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  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, Prepcom Briefing 6, May 6, 1998

1998 NPT PrepCom: Briefing No 8 The Review Process at Risk

Process and Products

The cluster debates have now covered safeguards, nuclear weapon free zones (NWFZ), including the session especially allocated to the Middle East Resolution, and have begun to consider nuclear energy issues. Additionally, the NPT Parties are grappling with different options for how the strengthened review process should be developing. Beginning last Friday, representatives of around 26 key delegations have begun to hold meetings under the auspices of the Chair of the Second PrepCom, Ambassador Eugeniusz Wyzner, to determine how best to report on the work and outcome of the PrepCom.

This informal 'Friends of the Chair' group, similar to those which assisted Jayantha Dhanapala in

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See Also
1998 NPT Index

1995 and Pasi Patokallio in 1997, appears to include: Algeria, Australia, Britain, China, Chile, Colombia (Vice Chair), Canada, Egypt, France, Finland (Vice Chair), Germany, Iran, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Poland (Chair), Russia, Romania, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, United States and Viet Nam. At present it is wrestling with how to characterise and transmit the many proposals arising from the first two PrepComs.

 There are conflicting viewpoints about the structure and scope of reports or 'products' of the meeting. The major problems hinge on two very different perspectives about the desired role and relevance of the strengthened review process as a whole. The NWS and some of their allies appear to favour a 'minimalist' approach, in which the primary job of the PrepComs is to accumulate proposals for text which would eventually end up in the hands of the Review Conference participants in 2000. In that case, the 1997 model is favoured, in which the Chair's working paper contains a shortish section reflecting generalised affirmations or agreement on certain issues (as in paragraph 3 of the 1997 Chair's working paper), while the rest of the proposals end up in a long compilation, regardless of their degree of backing. In 1997 the compilation was placed as paragraph 4 and extended for 30 pages.

At the time of the First PrepCom, Mexico and some of the NAM countries gave notice that they did not want the Chair's working paper to be relied upon too closely as the basis for future work. Concerned that the PrepComs should have relevance in their own right, and not merely be conveyor belts of text for the quinquennial review conferences, several delegations are therefore exploring ways in which the report(s) could better represent the more substantive role given to the PrepComs in the 1995 decisions on strengthening the review.

Consistent with its proposals for the PrepCom to issue statements on the CTBT and START, Canada has suggested that in addition to general agreements and compiled proposals, the PrepCom or Chair's report should contain two sections which would specifically reflect the important issues at the time, likely to change with each PrepCom. Thus one part would briefly report on the issues to which special time had been allocated (for this year that would be security assurances, the resolution on the Middle East, and FMCT) and another section would contain collective perspectives or agreements of a time-urgent or more specific nature than envisaged in the general agreements, since the current paragraph 3 is directed more to the 2000 Review Conference.

The intention would be to enable NPT Parties to comment on relevant issues of the day, providing somewhere to highlight calls for the ratification of specific measures, like START II, the CTBT, or the additional protocols to IAEA safeguards agreements, or give support to up-coming activities, such as the political 'entry-into-force' conference of the CTBT or the meeting of five Central Asian states in Bishkek to develop their proposed NWFZ.

South Africa has suggested that the PrepCom should issue three documents: one with recommendations on 'principles, objectives and ways' to implement the Treaty, following the format of the 1995 P&O, updated where necessary; a second with specific proposals and initiatives that had not yet obtained agreement; and thirdly, the procedural arrangements for the review conference, financial arrangements etc. South Africa also suggested that the review conference should focus on producing two documents: a 2000 Principles and Objectives, to be a guide and yardstick for progress towards the next review conference in 2005; and a Final Declaration, to review and evaluate the previous five years.

Though several delegations have expressed interest in looking more closely at these ideas, the focus has so far been weighted towards reproducing the 1997 model. A first draft of a possible Chair's working paper along those lines ran to 46 pages, adding proposals from this year to last year's compilation. As the informal Chair's group began to look at whether certain recommendations in the (paragraph 4) compilation could be 'moved up' into the paragraph 3 section, denoting general agreement, it became clear that such a process would be very time consuming and, possibly, unworkable in the long run.

