NPT Review Conference president moves towards the endgame

Day 17: The NPT Review Conference president, Libran Cabactulan, has moved towards the endgame by submitting a draft final document which contains both a treaty review and a forward-looking action plan covering all three pillars of the treaty (disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy).

It is not a consensus document and reflects the divergences that marked the first three weeks of the conference. Indeed the UK delegate, Amb John Duncan, pointed out this morning when Iran asked for more time to study the draft, that “it is inconceivable that people don’t know the national positions” in the light of previous discussions.

Here is an analysis of the main areas on which delegations are expected to engage over the next four days in hopes of achieving a consensus by the end of the conference on Friday. There is still much political goodwill but the worry is that a consensus document will have to be further watered down – and in some instances already the text marks a step backwards on language from previous Review Conferences.

ME nuclear weapons free zone

This is the issue on which agreement would be a major achievement, representing the first sign of movement in 15 years towards implementing the 1995 resolution on a Middle East nuclear weapons free zone, bringing Israel (which is not an NPT member) and Iran to the same table. The president’s draft calls for the UN secretary-general to convene “an initial conference in 2012 to be attended by all states of the Middle East, leading to the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.” So far so good – there is broad agreement on this (even though Israel may object to a UN-convened conference). However the text goes on to speak of a basis of “arrangements freely arrived at by the states of the region” which is a reference opposed by the Arab Group. Another point of contention is the text’s proposal for the secretary-general to appoint a special coordinator: the Arab Group is looking for a Coordinating Committee. The draft text identifies Israel by name in evoking the importance of Israel’s accession to the NPT while the Arab Group wants the document to call for Israel to join as a non nuclear weapon state. It is puzzling that the ME section is in the document’s review section and not in the action plan.


The main debate will focus here over the issue of Non-Aligned Movement pressure for a timebound framework for disarmament and whether that should be enshrined in a convention. The draft action plan in parts reflects the language of the 2000 Review Conference, reaffirming “the unequivocal undertaking of the nuclear weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament”. However the 2000 text did refer to reductions of tactical, or non-strategic, weapons, which unfortunately are not mentioned specifically in this draft which refers to further efforts “to verifiably reduce all types of nuclear weapons, deployed, and non-deployed.” Nuclear weapons powers Britain, the US and France yesterday spoke out in coordinated fashion against a reference to “specified timelines” which remain in the president’s draft document. There is also opposition to a nuclear weapons convention by the nuclear weapons states. The draft invites the UN secretary-general to convene an “open-ended high-level meeting to take stock and agree on a roadmap for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, including by means of a universal legal instrument.” The weapons states are similarly expected to object to a paragraph calling for a subsidiary body being set up at the Conference on Disarmament “with a mandate to deal with nuclear disarmament.”

Reinforced inspection regime: the Additional Protocol

The NAM has fought systematically attempts by the Western group to insert references to the International Atomic Energy Agency reinforced inspection regime, the Additional Protocol, as a universal standard. The weapons states argue that the protocols are vital to prevent cheating but the NAM points out that this is a voluntary requirement under the NPT. However references on the merits of the additional protocol remain sprinkled throughout the draft final document, albeit obliquely.

For example, paragraph 8 speaks of the additional protocols “as an integral part of the IAEA’s safeguards system, and affirms that a comprehensive safeguards agreement together with an additional protocol, represents the verification standard that best fulfils the objectives of Article III of the Treaty”. It “urges” all states which have not done so to bring into force the additional protocol “as soon as possible.”

The NAM is likely to object to paragraph 17 of the action plan on non-proliferation which encourages states parties “to consider” whether to agree to nuclear exports to countries which do not adhere to the Additional Protocol.

Security Assurances

The NAM and the Western group remain opposed on the issue of legally binding security assurances as sought by the NAM. The weapons states are expected to resist paragraph 8 in the action plan to move this issue into the Conference on Disarmament.


Although Iran is not named in this respect, Iran is the NPT member (along with Syria which remains under investigation by the IAEA) most concerned by accusations of non-compliance with IAEA safeguards which have prompted the country to be placed under UN sanctions. A proposed fourth round is before the UN Security Council. Throughout the discussions, Iran has sought not to be singled out and wants compliance by the nuclear weapons states with their own NPT commitments to be mentioned.


The draft text remains bracketed on the issue of withdrawal from the treaty, signifying continuing divergence between groups on possible consequences for states which withdraw from the NPT.

Anne Penketh is currently attending the NPT RevCon in New York.

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