NPT Conference to Deadlock

By Jim Wurst and Chris Schneidmiller Global Security Newswire UNITED NATIONS — Facing a total deadlock, the 2005 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference planned today to end its monthlong meeting by adopting a substance-free final document. To reflect the failure to make any progress, the conference president changed the title of a section in the final document from “conclusions and recommendations of the conference” to “conclusions of the conference” (see GSN, May 26).

Conference president Sergio de Queiroz Duarte of Brazil said that little “in terms of results” was accomplished at the meeting held every five years, but cautioned against making dire assessments of the long-term implications.

“I don’t think we can say that the results of the conference have or have not undermined the treaty. … We have to see the way in which the results of the conference will impact on the treaty,” he said at a press conference this afternoon.

“It is extremely regrettable that this conference has been unable to adopt a final consensus document. We, as states parties to the treaty, should take this undesirable result seriously, and renew our determination to fully explore ways to maintain and strengthen the credibility and authority of the NPT regime,” Japanese Ambassador Yoshiki Mine said during the morning’s plenary session.

The heads of each conference committee presented their final reports at the meeting, acknowledging that all three panels had failed to achieve consensus on matters of disarmament, nonproliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear technology.

Only Main Committee I was able forward to the plenary the papers on disarmament that were under consideration when its meetings ended on Wednesday. Committee Chairman Sudjadnan Parnohadiningrat of Indonesia said the papers “do not reflect fully the views of all state parties, nevertheless the committee agreed to annex the papers” to the final report. 

The other two committee chiefs had even less to report. Main Committee II on nonproliferation “did not reach consensus to attach the chairman’s draft to the final report of the committee and to forward it the conference for further consideration,” said Chairman Laszlo Molnar of Hungary.

Committee III, which addressed peaceful nuclear activity, “worked in a consensual spirit until its very last hours, nevertheless in the end no consensus was found on the substantive parts of the draft report. … Consequently the report you now have before you … is primarily of a technical nature,” said Chairwoman Elisabet Borsiin-Bonnier of Sweden.

The conference plenary approved the technical components of its final report and a conclusion that was entirely without recommendations. Duarte also said that he would not submit a final statement to the plenary on his own. Passage of the entire document was delayed until this afternoon to allow time for translations to be prepared for delegates.

The rest of the final plenary today was expected to be taken up largely with statements by governments and groups of states. Delegates took time this morning to express their regret and sometimes indignation regarding the results of the conference.

“Today as we conclude this review conference, it has become obvious that questions will be further raised about the future of the NPT. These notwithstanding, the Group of Nonaligned States Parties remain committed to the NPT. We maintain that it continues to have an important cornerstone status in the global disarmament framework,” said Malaysian Ambassador Rastam Mohn Isa on behalf of the Nonaligned nations.

Canadian Ambassador Paul Meyer criticized the “hubris” and “intransigence from more than one state on pressing issues of the day.” Several speakers noted the importance of the commitments made at the 1995 and 2000 meetings, but did not mention the United States, which has been criticized for backing off those agreements.

Delegates said their nations would continue to press for nuclear disarmament, entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, curbing of North Korea’s nuclear program and other measures to promote nuclear safety. The world’s leaders must seriously address treaty issues, Meyer said, calling for annual conferences.

“We believe this is a treaty worth fighting for and we are not prepared to stand idly by and watch while its crucial supports are undermined,” Meyer said. 

“Rather than looking back on where we have fallen short, we must look ahead on what we can accomplish,” he added.

In a departure from the grim assessments of the other speakers this morning, U.S. Ambassador Jackie Sanders said, “While this review conference did not reach consensus, we did break new ground” on several important issues, such as how to address “indicators of noncompliance” and possible consequences for withdrawal from the treaty.

“There was serious consideration of, and often broad agreement on, steps to strengthen the treaty’s implementation,” Sanders said, and on the “grave challenges to security and to the nonproliferation regime posed by Iran’s and [North Korea’s] compliance with nonproliferation and safeguards obligations.”

The final procedural roadblock was removed last night over a footnote to the agenda of the conference. A May 11 compromise removed all references to previous conferences from the agenda’s main text and included, as a footnote, a presidential statement saying, “It is understood that the review will be conducted in the light of the decisions and the resolution of the previous conferences, and allow for discussion of any issue raised by states parties.”   The United States had worked to remove any references to the decisions of the 1995 and 2000 review conferences from the record of this conference. However, a statement from the Nonaligned Movement was also included in that footnote that did refer to those conferences. Despite at British objection to the inclusion of that statement, the final version includes both paragraphs.

Lost OpportunityThe British American Security Information Council and the Oxford Research Group published 16 papers before the conference containing recommendations for strengthening the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. By the time of their press conference yesterday, however, it was clear that none of them would come to pass.

“This conference is essentially a tremendous lost opportunity. I wouldn’t call it a failure, but it’s a tremendous lost opportunity,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

“Inaction is not an option, and yet that is essentially what a small number of states have decided will be the outcome of this conference for the other states,” he added, singling out Iran and the United States.

Iran sought to excise any reference to its nuclear program from conference reports, while the United States backed off from commitments made by NPT states at the last two conferences. Kimball called that move a “fundamental mistake,” arguing that adherence to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the proposed fissile material cutoff pact and other initiatives supports the U.S. interests.

“If one state, particularly the world’s leading state, decides to ignore past agreements that it has made in the context of the treaty it makes the decisions of future conferences all the less valuable,” Kimball said. “It also jeopardizes the will and interest of other states in keeping to agree and support in various ways the core principles of this treaty.”

William Potter, director of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, said in an interview he hoped the lack of agreement at the conference might shock some nations into action in pushing nonproliferation. “Even that I think is pretty wishful thinking. I think we’re getting exactly what some countries want, which is nothing.”

The United States could see the outcome of the conference as validating Washington’s disdain for multilateral agreements, Potter said, while Egyptian officials might be looking at Iran’s nuclear program and figuring a weakened treaty could make it easier for Cairo to develop a weapons program should that become necessary.

Kimball said there were positive aspects to the conference. The proposals put forth by various delegations, while ultimately unsuccessful, addressed substantive topics such as making the Additional Protocol a universal standard for nations with International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards agreements, blocking nations from diverting civilian nuclear technology to weapons efforts after withdrawing from the treaty and accelerating nuclear disarmament. It will be up to nations other than the United States to press these matters, he said.

“We can’t just shrug our shoulders and walk away and say, well, you know, we did the best we could but here we are, and we’re just going to give up. We can’t do that.”

Janet Bloomfield, British coordinator of the Atomic Mirror project, criticized what she called a “democratic deficit” at the conference. She said there should be a push to have national lawmakers look into the outcome of the conference “and how we can move forward to make real progress on eliminating nuclear weapons and preventing nuclear proliferation.”

One of the Group of Eight nations could also use its presidency of the body to press the issue, Bloomfield said, much as the United Kingdom is promoting support for Africa this year.

May 27, 2005
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By Jim Wurst and Chris Schneidmiller Global Security Newswire UNITED NATIONS — Facing a total deadlock, the 2005 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference planned today to end its monthlong meeting by adopting a substance-free final document. To reflect the failure to make any progress, the conference president changed the title of a section in the final document from “conclusions and recommendations of the conference” to “conclusions of the conference” (see GSN, May 26).