It would be a pity if the PrepComs are drowned in a sea of proposals aimed at the year 2000 when they themselves have a more direct role to play in contributing to the strength of the non-proliferation regime. The first week of substantive discussion had been characterised by genuine attempts by the NAM and a number of other States, including some of the NWS, to seek more flexible and constructive ways of moving forward on issues such as the FMCT, NWFZ and transparency. Those who backed the special allocation of time to certain issues could see their hopes confirmed to a considerable degree by the more focused and solution-oriented contributions in the session allocated to the FMCT, markedly different from the wider restatements of national positions and exhortations which seem to characterise cluster debates. Such positive developments need to be encouraged, built upon and reported, so that they can facilitate and feed into bilateral or regional processes or the work of negotiating bodies like the CD. If the PrepComs do not successfully carve out a more relevant and substantive role we are likely to see many NPT Parties begin to lose interest. If that happens there is a danger that the strengthened review process may not last much beyond the year 2000.


The debate on safeguards was short, with little apparent disagreement. States urged each other to accept comprehensive IAEA safeguards and conclude their agreements with the IAEA on the additional protocols developed under the 93+2 programme to strengthen the safeguards regime. Some also urged the non-NPT States to consider applying some provisions of the Model Protocol. Some statements raised concerns illicit trafficking and several urged North Korea and Iraq to comply fully with their NPT obligations and safeguards agreements. There was support for the NWS to place 'excess' fissile materials irreversibly under IAEA safeguards and the EU statement also backed an intended project by France, Germany and Russia to turn excess weapons plutonium into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. Many also affirmed support for nuclear-related export controls, which Iran and some NAM states have already criticised.


This short debate conveyed general support for the various NWFZ now in existence and called on the NWS to respect their provisions and to sign and ratify relevant protocols where that had not yet been done (notably with respect to the Bangkok Treaty). In the General Debate, Ukraine had reaffirmed its backing for the establishment of a NWFZ in Central and Eastern Europe. Following on from general debate statements from Central Asian countries, Uzbekistan updated NPT Parties on the progress being made together with Kyrgyzstan, Kazakstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, to develop a NWFZ in Central Asia. The next consultations between these five countries, the P-5 and representatives of the IAEA and United Nations are scheduled to take place on July 9 and 10 at Bishkek, with the intention of working out the elements of a Treaty.

South Africa not only endorsed the objective of a NWFZ in the Middle East, but made specific reference to South Asia as well. Noting that the possession of nuclear weapons "provides only the illusion of security", South Africa argued that after destroying its own nuclear capability, it now realised that "security is provided by nuclear disarmament rather than by nuclear proliferation" -- a lesson relevant for the declared NWS as well as the 'threshold' States.

The Middle East

Although Israel's unsafeguarded nuclear facilities were alluded to during some of the cluster 2 discussions on safeguards and NWFZ, time was specifically allocated to the Middle East in accordance with the intentions of the 1997 PrepCom. The EU and a number of other countries expressed support for the establishment of a zone free from weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East "provided that all States in the region are involved". Egypt proposed several paragraphs for actions and recommendations to implement the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East. These included: endorsement of the aims and objectives of the Middle East peace process; suggestions for studies and action on eliminating nuclear, chemical and biological weapons from the region; reference to the continued existence of unsafeguarded nuclear facilities; calls for Israel to accede to the NPT and put its nuclear facilities under full scope IAEA safeguards; support and assistance from NPT states, the United Nations and the IAEA for "early conclusion of the text of a treaty on a NWFZ as a step towards the establishment of a WMDFZ in the Middle East". Egypt's position was supported by a number of other Arab States. The United States responded that singling out one country would not be conducive to resolving the problems in that troubled region. Little of the debate was available to those outside the closed doors.