major step forward” and greatly contributed to security in the twenty-first century, he said.

    Telling delegates that Russian President Vladimir Putin had pledged to reduce the country’s level of strategic weapons by an even greater factor than that required by the Moscow Treaty, he added that the Russian Federation had also implemented its unilateral commitments to reduce its number of non-strategic weapons and conventional weapons, and was working to eliminate its stockpiles of chemical weapons.  Calling on all delegations to support bilateral arms reductions by the Russian Federation and United States, he expressed hope that the draft would once again be adopted by consensus.

    THOMAS CYNKIN (United States), speaking on the draft resolution introduced by the Russian Federation, said that United States believed that nuclear-weapon States bore a responsibility to pursue efforts leading to nuclear disarmament.  The draft resolution made it clear that progress was being made in that area by his country and the Russian Federation.  It welcomed the entry into force of the Moscow Treaty and recognized that the United States and Russian Federation had developed new strategic relationships and were continuing to pursue the reduction of offensive weapons.  It also pointed out the steps being carried out in other areas.  His country believed that the draft presented a picture of steady progress and hoped that it would be adopted by consensus.

    ALI’IOAIGA FETURI ELISAIA (Samoa), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group, said the problem of the availability and illicit use of small arms and light weapons was very serious.  Although circulation in his region was relatively minor, the potential of such weapons to destabilize societies was great.  Already they had undermined good governance and development and exacerbated internal conflicts in his region, he said.  That was why the Pacific Islands Forum Group had decided to pursue a regional approach through a workshop held last August.

    At that workshop, participants had agreed upon several practical initiatives.  First, the Group’s secretariat would soon be developing a matrix of technical assistance and capacity-building requirements, to help match the region’s needs to possible resources.  Second, countries would use national reporting mechanisms to create a database of quantities, sources and uses of small arms, as well as gaps in control capabilities.  Third, the region would accept the help of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to fulfil its United Nations reporting obligations.  Fourth, the concerned States would explore ways to further tighten the physical security around small arms facilities.

    BONIFACE LEZONA (Congo) said that illicit trade in small arms and light weapons was a particularly pressing problem in the Central Africa region, where most countries had been drawn into the war there.  The circulation of small arms and light weapons, the illegal trade in such weapons and the non-regulated movement of armed groups were real obstacles to peace, stability and the development of the subregion.  It was estimated that there were 42,000 small arms and light weapons, as well as many ex-combatants in circulation in his country. His government was sparing no effort in negotiating with the European Union and the various international financial institutions to find the financing necessary for the demobilisation of ex-fighters. The implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action on small arms would provide important assistance towards the goal of stopping the illicit trade in such weapons.  That Programme of Action needed to be applied effectively.

    SYLVESTER ROWE (Sierra Leone) said that, in his country, conventional weapons had caused “massive destruction”.  In that context, he suggested that next year the Committee should address such arms under the rubric of “other weapons of mass destruction”.  He also stated that universality and compliance went “hand in hand”.  Thus, while emphasizing obligations to comply with arms control and disarmament instruments, the international community should also urge States that had not yet done so to adhere to the relevant agreements.

    Turning to anti-personnel landmines, he said that, because his country supported the Ottawa Convention, it had destroyed its entire stockpile, which had consisted of 959 pieces.  Regarding small arms and light weapons, he acknowledged that the 2001 Programme of Action was not legally binding and that the submission of national implementation reports was only voluntary.  Nevertheless, such obligations were “morally binding” on all Member States.  After all, the links between the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, and the norms of international humanitarian law were too strong.

    He said the current situation, in which all small arms and light weapons originated in countries that were parties to the Geneva Convention, was shocking.  The rule of law must play a part in all aspects of the spread of such weapons, from manufacture to brokering.  In that regard, he supported the drafting and adoption of multiple international, legally binding instruments, especially one on the tracing and marking of such arms.

    YOUSSOUF KONE (Mali) said that national actions in the fight of against the spread of small arms and light weapons must be part of the multilateral framework. Those weapons were the major disarmament concern of the West Africa subregion. Since the end of the cold war, the possession of weapons was no longer the preserve of States.  In parts of Africa where, since the 1990s, there had been territories over which states had lost control, the spread of small arms and light weapons had resulted in insecurity and instability.  The magnitude of the situation with regard to small arms and light weapons was so large that in 1993 it prompted the President of Mali to request the assistance of the Secretary-General in combating the problem.

    Mali paid tribute to the member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for their effort in the fight against the spread of small arms and light weapons.  It also welcomed the significant progress that had been achieved in the negotiation of an agreement on the marking and tracing of small arms and light weapons.  Mali had a wealth of experience in the fight against the spread of light weapons, he went on.  His country had endured armed rebellion in the 1990s and, as a result, had established a national commission to combat the spread of those weapons in 1996.  That commission had collected and burned small arms and light weapons.  Mali had submitted a draft resolution on assistance to states in curbing the spread of small arms and light weapons.  His country hoped that the draft resolution would be supported by members of the Committee and would be adopted by consensus.

    CHRIS SANDERS (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that small arms caused some 10,000 casualties a week, exacerbated conflicts, facilitated violent crime and terrorism, impeded post-conflict reconstruction, and undermined long-term sustainable development.  However, in addition to controlling supply, a reduction in demand was also needed, and that could be accomplished through good governance and greater confidence in public institutions.  Voicing support for a legally binding international instrument on the tracing of such weapons, he, at the same time, said that such an agreement should not entail the creation of a new global body.  Existing networks should be used wherever possible, he advised.  Nevertheless, national focal points, to promote the efficient flow of information, needed to be established.

    Because regulating the transfer of small arms and light weapons posed such a major problem, he welcomed efforts to enhance international cooperation on combating the illicit brokering of such weapons.  In that regard, end-user certificates could be helpful, he said.  Turning to man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS), he said there were some 100,000 in circulation today.  Because they were extremely lethal, inexpensive and easy to conceal, he welcomed their inclusion in the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.  He also touched on landmines, telling delegates that the Union had provided much assistance to affected States and strongly supported the Ottawa Convention.

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