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  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, Briefing 7, May 19, 1999

1999 NPT PrepCom: Briefing No 7 Make or Break?

Working Paper on Products

For the past two days, states parties to the NPT, attending the third PrepCom to the 2000 Review Conference, have been going through the working papers submitted by the Chair, Ambassador Camilo Reyes of Colombia. By the end of Thursday, he had provided a second draft of the paper recommending the 'products' (documented agreements) which the 2000 Conference should seek to achieve. Gone was the specific recommendation for two documents, one identifying actions and approaches for the next five years and the other to review and evaluate implementation in the past five years. The Chair's working paper affirmed that the objectives of

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the 2000 Conference must be to look forwards as well as back, but left open the question of how this should be done, and how many documents should be negotiated in 2000.

Leaving the question open seemed to satisfy the main concerns of Mexico. Egypt, however, still pushed for a single document encompassing both review and future programmes, and France tried to introduce amendments to narrow down the options and make one document the likely outcome. Egypt also wanted the paper to reflect proposals for subsidiary bodies on the Middle East and nuclear disarmament, but others consider that this debate and decision should be left to 2000. Although most of those who objected to the first draft are now signalling that they could accept the second, with a few minor clarifications, a number of non-aligned countries have warned that they would only agree a working paper with 'product' recommendations if it were accompanied by a working paper on substantive issues.

Working Paper on Substance

As parties went through the May 14 Chair's paper paragraph by paragraph, putting in their amendments or alternatives, a widening gulf of perceptions and intentions has become exposed, mainly between the non-aligned NNWS and the NWS and their allies, and also between incrementalists and fundamentalists. There are tensions within both the NAM and the Western group as one or two delegations continually hold out against views that most of their colleagues support or would at least be prepared to accept. Some of the proposals are the epitome of moderation; others reflect pet national positions. Some seek to delete entire paragraphs, such as para 7 relating to nuclear sharing and articles I and II. Others want to expand or narrow the scope of existing sections, such as para 8 on the South Asian tests or para 13 on the CTBT. Some parts of the Chair's paper have hardly drawn attention, indicating a wide measure of support and consensus. In others, however, especially relating to nuclear disarmament and the Middle East, the range of different proposals and perspectives would be hard to reconcile, except at a fairly bland level.

The key question now is whether agreement can be reached on making recommendations on substance to the 2000 Conference. One senior diplomat characterised the dilemma as a choice between a paper with agreed status but not much content and a paper dealing substantively with the issues, but without agreement (and therefore no status). Unfortunately, he concluded, the PrepCom looked as if it was heading for something with neither content nor status. Early in the week it had been feared that some of the NWS might insist on watering down the substance in the Chair's paper only to reject the paper in the end, a common ploy in consensus-based structures. There is also a concern that some individual states may be prepared to sacrifice the chances of agreement in order to pursue other agendas or interests.

Indonesia, on behalf of the NAM, today warned that they would not be satisfied this time with only procedural recommendations: if the PrepCom could not agree some recommendations on substance as well, then it would be regarded as a failure.

Although there are reports that the United States and Egypt may be nearing agreement on some of the outstanding issues regarding the Middle East resolution, including background documentation, no decisions have yet been forthcoming. There have been whispered speculations about a possible fourth PrepCom, which the majority would be keen to avoid, and talk of suspending the PrepCom if no agreement on substance is forthcoming by Friday, with a view to reconvening it some months later. These are drastic options, and may be coming up now in order to galvanise the political will to ensure a constructive outcome. With two days left, and a second draft of the Chair's working paper on substance promised for Thursday, a positive outcome is within reach but by no means certain.

Security Assurances

The following sections on security assurances and nuclear energy summarise the statements made in the general and cluster debates during the first week and do not reflect any of the discussion over the Chair's papers in the last two days. Indeed, reflecting either their lack of relative importance or controversy, these issues have barely been raised in interventions on the Chair's working papers. Member States, which through their accession to the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states (NNWS) have forsworn the option of developing nuclear weapons of their own, have long demanded guarantees from the NWS against being threatened or attacked with nuclear weapons. Such 'negative security assurances' have so far been conditional and hedged with exceptions, offered only on a individual and voluntary basis by the NWS, reinforced through endorsement in two UN Security Council resolutions, 255 (1968) and 984 (1995).

