Non-proliferation : impunity is not an option [fr]
Statement by M. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council – 18 January 2018
Mr President of the Security Council,
I thank the Kazakh presidency for organizing this important and equally timely meeting on confidence and transparency measures on weapons of mass destruction. It was a particular honour to have President Nazarbayev and President Duda present among us this morning, and I am very happy to see you, Mr. Minister here today once again. I would also like to thank the Secretary-General for his very enlightening briefing.
Almost a century ago, the atrocities resulting from the use of chemical weapons during the First World War led us to jointly initiate and develop, piece by piece, the current non-proliferation regime on weapons of mass destruction. That regime is today the backbone of the international security architecture. As the past year has tragically reminded us, it is nevertheless under attack and has been possibly put in jeopardy. The proliferation of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons and their means of delivery remains a dangerous reality. In Asia and the Middle East, the most robust and fundamental non-proliferation and disarmament norms are systematically, and even flagrantly, violated. Let us make no mistake: the stakes are extremely high. Beyond the immediate implications concerning peace and security, what is at stake is long-term strategic stability, which implicates the security of all our States. That is why combating weapons of mass destruction is, and must remain, at the heart of the Security Council’s priorities, and why France intends to remain committed to such a critical issue.
With the barbaric use of toxic chemical agents in Syria, Iraq and Asia, we are witnessing the deadly reappearance of weapons that sow fear and death among civilians. The use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime against its own people is but one tragic example of that. On behalf of France, I recall that trivializing that situation, owing to our failure to build an international consensus to find a solution for it, steadily increases the risk of chemical terrorism, which is something we all fear. It exacerbates regional instability and weakens the international security architecture, for which the Council is both the guardian and ultimate guarantor.
The same observation applies to North Korea’s actions. The North Korean regime is determined to acquire an operational nuclear arsenal, in systematic and blatant violation of its obligations. The threat has reached a critical level and concerns us all. It is therefore necessary today, through the pressure being applied, to find a political solution so as to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The unity and resolute commitment of the Security Council are a prerequisite condition for success.
In such an uncertain and complex environment, trust and transparency at the regional and multilateral levels — among the priorities behind our meetings — are more than ever core values that we must safeguard and nurture. That is especially true with regard to the non-proliferation regime. As the Secretary-General recalled, it is based on binding commitments, followed by a rigorous verification of their implementation. That is in particular the role of such international bodies as the International Atomic Energy Agency and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), whose work France actively supports.
I also reiterate our resolute commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons — the fiftieth anniversary of which we will celebrate this year — as well as our firm opposition to any international initiative that might undermine it. I would also like to especially express our full support for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty as soon as possible. We call upon all countries that have not yet acceded to the Treaty to do so without delay — I refer in particular to countries whose accession is required.
France also supports the implementation by all of the commitments made under resolution 1540 (2004), adopted by the Council to prevent non-State actors from obtaining weapons of mass destruction. That is a topical issue because we are more than ever concerned about possible transfers to non-State entities, particularly in the area of missiles. In that respect, it is crucial that States that have not yet done so adopt export-control legislation and the corresponding administrative arrangements. Lastly, as members are aware, France is very involved in the Proliferation Security Initiative.
France intends to continue actively supporting non-proliferation efforts and, as I have said, remain proactive regarding the Initiative. France is convinced that with the determination of the international community, based on pragmatic and realistic multilateralism, it is possible to find solutions to the proliferation crises. Allow me, in that regard, to mention the Iranian case.
My country actively contributed to the development of the robust, solid and verifiable agreement that is now the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. As we have already said, we want rigorous implementation of that agreement and of resolution 2231 (2015). Taken together, those texts constitute the cornerstone of stability and regional and international security. Nevertheless, the agreement does not address all of our concerns, in particular with respect to Iran’s ballistic activities. That is why we hope that frank dialogue will take place on the matter.
Similarly, the reinstatement of a total ban on the use of chemical weapons is urgently needed. Impunity cannot, and will not, be an option. That was the merit of the Joint Investigative Mechanism — the dissolution of which is particularly regrettable; however, we must not stand by idly. Criminals identified as having resorted to such weapons, whether State or non-State actors, should be punished, and those who might consider it deterred.
That is why France has decided to convene in Paris on 23 January countries that share that same concern, in order to effectively work together against the unacceptable impunity for the use of chemical weapons. A new intergovernmental partnership will be set up on that occasion, the purpose of which will be to assist and support existing mechanisms in their investigative work as well as international organizations, primarily the OPCW, which is in charge of that issue.
With the risk of erosion in the non-proliferation regime, it is our security as a whole, as well as the very existence of the rule of law as the foundation of multilateralism, that are in peril. In the light of the magnitude of the stakes, it is our collective responsibility to safeguard and strengthen the gains that together we have made, by building confidence and transparency among all parties respecting their non-proliferation commitments. France remains fully committed to that end.