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

Statement from the French Delegation

Mr. Chairman,

As far back as 1993, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 48/75 L recommended the negotiation of an internationally and effectively verifiable nondiscriminatory multilateral treaty to ban the production of fissile materials for the production of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

The consultations held in 1994 and 1995 at the Conference on Disarmament enabled the delegations to define the appropriate arrangements for negotiating this treaty, namely the setting

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up of an Ad Hoc Committee with a negotiating mandate based on the United Nations General Assembly Resolution. The delegations had also agreed that the Ad Hoc Committee's constitutive mandate would not bar a delegation from submitting the issues broached in the report of the coordinator, Ambassador Shannon, for discussion by the Committee.

The decision on the principles and objectives of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, adopted in May 1995 by the States Parties to the NPT, confirmed these conclusions and called for the immediate commencement and early conclusion of negotiations on a non-discriminatory and universally applicable convention, banning the convention banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, in accordance with the statement by Ambassador Shannon and the mandate contained therein.

On August 11, 1998, following a host of efforts in which France was among those that played a leading role, a consensus emerged at the Conference on Disarmament to re-establish the Ad Hoc Committee responsible for negotiating a cut-off treaty. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to confirm this decision during the first part of the Conference on Disarmaments session.

Mr. Chairman,

I am not dramatizing when I say that the current situation is at a stalemate. I won't go into the reasons for this stalemate, but I would like to emphasize why we absolutely must break out of it.

In the first place, the cut-off negotiation is an essential stage, identified as such in the 1995 program, along the road to nuclear disarmament. It is a step in the direction of respect for the undertakings contained in article VI of the NPT.

After the conclusion of the CTBT negotiations, the cut-off negotiations are in fact a necessary condition, without which any other measures that may be taken would be pointless. What would be the point of progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally if the capacity to produce weapons grade fissile material were to remain intact? What would be the point of terminating the development of new generations of sophisticated nuclear weapons and slowing down their qualitative improvement if no limit was placed at the same time on the quantities of materials capable of being used in these weapons? It is the combination of these two prohibitions, on testing and production of material, which will truly pave the way for the reduction of nuclear weapons altogether, over and beyond bilateral negotiations and the efforts made by countries such as France.

The cut-off talks, moreover, will limit the risks of illegal trade in nuclear materials, by clamping down on the production of material intended for the production of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. In a world where trade liberalization and the spread of knowledge make it easy for States and non-State groups to fabricate such devices, the fact of making it impossible to obtain adequate materials would be an additional safeguard. A universal halt to the production of materials for the manufacture of nuclear explosives is therefore essential to both regional and international peace and security.

The future cut-off treaty, finally, will add an instrument that is both universal and non-discriminatory to the non-proliferation regime. Universal, because the ban on the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons, which is already contained in the undertakings given by the non-nuclear-weapon States upon becoming parties to the NPT, would be extended to the other States. Non-discriminatory, because all facilities for the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons would be bound by the same rules of verification. The universal application of the ban can only be guaranteed by a credible, rigorously applied verification regime.

Mr. Chairman,

The present stalemate at the Conference on Disarmament is becoming ever more prejudicial as the 2000 Review Conference draws near. With this deadlock, the whole nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament regime is under threat. We must therefore restore the consensus on re-establishing the Ad Hoc Committee as quickly as possible, to enable us rapidly to start work in earnest.

France has already shut down its facilities for the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, and has begun putting in hand irreversible measures to dismantle them. How, therefore, could we agree to other States keeping open an option we have deliberately closed for ourselves?

As it did last year already, France, consequently, will spare no effort in working for a start to the negotiations.

Mr. Chairman,

Every State can work this out for itself: without a cut-off treaty, there can be no concrete progress along the road to nuclear disarmament. No strengthening of the nuclear non-proliferation regime is conceivable. In embarking on this negotiation, we will be fulfilling the undertakings given under article VI of the NPT and New York Decision 2; we will be taking a concrete and decisive step forward at the dawn of the 2000 Review Conference.