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Statement by Hon. Ali Sabry, Minister of Foreign Affairs at the High-level plenary meeting and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

Tuesday, 26 September 2023
Hon. Ali Sabry, Foreign Minister
New York

High-level plenary meeting to commemorate and promote the
International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
26 September 2023, 10.00 a.m.

Conference Room 4, United Nations Headquarters, New York


Mr. President,

We welcome the convening of this High-Level Plenary Meeting to commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, designated through UNGA resolution 68/32. We are also thankful for the Secretary General for his valuable opening remarks.

My delegation associates itself with the statement delivered by Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Mr. President,
Let me recall at the outset the first paragraph of the Final Document of the First Special Session on Disarmament (SSOD 1),

I quote“… the accumulation of weapons, particularly nuclear weapons, today constitutes much more a threat than a protection for the future of mankind. The time has therefore come to put an end to this situation, to abandon the use of force in international relations and to seek security in disarmament, that is to say, through a gradual but effective process beginning with a reduction in the present level of armaments. “

In the words of President John F Kennedy before UNGA in 1961, “the weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.”

These words of caution on an existential threat to humanity adopted by consensus in 1971 has a continuing direct relevance to the world in 2023, particularly so with the deteriorating international security landscape taking a turn to worse lately. This year, the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock forward, and the Clock now stands at 90 seconds to midnight—the closest to global catastrophe it has ever been. An estimated 12,500 nuclear warheads are said to be kept across the globe including those that are in a state of high operational alert.  Mr. President, the danger is real and the world is only too aware of the catastrophic consequences that would follow the detonation of a nuclear weapon.

We note with serious concern the continuing impasse of the world disarmament machinery.  The 10th NPT Review Conference ended last year without a substantive outcome, and that too for the second consecutive time. While implementation of disarmament commitments and obligations have stalled to a great extent , the expansion and modernization of nuclear arsenals and their delivery mechanisms, weakening of related bilateral agreements and the increased emphasis on nuclear weapons in national security doctrines continue to take place. Equally worrying is the very real threat of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of non-state actors.

Mr. President, the arguments that don’t support the notion of nuclear deterrence are well documented.  Nuclear weapon states bear the primary responsibility for nuclear disarmament which under Article VI of the NPT is a binding legal obligation, rather than a mere ambition. Yet it appears that the nuclear disarmament norm today is increasingly disconnected from the reality.

It is in this atmosphere of increased nuclear rhetoric that Sri Lanka takes pride in offering a sense of forward movement through its accession to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons just days ago. We are also pleased to announce Sri Lanka’s ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in June this year. Joining these important disarmament treaties are anchored in our longstanding commitment to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Let me also recall that Sri Lanka is one of the first countries to sign and ratify the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 and to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996 just days after its adoption.

We remain convinced that the only effective guarantee against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is their complete prohibition and elimination. We underscore the importance of the adherence to multilateralism for effective elimination of nuclear weapons and call on all states to adhere to the letter and spirit of all disarmament treaties. Our collective efforts driven by genuine political will would be the only way forward to overcome the prolonged stalemate in the disarmament machinery and Sri Lanka stands ready to play its role in this endeavour to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.

As the saying goes, “They won't fear it until they understand it, and they won't understand it

Thank you.