“As a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Islamic Republic of Iran recognizes the importance of this international legal framework in managing activities related to oceans and seas,” Zahra Ershadi said addressing the UN General Assembly meeting on “Oceans and the law of the sea [Agenda Item 75].
The following is the full text of Ershadi’s speech:
Allow me at the outset to extend my appreciation to the Secretary-General for his reports under the agenda item “the Oceans and the Law of the Sea” as well as the coordinators of the informal consultations on draft resolutions under this Agenda item.
We would also like to thank the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea for their efforts and invaluable support throughout this exercise.
With that being said, I would also like to reiterate my delegation’s position on a number of issues related to this Agenda item as follows:
As a signatory State to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Islamic Republic of Iran recognizes the significance of this international legal framework in governing activities related to oceans and seas.
However, Iran maintains that UNCLOS should not be regarded as the exclusive and sole legal framework within which all activities pertaining to oceans and seas must be carried out.
We assert that any reference to UNCLOS should be made in conjunction with other relevant legal instruments and frameworks, rather than in isolation.
This approach can better reflect the comprehensive nature of this resolution in addressing the evolving nature of maritime challenges such as environmental concerns and maritime security.
Furthermore, it can better address the legitimate concerns of non-parties to the Convention who are not legally bound by provisions that do not possess a customary nature.
Therefore, we expect that any negotiation on related resolutions concerning oceans and seas should properly address these concerns and adopt an inclusive approach that could lead to constructive engagement among a wider number of countries in supporting those resolutions.
Furthermore, it shall be reiterated that any constructive engagement by my delegation during the negotiations and joining consensus should not be construed as a change in the legal position of the Islamic Republic of Iran in relation to the UNCLOS.
However, among other things, a strong conviction in preserving the ocean, seas and their resources as well as guaranteeing the security and safety of marine operations has motivated us to constructively collaborate and coordinate with other countries on ocean-related matters.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, as a coastal state in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman, is committed to achieving the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 14 as well as ocean sustainability.
In this regard, we are looking forward to convening the Third United Nations Ocean Conference to support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, co-hosted by the French Republic and the Republic of Costa Rica in 2024 and 2025.
The Islamic Republic of Iran highly values the efforts made in sustainable fisheries management, which play an important role in supporting the economic activities of some developing countries, conserving marine resources, maintaining healthy marine ecosystems and ensuring food security for all.
Having said that, the Islamic republic of Iran encourages all countries, regional fisheries management organizations and relevant international institutions to prioritize responsible fisheries management, the use of selective fishing methods as well as combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
Rapid population growth, industrialization, urbanization, rising fishing demands, droughts and other natural disasters caused by global warming and climate change as well as ineffective development policies are depleting natural resources at an alarmingly rapid rate, thereby posing serious threats to our region’s marine environment as well as sustainable development.
Sea level rise, biodiversity loss and the reduction of different species of native fauna and flora are just a few of many challenges faced within our region.
Given the increasing damage and destruction of essential and economically important coastal ecosystems such as mangrove forests, coral reefs and fisheries livelihoods in the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea, we strongly encourage the coastal States in the region to work together to protect such ecosystems.
We reiterate the call for all relevant States to work together to protect the environment of this shared body of water and to refrain from unilateral actions that could jeopardize its marine environment.
In terms of marine life and its preservation, the irresponsible construction of artificial islands and reclamation activities in the Persian Gulf would unquestionably harm the habitats of rare and fragile marine species as well as endanger their life.
Furtheremore, the deployment and exteraordinary presence of military fleets from outside the region in the Persian Gulf has exacerbated not only the safety and security of coastal States, as well as the smooth navigation in this body of water, but also its maritime pollution and depletion of marine resources.
In this regard, the Islamic Republic of Iran is determined to enforce its laws and regulations in addressing any maritime pollution and environmental harms by vessels that fall under its jurisdiction in the Persian Gulf.
The impacts of climate change on oceans and seas are myriad, complex and interrelated.
In order to counter these impacts, developed countries must fulfill their commitments under the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement by providing financial resources, capacity building and technology transfer due to their historical role based on the CBRD principle.
The Islamic Republic of Iran takes note of the General Assembly resolution 77/276 of 29 March 2023 that requested an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the obligations of States in respect of climate change.
The resolution includes inter alia the topic of sea-level rise.
As the resolution merely focuses on one assumed cause of climate change, the Islamic Republic of Iran logically expects the Court to consider the matter holistically and comprehensively.
The Islamic Republic of Iran considers utmost importance for the issue of climate change and its environmental impacts.
Nonetheless, the imposition of unilateral coercive measures (UCMs) is the most crucial barrier, preventing the targeted countries including my own to live up to its environmental obligations.
These unlawful UCMs have jeopardized our efforts to combat environmental problems, including by impeding access to new technologies, know-how and adequate financial resources.
Regarding sea level rise, due to the long-term as well as unavoidable social, economic and security challenges arising from this environmental phenomenon, my delegation would like to emphasize that the practice of land reclamation, coastal fortification and other means to maintain coastal areas, base points, baselines and islands can be considered as an appropriate response to sea-level rise as long as such fortifications would not result in the creation of any new rights for the States.
We would like to underline that, in accordance with the law of the sea, artificial islands, installations and structures do not possess the status of islands.
Thus, any discussion on the relationship between artificial islands and the change of maritime zones in relation to sea level rise is irrelevant.
My delegation welcomes the adoption of the legally binding Agreement on the conservation and the sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
We believe that this treaty represents a great milestone in the global efforts to protect and sustainably use biological resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
We assert that the Common Heritage of Mankind is the guiding principle to achieve the objectives of the BBNJ Agreement, including the access and sharing of benefits of marine genetic resources.
This principle provides a legal foundation for a fair and equitable regime that would allow all countries to benefit from the potential that marine biodiversity represents in terms of food security and economic prosperity and to address challenges of conservation and sustainable use of MGRs.
The Islamic Republic of Iran reaffirms its commitment to a marine order based on the international law of the seas in order to protect maritime rights and interests of all and to ensure that maritime activities are carried out in accordance with the law of the sea.
In this regard, at the seventy-fourth session of the General Assembly, the Islamic Republic of Iran proposed an initiative based on dialogue, cooperation and mutual respect emanating from its commitment and sincerely believes that the prolongation of conflicts and ever-escalating tensions among littoral States of the Persian Gulf are likely to seriously jeopardize regional development and prosperity.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is adamant that regional cooperation based on the aforementioned plan will uphold safety, security and global maritime law, particularly in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman.
The same sentiment and understanding underlies our collaboration with other States in the region and beyond to combat piracy, as recognized by the Secretary-General in his pertinent reports and praised by the Security Council in a number of resolutions.
In conclusion, Mr. President, I wish to draw attention to the adverse effects posed by unilateral coercive measures (UCMs) on maritime navigation.
These unlawful actions have far-reaching and negative consequences for maritime navigation, impacting trade, safety, security, and international relations.
It is our firm belief that addressing these illicit measures requires a collaborative and diplomatic approach, emphasizing the need for effective implementation of international law.