Statement by Germany at the Meeting of the First Committee on “Other Weapons of Mass Destruction of Armed Conflict”, 17 October 2023

17.10.2023 - Speech

The Statement was delivered by Benjamin Himmler, Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany at the Conference on Disarmament.

Mr Chairman,

Germany aligns itself with the statement of the European Union.

Given rapid scientific and technological progress in the life sciences and biotechnology, the risk of a deliberate use of biological agents and toxins as weapons of mass destruction, whether by state or non-state actors, is growing. The BWC with its lack of appropriate instruments is woefully inadequate to respond to this risk. Therefore, we welcome the decision taken by the 9th Review Conference of the Convention to task a Working Group to come up with concrete proposals to strengthen the Convention. In particular, the establishment of a mechanism to review and assess scientific and technological developments relevant to the Convention as well as to provide sound advice to States parties for subsequent decisions is an essential part of what is needed.

With the German Biosecurity Programme we assist fourteen countries in their efforts to enhance biological security and prevent the proliferation of biological agents.

We highlight the importance of the UN Secretary-General’s Mechanism for investigation of possible use of chemical and biological weapons and underscore the need to properly resource, equip and operationalize it. Germany is a key contributor to training measures for nominated experts and laboratories in order to improve the operational readiness of the mechanism. We reject the thinly veiled attempts made by the Russian Federation to “review” this mechanism with the intention of weakening it and subjecting it to a possible veto in the UN Security Council. As per paragraph 88(a) of the UNSGM’s Guidelines and Procedures, UN Members have the ability to submit relevant information or materials to UNODA with a “view to updating periodically the administrative and technical aspects of procedures.” We will resist any efforts to undermine the integrity, independence and effectiveness of the UNSGM.

We categorically denounce the false allegations made by the Russian Federation against biological threat reduction projects conducted by members of the Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction in full transparency and for exclusively peaceful purposes in Ukraine. Together with Russia’s repeated unsubstantiated claims that Ukraine is using or is preparing to use chemical agents, we see these allegations as an abuse of both the BWC and the CWC in another futile attempt to justify Russia’s brutal war of aggression against Ukraine.

Mr Chairman,

It is a great success and security gain for all of us that this year the goal of destroying the huge declared stockpiles of chemical weapons accumulated during the Cold War was finally achieved. But we all know that the global ban on the use of chemical weapons has come under increasing pressure, in particular with the well-documented cases of use in Syria. We are concerned that Syria continues its stance of non-compliance and we strongly call on Syria to fully comply with its obligations under the CWC by resolving all pending issues with regard to its initial declaration and by fully cooperating with the OPCW. We are equally concerned about the repeated use of internationally banned nerve agents in the cases of Mr Skripal and Mr Navalny, for which there can be no other plausible explanation than a Russian involvement and responsibility.

The Fifth Review Conference of the CWC in May this year should have been the occasion to respond to the challenges to the global ban of chemical weapons and to give corresponding guidance for the future work of the OPCW. Unfortunately, the Review Conference has not been able to seize this opportunity, notwithstanding the fact that the majority of subjects covered received very broad support, and in spite of the constructive efforts of a wide range of delegations. We are committed to build on the constructive debates that have taken place at the Conference and to achieve positive results at the upcoming meetings of States Parties to the CWC.

Mr Chairman,

Finally, we fully support the US efforts to pursue the goal of establishing a global norm on the prohibition of the use of radiological weapons, which at the same time would help us to reinvigorate the Conference on Disarmament.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

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