Security Council Briefing on Maintenance of international peace and security: non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction

Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström, Wednesday, 26 September 2018.

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Madam President,

After listening to all countries around this table, I hear support that multilateral and diplomatic solutions are urgently needed to address the challenges of today. International peace and security, and preventing conflict and terrorism, are rightly high on our agenda.

I therefore thank you, Madam President, for convening this important meeting on non-proliferation.

Madam President,

We have been asked to comment on four themes in this briefing: sanctions efficiency; capacity to implement; non-state actors; and weapons of mass destruction.

I think that the answer to all of these four issues is close multilateral cooperation. 

The world would certainly be a much more dangerous place without the existing treaties and agreements of the global disarmament and non-proliferation regime.

Yet, this multilateral framework for non-proliferation and disarmament depends on our continuous commitment to collective solutions.

In many parts of the world, we see modernisation of nuclear weapons arsenals, increased missile capacities, the threat of chemical weapons use and a normalisation of the rhetoric surrounding all weapons of mass destruction. History has shown us too many times that such steps form a pathway to catastrophe.

The nuclear weapons states bear a particular responsibility for upholding and making good on the commitment inherent in the NPT of a nuclear-weapons-free world. To this end, the review conference in 2020 must pave the way for enhanced disarmament and non-proliferation commitments. Equally, Sweden reiterates the call on all States to sign and ratify the CTBT.

Madam President,

The NPT is the common tool towards disarmament and non-proliferation, but let me today also focus on three specific issues: the challenges to the Iran nuclear agreement; the DPRK’s development of nuclear weapons; and the recurring use of chemical weapons.

Firstly, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran deal, is a historic achievement. It is a concrete example of effective diplomatic non-proliferation efforts. This agreement prevents nuclear proliferation in Iran, but also aims to avoid ripple effects in the region. As the IAEA confirms, Iran continues to fulfil its nuclear obligations under the agreement. As long as that is the case, the JCPOA effectively curtails Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons.

This is why Sweden, together with the rest of the EU, deeply regrets the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from the agreement – a decision with far-reaching consequences that makes our world more unsafe. And frankly, what are the alternatives to this agreement?

In undercutting a concrete multilateral non-proliferation tool, it dangerously undermines our joint non-proliferation efforts elsewhere.

Together with our EU partners, we will try to mitigate the adverse effects of the US policies. Sweden, and the rest of the EU, will continue to foster broad relations and dialogue with Iran, including on issues such as human rights. Iran’s role in the region and missile activities are clearly a matter of concern. These concerns can and should, however, be addressed separately and not at the expense of the JCPOA. Security in the Middle East region can only be achieved through diplomatic solutions and enhanced cooperation, not through further polarisation and isolation.

Remember, we have tried this before; for decades isolation has been tried and it does not work.

Secondly, the DPRK’s nuclear weapons programme has been a major threat to the global non-proliferation regime. Recent diplomatic efforts deserve our full and active support. The continued progress in the Inter-Korean Dialogue is very encouraging, and the summit between the United States and the DPRK in Singapore in June was indeed significant. All parties must now work to maintain momentum and take positive steps.

For the DPRK, this means that commitments must be translated into legally binding undertakings. The IAEA should be given a role early in the verification of the denuclearisation and disarmament process.

The Security Council and the international community must continue to stand united.

Thirdly, the use of chemical weapons is a serious violation of international law. Every violation undermines established norms and risks eroding the international taboo on these weapons. This is a very serious and worrisome development. The use of chemical weapons is morally abhorrent and can never be accepted.

In Syria, the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism has confirmed that chemical weapons were used repeatedly by the Syrian Arab Republic and by Da’esh. We supported the decision to task the OPCW to identify the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. While a mechanism established by this Council would have been preferable, the issue was too important to be allowed to be blocked. This does however not free this Council from its responsibility to ensure that those responsible are held to account.

In Salisbury, a targeted murder was attempted using a nerve agent. Such assaults are absolutely unacceptable, and we call on Russia to fully cooperate with the investigations.

Madam President,

We must never lose sight of why we are making the efforts to eliminate these horrific weapons. Until now we have not talked about the victims. I have myself met with survivors of nuclear weapons attacks, and I will never forget their stories. Victims of chemical weapons have shared similar accounts. It is important to listen to such personal experiences to understand what it is we are fighting for. It has strengthened my resolve to step up efforts for non-proliferation and disarmament.

Weapons of mass destruction are clearly a global threat that we must address together. Only through multilateral solutions, including from this Council, can we effectively prevent the use of these repugnant weapons. The multilateral non-proliferation and disarmament framework is also a key pillar of the international rules-based order. We owe this to the survivors and victims of past attacks, and we owe it to future generations.    

Thank you, Madam President.