Threats to international peace and security - Security Council, 9033rd Meeting
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United Nations unaware of any biological weapons programmes in Ukraine, top disarmament official affirms, as Security Council considers new claims by Russian Federation.

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The United Nations is not aware of any biological weapons programmes in Ukraine, a senior disarmament affairs official told the Security Council today, as it met to consider new information submitted by the Russian Federation alleging the existence of such weapons.

Briefing the 15-member body, Thomas Markram, Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, recalled Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu’s March briefings in which she had stated the above, and affirmed that this still remains the case.  Further, he pointed out, the Organization currently has neither the mandate nor the technical or operational capacity to investigate this information.

Noting that the 1972 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction contains several measures of recourse to address situations in which States parties have concerns about the activities of their peers, he highlighted article V of the Convention, according to which States parties can undertake to consult one another and co-operate in solving any problems which may arise in relation to the Convention.

He also underscored the importance of operationalizing the Convention so that it is properly equipped and resourced, reminding delegates that the upcoming ninth Review Conference in November and December this year is an ideal opportunity for that.

When the floor opened for Council members, the representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation has accumulated a lot of materials that directly indicate that the United States and Ukraine are violating the Convention by carrying out dangerous biological projects in the centre of Eastern Europe and on the western borders of his country.  Highlighting project 3007 in which Ukrainian specialists, supervised by United States colleagues, have carried out collections of water samples from rivers flowing through Ukraine, he said their aim is to establish specific dangerous pathogens and determine their ability to incapacitate.

As soon as the collection of materials is complete, he said, they will be presented to the Council for investigation, so that his country can finally cut off the military-biological activities that threaten international peace and security.  Further, given the United States’ refusal to engage in a constructive discussion, he added, his delegation plans to use the mechanisms under articles V and VI of the Biological Weapons Convention.

Countering, the representative of the United States said the Russian Federation repeatedly debases the Council through absurd meetings and ludicrous claims.  Highlighting a well-worn pattern in which its authorities accuse others of the very violations it has perpetrated or intends to perpetrate, he said the country used chemical weapons in attempted assassinations while also supporting the Assad regime in Syria, which has repeatedly used such weapons.

The documents circulated by the Russian Federation do not support its allegations, he said, calling on that country to publicly and unequivocally state that its forces and its proxies will not use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine or anywhere else.

“Let’s be serious here and come back to facts,” France’s delegate said, stressing that the Russian Federation is using the Council as a platform for propaganda.  In 2011, that country accused Georgia of developing biological weapons without any evidence, he said, also expressing concern that this disinformation campaign is a prelude to the use of chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine.

All States parties should abide by the objectives of the Biological Weapons Convention, China’s delegate said, urging “one particular country that has not yet destroyed its stockpiles of chemical weapons to do so as soon as possible.”  He also highlighted the need for an impartial and professional multilateral verification system, noting that the ninth Review Conference is a chance to restart negotiations towards this and enhance global biosecurity.

Other delegates also stressed the important window of opportunity offered by the Conference, with Brazil’s representative pointing out that the absence of a verification mechanism for the Convention hobbles the transparency of international biosecurity research initiatives.  The international community must resume negotiations with a view to adopting a protocol that implements the Convention and contributes to building trust among parties about the exclusively peaceful use of such technologies, he stressed.

Along similar lines, Mexico’s delegate stressed the importance of safeguarding the peaceful uses of biological research.  It is necessary to promote all synergies between the Convention and other regimes for export control, public health and animal health in order to develop coherent public policies, she pointed out.

Ghana’s delegate struck a sobering note, reminding delegates of the all-too-real risk of a nuclear exchange, and the catastrophic consequences that would be felt in Europe and far beyond.  With any instance of threat of use or the potential use of biological or chemical weapons, impartial investigations conducted by internationally recognized and mandated bodies should be the only way to establish the facts.  Calling on both parties to avoid the deliberate or accidental release of chemical or biological agents, she underscored the need for diplomacy and constructive dialogue.

Also speaking were representatives of Albania, Gabon, Norway, Kenya, India, United Kingdom, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 11:06 p.m.