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  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty Statement, 1999

Statement from the Australian Delegation

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Mr Chairman,

In 1995 States Parties to this Treaty agreed that the undertakings with regard to nuclear disarmament as set out in the Treaty should be filled with determination.

In this context, the Nuclear Weapon States reaffirmed their commitment to pursue in good faith negotiations on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament.

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In this context also, we agreed that three measures would be particularly important for the full realisation and effective implementation of Article VI:

the completion by the Conference on Disarmament of negotiations on a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty no later than 1996;

the immediate commencement and early conclusion of negotiations on a non-discriminatory and universally applicable convention banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and

the determined pursuit by the nuclear-weapon States - and by all States - of the objectives set out in Article VI of the Treaty.

We have certainly achieved the first of these objectives which we set for ourselves in 1995: in twelve months time, the Review Conference will be able to welcome the completion of negotiations on a CTBT, the adoption of the Treaty and the signature and ratification by a significant number of States.

However in the four years since we agreed that we should strive for the achievement of an "immediate commencement and early conclusion" of a fissile material cut-off treaty, we have achieved very little.

In August last year, following the South Asian nuclear tests, the Conference on Disarmament at last established an Ad Hoc Committee to negotiate an FMCT. This long awaited step was followed by the reaffirmation of international consensus on an FMCT at UNGA53. Unhappily however this consensus did not translate into the prompt re-establishment of the Ad Hoc Committee by the Conference when the 1999 year began. The Conference was in session from 19 January to 26 March without any work being done on an FMCT due to disagreements in other areas of its work program.

Mr Chairman,

Australia regards an FMCT as capable of providing valuable security benefits to both nuclear weapon and non-nuclear weapon states alike. In its procrastination over the work program, the CD is possibly frittering away a short-lived opportunity to commence negotiations on a treaty which will have real benefits for the security of the world as a whole. To hold these important negotiations to ransom for reasons which are unrelated to this treaty is in our view irresponsible. The CD should at the earliest opportunity establish an Ad Hoc Committee to negotiate an FMCT expeditiously.

Mr Chairman,

It is possible that some may have forgotten why an FMCT is important. Australia takes the view, put forward by the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, that a cut-off treaty is an essential reinforcing step towards the achievement of a world free of nuclear weapons. In its report, the Canberra Commission affirmed that " a cut-off convention would contribute to nuclear disarmament by capping the amount of nuclear material available for nuclear weapons use and by extending safeguards coverage over currently unsafeguarded sensitive nuclear facilities".

From Australia's perspective as a non-nuclear weapon State party to the NPT, we consider that a fissile material cut-off treaty would contribute materially to enhancing global security by:

consolidating the legally binding, verifiable, qualitative cessation of the nuclear arms race achieved by the CTBT;

bringing all nuclear facilities capable of producing fissile material for use in nuclear weapons in all states under legally binding international safeguards;

reinforcing the international norm against the possession, acquisition and use, or threat of use of nuclear weapons which is embodied in the NPT and the CTBT;

creating a security climate which, in the words of the Canberra Commission, is more conducive to further steps towards the dismantling of their nuclear arsenals by the nuclear-weapon States and towards the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons by creating greater transparency and confidence about the capabilities as well as the intentions of other countries with fissile material production facilities;

establishing a central and indispensable element in any verification regime for a world free of nuclear weapons.

Australia therefore regards a fissile material cut-off treaty as an essential and unavoidable step towards the elimination of nuclear weapons and the realisation of the nuclear disarmament objective established by Article VI of the NPT.

Australia also believes that a cut-off treaty has the potential to play an important security and confidence-building role in regions of tension, most particularly in South Asia and the Middle East. Adherence by all States in these regions, particularly those which, because of their regional security concerns, have not acceded to the NPT, would provide a degree of assurance to their neighbours about their intentions and their commitment to international efforts to enhance regional and global security.

Mr Chairman,

These are the reasons why Australia continues to strongly adhere to the conclusion, together with other Parties to this Treaty, reached in 1995 about the importance of a cut-off treaty to the full realisation and effective implementation of Article VI of the NPT. We also believe that a fissile material cut-off treaty would bring immediate benefits for regional and global peace and security, and would serve immediately to reinforce the international norm against the acquisition, possession and use or threat of use of nuclear weapons which has been built up bit by bit since the NPT entered into force.

We therefore urge all Parties to this Treaty to renew and redouble their efforts to secure an agreement in the Conference on Disarmament to commence immediately, and conclude as soon as possible, negotiations on a universal and effectively verifiable treaty to ban the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons - regardless of disagreements on other areas of the CD's work program.

Thank you Mr Chairman.