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  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, Prepcom Briefing 7, April 7, 1997

First NPT PrepCom: Briefing No 7 PrepCom Report Agreed

Written by Rebecca Johnson.

At 9.45 pm the NPT states parties meeting in New York finally agreed the report of the first Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) of the 2000 Review Conference. The Chair of the 1997 PrepCom, Pasi Patokallio of Finland, told the Conference: 'Despite some very painful moments at the very end, we should congratulate ourselves. We gave a good start to the strengthened review process.' This successful conclusion of the first PrepCom under the enhanced review process set up in May 1995 looked in jeopardy for most of Friday, as Mexico blocked agreement because it wanted the importance of nuclear disarmament to be more prominently asserted.

As reported in NPT Briefing # 6 , the parties were close to agreement on Wednesday evening.

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1997 NPT Prep Com 

By Friday, Egypt and the United States had compromised on the draft recommendation to the 1998

PrepCom regarding the resolution on the Middle East. There was a minor conflict over venue of the 2000 Review Conference, which the Non-Aligned (NAM) states wanted to be held in New York, while the European Union wanted to hold open the possibility of Geneva by maintaining that the decision on New York should be 'provisional'. At this late juncture, Mexico suddenly insisted that the draft recommendations to the third

PrepCom should include nuclear disarmament, even though nuclear disarmament was already a main cluster. Mexico also tried to downgrade the Chair's paper to an unofficial document, saying that it could not be regarded as the _basis_ for future negotiation. Eventually a modified amendment from Mexico was agreed, whereby the Chair's 'working paper' was not described as a basis, but recognised as one among several documents to be taken into account when recommendations to the Review Conference were considered in future PrepComs.

The draft report had recommended three issues be allocated time at the next PrepCom in addition to the three main clusters. South Africa had insisted on this for security assurances and Egypt, on behalf of the Arab states, had proposed the Middle East resolution from 1995. Germany and Canada then added the fissile materials production ban (fissban), as it had been the second priority in the 1995 programme of action for nuclear disarmament of the Principles and Objectives (P&O), and was currently bogged down by the deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament (CD). The PrepCom report also made clear that discussions would be based around the three main clusters of nuclear disarmament, safeguards and nuclear energy. The nuclear weapon states preferred to leave it at that, but South Africa and Egypt had NAM backing for insisting that additional time should be set aside for specific issues. Their principal arguments were that security assurances and the Middle East resolution had been identified as important in 1995; that they tended to be neglected in the general cluster debates because they did not straightforwardly fit into a structure based on the 1968 Treaty articles; and they had specific characteristics that were related to and would benefit from consideration (and perhaps negotiations) under the auspices of the PrepCom process. Germany and Canada argued likewise for the fissban. Many other non-nuclear-weapon states were less enthusiastic about the merits of further work on these particular issues as such, but considered it important that the PrepComs establish a precedent for making recommendations on priorities for further work.

While many non-nuclear-weapon and NAM countries had sympathy with Mexico's desire to emphasise the importance of nuclear disarmament, they did not support Mexico's tactic, which they feared would backfire and lose them the possibility (and precedent) of making recommendations to the next PrepCom. With regard to the specific issues of security assurances and the Middle East, this would have pleased the United States, and the NAM feared that Mexico was also playing into the hands of those nuclear weapon states which wanted to restrict the powers and functions of the enhanced review process. Mexico was thus isolated as it refused hour after hour to compromise its position. As negotiations outlasted the UN interpreters, the deadlock looked set to undermine the attempts by NPT parties to ensure that this first PrepCom established a forward-looking review process that was substantive, progressive, and contained procedures and opportunities for addressing the issues more practically and effectively than in the past. At one point it looked as if the PrepCom would be forced to close without agreeing its report. Canada expressed its deep disappointment and warned that this would set the wrong precedents and send negative messages which would make it harder in the future to establish the credibility of the Treaty's review and implementation process.

Finally, to persuade Mexico not to veto the PrepCom report altogether, South Africa and Egypt had to accept the deletion of the recommendations, in return for a formal statement from the Chair, read into the record: "It is understood that within the existing agenda and in accordance with the methods of work adopted at the first session, the Committee also recommended that time should be allocated at the second session for the discussion on and the consideration of any proposals on the following subject areas, without prejudice to the importance of other issues: - security assurances for parties to the NPT - the resolution on the Middle East - the provisions in paragraph 4 (b) of the Principles and Objectives on a nondiscriminatory and universally applicable convention banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices."

There was no objection to this statement. Mexico registered a reservation, with a prepared speech about the importance of nuclear disarmament and the ICJ advisory opinion. The United States commented on the Middle East and security assurances references, making clear its reluctance to have them prioritised in this way. Egypt and South Africa expressed their disappointment that the agreed recommendations had had to be omitted from the report. Both underlined their understanding that the Chair's unopposed statement would be implemented at the next PrepCom. Patokallio also confirmed the status of his Chair's statement in response to a question from Russia.