As in past years, China has called for legally binding instruments by which the NWS would "undertake unconditionally...not to be the first to use nuclear weapons nor use or threaten to use nuclear weapons" against NNWS. Indonesia, in presenting the NAM paper, reiterated the long-standing position that pending the total elimination of nuclear weapons (the only genuine guarantee for NNWS against the threat or use of nuclear weapons), a legally binding regime on security assurances should be concluded. As in their 1998 working paper, the NAM called for the PrepComs to negotiate on a legal instrument to be adopted by the 2000 Review Conference. South Africa submitted a working paper containing a draft protocol to the NPT on security assurances, which it wants to be negotiated and attached to the Treaty. Iran argued for three kinds of multilateral agreements to be pursued within the NPT context: negative security assurances to NNWS, a treaty banning the first use of nuclear weapons, and a convention of prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons.

Australia also supported consideration by the NPT Parties of possible further measures on security assurances and wanted the NWS to reiterate the terms of their 1995 declarations and UN Security Council resolution 984 (April 1995). New Zealand, however, took the view that "a real test of the commitment to security assurances must be ratification by the nuclear weapon states of the Protocols to the nuclear weapon free zone treaties". Although New Zealand "remained interested in exploring the possibilities for more robust assurances", it regarded negotiation of a single internationally legally binding instrument "problematic", and was not sure of the right way forward.

In Algeria's view, the South Asian nuclear tests and NATO's strategic concept as confirmed in the April 1999 Washington Summit have particularly exposed the inadequacies of the present assurances contained in UNSC 984. Where the NAM statement merely noted that the CD had established an ad hoc committee in 1998 on negative security assurances, something which even the United States and Britain mentioned, Algeria called for this committee to be reconvened to negotiate and conclude some kind of treaty or multilateral instrument on security assurances. Nigeria, Brazil, Kazakhstan and Malaysia mentioned security assurances as important, but did not express any preference for how they should be dealt with.

In a move which surprised some, Italy gave a statement on behalf also of Belgium, Germany, Netherlands and Norway (the 'Nato-5'), which acknowledged "we have to comply with the legitimate concern of the States party to the NPT with regard to their security needs, and work for an international framework that could assure those parties to the Treaty that are non-nuclear-weapon States against the use of such weapons". The NATO-5 recognised the importance of security assurances in the context of NWFZ and of building on UNSC 984. They called for further steps to be identified, which "could take the form of a legally binding treaty". Reflecting some differences among the New Agenda states, the NAC statement called only for a legally binding instrument on NSA, without specifying where the issue should best be addressed.

Nuclear Energy

As in previous years, many statements supported the Article IV provision on nuclear energy and called for wider financial contributions to the Technical Cooperation Fund. Many of the nuclear supplier states emphasised the importance of the export control regime. In response to criticism from the NAM and others that these controls impeded access to technology and assistance for developing nuclear energy, Italy, as current chair of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), announced that a comprehensive report on transparency of NSG activities will be prepared in time for the 2000 Review Conference.

Several states supported the Convention on Nuclear Safety, which held its first review meeting in Vienna last month. Austria, one of the few states which refuses to back nuclear power, drew attention to its understanding that information provided at the meeting "clearly showed the existence of safety deficits" and that "implementation of measures for improvement can and will be expected". More than ten years after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine, it is clear that money is still required to assist in clean-up operations. The Kyrgyz Republic wanted stricter procedures for the safe handling, transport, storage, and disposal of sensitive nuclear material to be observed. In a section specifying the production of nuclear weapons, but more widely applicable, both the Kyrgyz statement and a working paper from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, noted that "there have been exceptional instances in which serious environmental consequences have resulted from uranium mining and associate nuclear fuel-cycle activities". In addition, a number of states raised concerns about safety hazards arising from the Year 2000 (Y2K) computer problems, also called the Millennium bug. Several supported IAEA efforts to deal with the problem, although some, including Australia and Austria, wanted better information.

Several, including Australia and New Zealand, who cited last year's meeting of the South Pacific Forum, and Peru, Chile and Argentina, expressed concerns about the maritime transport of radioactive materials through their region. New Zealand reiterated its request for states to adopt "at least prior notification and ideally prior informed consent procedures" for transshipment of radioactive materials. However, France and Japan, which are responsible for transporting much of this material insisted that there must be no impediment to the "rights and freedoms of navigation".

Written by Rebecca Johnson and Nicola Butler