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Five Nuclear Powers Discuss Handling of Potential NPT Withdrawals

Russian Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Grigory Berdennikov, shown in 2006, on Friday said securing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty's entry into force emerged as a priority during discussions last week between the five nuclear weapons states (AP Photo/Hans Punz). Russian Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Grigory Berdennikov, shown in 2006, on Friday said securing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty's entry into force emerged as a priority during discussions last week between the five nuclear weapons states (AP Photo/Hans Punz).

The world's five acknowledged nuclear powers convened in Washington last week for a discussion on implementation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, including how to handle potential instances when treaty members decide to leave the regime (see GSN, June 20).

China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States "shared their views on how to discourage abuse of the NPT withdrawal provision (Article X), and how to respond to notifications made consistent with the provisions of that article," according to a collective statement released by the five powers.

"The discussion included modalities under which NPT states party could respond collectively and individually to a notification of withdrawal, including through arrangements regarding the disposition of equipment and materials acquired or derived under safeguards during NPT membership. The P-5 agreed that states remain responsible under international law for violations of the treaty committed prior to withdrawal," the joint statement continued.

The nuclear powers also emphasized the value of a robust system of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards for limiting the spread of nuclear weapons technology. The countries examined specific suggestions for improving the U.N. nuclear watchdog's effectiveness, such as encouraging all NPT members to sign on to the Additional Protocol.

The five nations also reaffirmed their desire for the global adoption and speedy entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. "The P-5 called upon all states to uphold their national moratoria on nuclear weapons-test explosions or any other nuclear explosion," the statement reads. 

"The P-5 discussed ways to advance a mutual goal of achieving a legally binding, verifiable international ban on the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons," according to the statement. It added that the nuclear powers gave their support for a quick initiation of formal talks on a fissile material ban within the international Conference on Disarmament.

Paris, Washington, Beijing, Moscow, and London also discussed options for encouraging a favorable international forum this year on establishing a zone in the Middle East that is free of weapons of mass destruction (U.S. State Department release, June 29).

The Russian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Grigory Berdennikov, informed journalists on Friday that "the main issue is the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, ITAR-Tass reported. "This will testify that all nuclear powers take seriously their obligations under the treaty" (ITAR-Tass I, June 30).

Berdennikov underscored that there is almost total agreement by all countries -- except Pakistan -- to begin formal talks on a pact that would prohibit new fissile material production for military purposes, according to ITAR-Tass. "Therefore efforts should be taken to persuade Islamabad that it is necessary to join the international community in its important step towards reducing the dangers of nuclear proliferation," the senior Russian envoy said (ITAR-Tass II, June 30).

He noted that it is not yet certain whether Israel will anticipate in the hoped-for forum this year on a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone, ITAR-Tass said.

"We support the convening of this conference in 2012," Berdennikov said. "This is necessary to fulfilling the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty" (ITAR-Tass III, June 30).

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