The Report

The first part of the report was a technical record of the meeting prepared by the Secretariat, led by Hannelore Hoppe of the Center for Disarmament Affairs. The PrepCom was chaired by Pasi Patokallio of Finland on behalf of the Group of Western States and Others, with participation from 148 NPT states parties. Agreement was also reached that Tadeusz Strulak of Poland, on behalf of the Eastern European Group, would chair the next PrepCom, which would be held in Geneva, likely dates: April 28 to May 8, 1998. Provisional dates and venue were also established for the Third PrepCom and Review Conference, with no decisions on a possible fourth PrepCom. The third is expected to be chaired by a NAM candidate and held in New York from April 12-23, 1999. The Review Conference, also likely to be chaired by a NAM representative, is designated for April 24 to May 19, 2000 in New York. The first PrepCom established that it would 'make every effort' to take decisions by consensus, with a fallback of majority voting available if it fails, as determined by the rules of procedure adopted by the 1995 Review and Extension Conference. Representatives of non-party states, specialised agencies and intergovernmental organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) could participate as observers in meetings not designated as closed. Accordingly Brazil, Cuba, Israel and Pakistan and over 100 NGOs attended the opening session, the General Debate and the final plenary of the PrepCom.

To the disappointment of observers, at this first PrepCom the Chair decided that the entire debates on the clusters, as well as informal consultations, were closed. In past Review Conferences, the proceedings of the Main Committees were closed at the discretion of the Chair, following some open discussion and exchange of views. The PrepCom further decided 'to make time available at each session during which the non-governmental organisations could make presentations'. At this first PrepCom, one morning was allocated during the second week. Now that the principle has been agreed, the NGOs hope that time will be provided earlier in future PrepComs, preferably just after the General Debate. In his closing statement, Patokallio said that the time set aside for listening to the NGOs was 'time well spent'.

Chair's Working Paper

The three-page Chair's working paper summarised 'general agreement' on the major issues addressed in the clusters, subdivided according to the 1995 P&O subheadings. Some stressed that these were the highest common factor existing among the NPT parties at this stage; others saw them as the lowest common denominator. Mexico also wanted to ensure that the Chair's paper would not take precedence over the proposals submitted by delegations, which were annexed to the report. As far as possible, the Chair's paper echoed the P&O. On universality, the eight new accessions were welcomed, bringing membership to 186 and urging those with unsafeguarded nuclear facilities to accede to the Treaty. Under nuclear disarmament, NPT parties were urged to promote early entry into force of the comprehensive test ban treaty; to commence negotiations on a fissban 'in accordance with the statement of the special coordinator of the Conference on Disarmament [the March 1995 Shannon Report] and the mandate contained therein.' There was 'recognition' of progress in nuclear arms reductions and the reaffirmation by the NWS of commitment to pursue 'systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally'. The four existing NWFZs were welcomed, but no mention was made of the Central Asian initiative, despite the widespread support it had received during the PrepCom. Similarly, the language on security assurances was kept general, smoothing over the conflict between the US and the proposal for a protocol supported by Myanmar, Nigeria and Sudan, as well as South Africa's push for more debate at the next PrepCom. The conclusion of the IAEA's 93+2 programme to strengthen the safeguards regime was welcomed, and the IAEA was reaffirmed as 'the competent authority' responsible for ensuring compliance with the Treaty. There was reaffirmation of commitments on nuclear cooperation and concerns about threats or attacks on nuclear facilities.

Following Mexico's amendment, as modified, the Chair's working paper would not be 'the basis for further work on draft recommendations' but would be taken into account, together with proposals from delegations. A list of proposals made by various states during the PrepCom was annexed (see NPT Briefings 1-6 for more detail on these as they were made).


Opinion on the outcome was mixed, leaning towards the positive. The majority seemed to share the Chair's view that the PrepCom had laid some good foundations on which to build in the future. Though willing to talk about substance, the NWS had gone into the PrepCom hoping to set clear limits of function and shift attention back to the five-yearly Review Conferences. Although the final stand-off resulted in removal of the recommendations from the report, this first PrepCom established the principle. It followed through NPT parties' 1995 intention to be more substantive and to look forward as well as back. In utilising the mechanism of the Chair's informal consultations among key parties, as well as the general acceptance of allocating future time to specific issues, the PrepCom also moved towards accepting a role for sub-groups. Though disappointed at the loss of the report section with concrete recommendations to the next PrepCom, some of the major players were quick to underline that the Chair's statement covers this and will be implemented in 1998 in any case.

On the negative side, when compared with the 1995 P&O, the Chair's paper provided little more than bland reassertions of the least controversial approaches, leaving out many concrete provisions which had been intended to act as yardsticks for progress. It was for this reason that a number of delegations had resisted the concept of a consensus Chair's paper or, like Mexico, wanted to ensure that the Chair's view would not supersede the P&O or the proposals put forward by states parties. Mexico's late tactic and the statement by Colombia after the PrepCom report was agreed, in which the NAM had to stress that the reports were _not_ the draft recommendations for 2000, indicate that the NAM were poorly organised and ill-prepared. Few NAM states spoke in the early debates on the main clusters. They were slow to grasp the significance of submitting concrete proposals and lobbying for recommendations. Having apparently underestimated the opportunities offered by the new process this time round, the NAM now need to coordinate more effectively to get their own proposals into round two much earlier.

The unexpectedly large participation was indicative of the widespread interest in implementing non-proliferation and disarmament, now that the NPT has been indefinitely extended. More consideration and better coordination among the non-nuclear-weapon states are needed to ensure that this fairly promising beginning develops into a robust and meaningful lever for implementation and accountability in the future.