23rd Plenary Meeting - General Assembly 75th Session

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11-Nov-2020 03:10:28
General Assembly endorses atomic energy agency report, as delegates voice support for its proposal to help States use nuclear science in tackling pandemics.

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Endorsing the annual report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the General Assembly today adopted a draft resolution reaffirming its strong support for the Vienna-based organization, as its new Director-General outlined a major initiative to help Member States confront pandemics, even as it monitors ongoing non-proliferation concerns in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran.

Briefing the Assembly, IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi, recalling its assistance to countries in using nuclear and radiation medicine, proposed the Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action project, or ZODIAC, within the Agency to help the world prepare for future pandemics “which will surely come”. Introducing the Agency’s annual report, transmitted through a note from the Secretary‑General (document A/75/303), he said the project would encompass a global network of national diagnostic laboratories for the monitoring, surveillance, early detection and control of diseases transmitted from animals to humans. Member States will gain access to nuclear or nuclear-derived equipment, technology packages, expertise, guidance and training, while decision makers will receive up-to-date information enabling them to act quickly. Noting that the Agency will work closely with other United Nations entities, he encouraged all States to support the initiative.

Turning to non-proliferation issues, he said that he reports regularly to the IAEA Board of Governors on Iran’s implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. At the same time, the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of Iran’s declared nuclear material and evaluating the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. Recalling his visit in August, when he met with President Hassan Rouhani and senior officials, he said an agreement was to resolve some safeguards implementation issues. On the nuclear programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said its activities — in violation of Security Council resolutions — remain a serious concern. He called upon Pyongyang to fully comply with its obligations, cooperate promptly with the Agency and resolve all outstanding issues, “especially those that have arisen during the absence of Agency inspectors from the country”.

Adopting without a vote the draft resolution “Report of the International Atomic Energy Agency” (document A/75/L.9), introduced by Canada’s delegate, the Assembly took note of several resolutions approved by the Agency, including texts on the COVID‑19 pandemic, the implementation of the IAEA agreement with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the application of nuclear safeguards in the Middle East.

The 193‑nation Assembly also reaffirmed its strong support for the Agency’s indispensable role in encouraging and assisting the development and practical application of atomic energy for peaceful uses, in technology transfer to developing countries and in nuclear safety, verification and security.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates hailed the IAEA response to the pandemic and the support the Agency is giving to Member States to confront COVID‑19. They also stressed the role that nuclear energy can play in tackling climate change and advancing the Sustainable Development Goals. Many also raised their countries’ ongoing concerns with nuclear programmes in Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The European Union’s representative reiterated the bloc’s regret over the United States 2018 withdrawal from the Joint Plan of Action, and members’ grave concern about Iran’s continued enrichment activities, which now surpass limits set in that agreement. Expressing similar concern about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear programme, she urged Pyongyang to take steps towards complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.

Iran’s delegate said that the United States withdrawal from the Joint Plan of Action and its reimposition of illegal sanctions are preventing his country from enjoying its rights under Security Council resolution 2231 (2015). As for cooperation with the Agency, Iran alone receives 22 per cent of all IAEA inspections and continues to carry out its verification activities, even during the pandemic.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s representative said that since his country is not an IAEA member, his delegation does not care what is discussed at the Agency’s meetings, let alone its reports. The Agency is no more than a political tool of Western countries, he said, adding that his country will never deal with IAEA so long as the Agency dances to the tune of hostile forces.

Indonesia’s representative welcomed the launch of the ZODIAC initiative, saying that it will strengthen the world’s ability to detect and respond to future pandemics. He also emphasized the role that nuclear technology plays in food security, including by increasing rice and soybean production, and praised the IAEA Nuclear Technology for Controlling Plastic Pollution programme.

South Africa’s representative, whose country remains the only one in the world to voluntarily renounce its nuclear programme, said that several African countries are embarking on the atomic energy path. Recalling IAEA support for infrastructure, training and capacity-building, he also noted the Agency’s role in supporting the creation of Africa’s first vector mosquito-rearing facility to fight the spread of malaria.

Japan’s representative called for the verifiable dismantlement of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, adding that all Member States must implement relevant Security Council resolutions. He also urged Iran to abide by its commitments under the Joint Plan of Action and cooperate fully with IAEA.

The Republic of Korea’s delegate noted ongoing IAEA efforts to maintain and enhance its readiness to verify the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear programme once a political agreement is forged among relevant parties.

The representative of Belarus said that her country has hosted seven IAEA missions related to the construction of power plants and that it is fully implementing related recommendations.

Lithuania’s representative condemned a decision by neighbouring Belarus to build a nuclear power plant near Vilnius, her country’s capital. She urged Belarus to suspend its launch and to immediately implement all recommendations from international experts.

Also speaking today were representatives of Egypt, United Arab Emirates, India, Mexico, Singapore, Malaysia, Argentina, Cuba, Monaco, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ukraine, China, Philippines, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Kuwait, Russian Federation, Australia and Syria.

Representatives of Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Ukraine, Iran and Lithuania spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The General Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 11 November, to elect five judges to the International Court of Justice, concurrently with the Security Council.

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