Nuclear Non-Proliferation Review Closes Without Consensus

NEW YORK, New York, May 31, 2005 (ENS) - A conference at the United Nations to review the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) ended Friday having accomplished “very little” amid what its President said were widely diverging views tackling nuclear arms and their spread.

Ambassador Sergio Duarte of Brazil, President of the 2005 NPT Review Conference told a press briefing that although the month long conference had accomplished very little in terms of results, agreements or final decisions, there had nevertheless been some progress “in the ways issues were discussed and the interest that delegations had shown in those discussions and…documents presented.”

A spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a statement the UN chief “very much regrets” that the meeting closed without substantive agreement, noting that the parties “missed a vital opportunity to strengthen our collective security against the many nuclear threats to which all states and all peoples are vulnerable.”

missile

U.S. Trident II D-5 Fleet Ballistic Missile a three-stage, solid propellant missile with a range of more than 4,000 nautical miles. (Photo courtesy FAS)
The nuclear weapons capability in North Korea and in Israel, U.S. intransigence on disarmament and its threat to return to nuclear testing, controversy over Iran, and concerns over nuclear weapons usable plutonium production programs in Japan and other countries, and the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel all played a part in the collective failure of the conference.

While the vast majority of NPT States parties recognize the Treaty’s enduring benefits, “the Secretary-General warns that their inability to strengthen their collective efforts is bound to weaken the Treaty and the broader NPT based regime over time,” said the statement read on Annan's behalf.

Annan noted that countries will have a unique opportunity to renew those efforts in September, when more than 170 Heads of State and Government convene in New York to adopt a wide-ranging agenda to advance development, security and human rights.

Ambassador Duarte said it was perhaps too early to tell, when asked if the failure of the conference has undermined the 35 year old accord. “We’ll have to wait and see,” he said.

The Conference of States Parties to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty meets every five years to review the accord, which seeks to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons technology, foster the peaceful use of nuclear energy and further the goal of general and complete disarmament.

Adherence to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty by 188 countries, including the five nuclear-weapon States, renders it the most widely adhered to multilateral disarmament instrument.

This year, the Conference was nearly halfway through its work before the parties decided on an agenda, and on Thursday, its three main committees failed agree on the texts covering the so-called three pillars of the NPT – disarmament, verification of safeguards on national nuclear programs and the peaceful use of atomic energy.

Duarte

Ambassador Sergio de Queiroz Duarte of Brazil presided over the month long NPT review conference. (Photo courtesy UNIDO)
On Friday, Duarte said he had decided against making a final statement during the Conference’s final plenary because he felt it would have been difficult in light of the “wide divergence of views” among the States parties.

Asked if he could explain why there had been so little progress this year, he said, “You can probably write several books on why the conference did not reach agreement.”

He added that it would take longer than a press conference to unravel that question, but mainly, it had been due to the lack of convergence of views on the best ways to achieve the objectives of the Treaty.

The Ambassador stressed that whatever the results, it had been very important that delegations got together to discuss their national issues and interests. “So it’s perhaps premature to say that this is a failure,” he said.

The Head of the U.S. Delegation Ambassador Jackie Sanders said participants examined new ground on the subject of treaty noncompliance.

Speaking at the United Nations, she said this was the first review to examine in detail indicators of proliferation and to explore the link between the right to peaceful nuclear energy use and the treaty's nonproliferation obligations.

She said it was the first review conference to exchange views on how NPT members, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the United Nations Security Council should hold accountable those violating their NPT obligations.

She said it was also the first review to seriously discuss how NPT members, the IAEA, the United Nations and the Nuclear Suppliers Group should handle the sensitive issue of treaty withdrawal. Discussions focused on the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea.

Sanders

Jackie Wolcott Sanders was sworn in as Ambassador on December 16, 2003, and serves as U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and as Special Representative of the President for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. (Photo courtesy U.S. State Department)
Sanders, who serves as President George W. Bush's special representative for the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, said that even though consensus was not achieved at the conference there was "often broad agreement" on ways to strengthen treaty implementation as well as the broader nonproliferation regime.

Along with many others, Sanders said, the United States supports the efforts of the EU-3 - France, Germany and the United Kingdom with the support of the European Union - to solve the Iranian nuclear problem diplomatically.

Such a solution, she said, "must include the permanent cessation of Iran's enrichment-related and reprocessing efforts, as well as its dismantlement of equipment and facilities related to such activity," because of Iran's track record.

In similar fashion, she said NPT members supported Six-Party Talks with North Korea to persuade Kim Jong-il to abandon his nuclear weapons programs.

Citizens' groups expressed disappointment with the outcome of the month long review conference.

Susi Snyder, Secretary-General of the International Women’s League for Peace and Freedom, told journalists at UN Headquarters Thursday that, "Some nations, particularly the United States, seemed to have no desire for the Review Conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to succeed, preferring to argue over procedure rather than hold substantive discussions."

“We’ve been here for nearly four weeks, expecting some sort of leadership, expecting movement in the non-proliferation and disarmament regime, but that has failed to happen,” said Snyder, who was joined by representatives of several nuclear disarmament non-governmental organizations.

Alyn Ware of the International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms said the NPT Treaty States had "a moral, political and legal responsibility to push disarmament forward, but were not fulfilling their obligations."

Ware

Alyn Ware of New Zealand is global coordinator of the Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament, a non-partisan forum for parliamentarians which now has 250 members from 40 countries. (Photo courtesy PNND)
He said his organization, which had won a case with the International Court of Justice in 1992 to proclaim nuclear weapons illegal and oblige States to eliminate them, were now thinking of returning to the Court.

“Given the dire proceeding here at the NPT and the lack of implementation, we’re now consulting with governments to look at returning to the Court to look at the compliance issue with nuclear weapons States - whether they are in compliance or not and what they should do to be in compliance,” Ware said.

Following the Court’s 1992 decision, the General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for implementation of the disarmament obligation through negotiation of a nuclear weapons convention.

“This is not just pie in the sky, but a practical method to address security and the political, technical and legal aspects of nuclear disarmament,” said Ware. His association has drafted a model treaty showing that nuclear disarmament is possible and is now working with governments to bring it about.

Greenpeace Friday condemned the lack of collective political will on the part of the States parties who failed to reach agreement on reducing the global arsenal of nuclear arms at the conclusion of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

“Governments attending the four week conference have failed to seize the opportunity of reducing the nuclear threat, putting their own nuclear self-interests before the desire for disarmament,” said Greenpeace International’s disarmament specialist William Peden at the conference.

“This meeting needed to strengthen the treaty and send a strong signal on disarmament and on proliferation of nuclear weapons,” Peden said. “It has failed to do that and as a result the world is a far more dangerous place.”

Greenpeace calls on the heads of state attending the UN Millennium Review Summit in September to act on the challenge laid down by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, in his opening speech to the conference, to take disarmament seriously.

The proposal by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer to remove U.S. nuclear weapons from his country was "a major positive to emerge from the conference," Peden said.

“The conference gridlock only emphasises the need to bolster the disarmament side of the process,” Peden said. “Unless and until we get rid of all nuclear weapons, other countries are going to want them – and that’s the destructive dynamic we are witnessing.”