Nuclear Weapons States reaffirm responsibility toward disarmament

Day 3: The nuclear weapons states have issued a pragmatic joint document reflecting the constructive spirit of the negotiations at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

The statement was issued on Day 3 of the NPT Review Conference and presented during the general debate by Russia’s chief arms negotiator Anatoly Antonov.

The document spoke of the five nuclear powers’ “continuing responsibility to take concrete and credible steps towards irreversible disarmament,” Apparently France sought to dilute the language during the negotiations among the US, UK, China, France and Russia, which are also the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. The statement quoted from the language of resolution 1887 which refers to “creating conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.”

The five reaffirmed their “unequivocal commitment to the treaty”, a reference to their pledge at the Review Conference of 2000 to an “unequivocal undertaking” to totally eliminate their nuclear weapons. The five spoke of their “enduring commitment to the fulfillment of our obligations under Article VI of the treaty” which provides for general and complete disarmament by the nuclear weapons states. It remains to be seen whether the non-aligned movement will find the pledges convincing.

Addressing calls from non nuclear weapons states for a legally binding pledge not to attack them with nuclear weapons, the statement said that the five “stand ready to engage in substantive discussions on security assurances in the Conference on Disarmament” in Geneva.

It also dealt with one of the most pressing issues before the NPT Review Conference, the establishment of a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction. The five said they were “committed in full” to implementing a 1995 resolution providing for the establishment of the zone that would include Israel and Iran. They expressed their readiness to “consider all relevant proposals” in the course of the Review Conference in order to come to an “agreed decision aimed at taking concrete steps in this direction.” Israel was not mentioned by name, however, including in part of the statement which urged all states which are not parties to the NPT to join as non nuclear weapons states. Pakistan, India and Israel remain outside the treaty, while North Korea has pulled out of the NPT.

Regarding Iran, the nuclear weapons states said that the proliferation risks posed by the Iranian nuclear programme “remain of serious concern”, and urged Iran to fully and immediately comply with its international obligations. They called on North Korea to rejoin the six-party talks but stressed that “we remain determined to achieve the satisfactory resolution of these dossiers through diplomatic means.”

The statement also dealt with the issue of the Additional Protocol of the International Atomic Energy Agency, providing for a reinforced inspections regime. The five want the Additional Protocol to become the universal standard, which was stressed in the statement. However there has been resistance to this from the non nuclear weapons states which want the Additional Protocol to remain voluntary. The nuclear states urged non nuclear weapons states “that have not yet done so to take the necessary steps to bring the protocol into force.”

Negotiations are continuing in hopes of adopting a final conference document that can be agreed by the largest number of states, even if Iran rejects its conclusions thereby blocking a consensus.

The statement did not mention calls for a convention providing for nuclear disarmament according to a timeframe, which will disappoint the non-aligned states and some non-governmental organizations.

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

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