In a final-hour agreement concluding a month-long review of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the 189 parties on May 28 endorsed a final document on ways to strengthen the treaty, including, for the first time in 15 years, steps toward establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the
It was the eighth such review, which are held every five years, but only three previous sessions have adopted a final consensus document. The May conference adopted only the 64-step action plan by consensus. An article-by-article review of the treaty was adopted as the conference president’s interpretation of member-state views.
Throughout the last day, the consensus agreement hinged on whether a small group of states, in particular
In their closing statements, many delegations credited the success of the conference to an improved atmosphere for promoting disarmament and nonproliferation, noting particularly President Barack Obama’s April 5, 2009, speech in Prague calling for steps toward a world free of nuclear weapons and the April 8 signing of a U.S.-Russian nuclear arms reduction agreement.
Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Nonaligned Movement (NAM), a group of 118 developing nations and the largest bloc in the treaty, called the timing of the conference a “historical juncture,” citing “stronger political will…aimed at the total elimination of nuclear weapons.”
In this regard, several delegations, including
Obama also tied the review conference outcome to the nuclear arms policies he outlined in 2009, saying in a May 28 press statement that it “reaffirms many aspects of the agenda that I laid out in Prague, and which we have pursued together with other nations over the last year, and underscores that those nations that refuse to abide by their international obligations must be held accountable.”
The adoption of the consensus document did not mean that all areas of dispute were resolved. In several cases, the final document recognized that “many” or particular groups of states held a particular position, indicating the parties could not reach consensus in these areas by the end of the conference.
Although nearly all states characterized the final document as a success, many cited areas in which it did not meet their expectations or contained elements they did not fully endorse.
The final document “recalls the reaffirmation by the 2000 Review Conference of the importance of
Many states, however, expressed disappointment that the document did not promote more urgent action toward nuclear disarmament by the five recognized nuclear-weapon states (
The most significant critique came from
Steps on WMD-Free
One of the central agreements of the conference was on steps toward a WMD-free Middle East, a goal with which the international community as a whole has agreed since it was first proposed by
Arms control discussions that foresaw the eventual establishment of such a zone had been held by states in the region, including
In a section of the document dedicated to implementing the 1995
The resulting language was a compromise between the Arab League, led by
The final negotiations on the Middle East zone language, still in dispute in the last days of the conference, hinged on whether to single out
British Ambassador for Multilateral Arms Control and Disarmament John Duncan cautioned in a May 30 post on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Web log, however, that the two-year process prior to the conference is intended to prepare a way in which all sides “will be comfortable attending.”
“It would indeed be very surprising if
Debating the Urgency of Disarmament
Many non-nuclear-weapon-state NPT members stressed the need for the conference to instill a greater sense of urgency into the pursuit of nuclear disarmament. The
With the exception of
Early drafts of the disarmament language reflected calls for more definitive actions on nuclear disarmament, including deciding that the nuclear-weapon states “shall convene” consultations no later than 2011 “to accelerate progress on nuclear disarmament.” The drafts also invited the UN secretary-general to convene a conference by 2014 to consider a road map toward eliminating nuclear weapons in a specified time frame.
Due to objections from nuclear-weapon states, the final document did not include specific dates for consultations, but did retain a commitment by the nuclear powers to “accelerate progress on steps toward nuclear disarmament.” The final document also omitted any reference to a nuclear weapons conference, stating instead in the president’s summary that the final phase of nuclear disarmament “should be pursued in an agreed legal framework,” recognizing that “the majority of states believe this should include specified timelines.”
Specific actions related to nuclear disarmament stoked fierce debate, and in some cases, the final document either reflected such differences or removed references to the actions altogether. A call for nuclear-weapon states to “cease the development of new nuclear weapons and the qualitative improvement” of existing ones was removed in the final days from the list of action steps. Instead, the final document recognized “the legitimate interests of non-nuclear weapon states in constraining” such developments.
In addition, a call to address the issue of nuclear sharing arrangements, solely practiced by the
Instead, the issue of tactical weapons in general was addressed by calls for the nuclear-weapon states to reduce “all types” of nuclear weapons. In addition to the
In their closing remarks,
Addressing the issue of fissile material for weapons, the conference called on the Conference on Disarmament to begin negotiations immediately on a treaty banning fissile material for weapons, a process that has been stalemated for well more than a decade.
The final document attaches some urgency to efforts to bring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force, calling for nuclear-weapon states to ratify the accord “with all expediency.” Initial drafts, however, called on all states to do so “without delay and without conditions.”
A call for nuclear-weapon states to “close and dismantle as soon as feasible” their nuclear test sites was ultimately removed from the final document due to opposition from some nuclear-weapon states.
A diplomatic source said that referring to closing test sites in the section on the CTBT was always problematic because it is not in the CTBT itself. The diplomat suggested instead that the language should be placed in another section of the document.
Addressing Key Proliferation Concerns
The key debates on nonproliferation centered on long-standing efforts by many countries, along with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to universalize the more stringent inspections under the agency’s 1997 Model Additional Protocol, and on initiatives to respond to potential withdrawals from the NPT.
With regard to the additional protocol, the conference encouraged all states that have not done so to bring such a measure into force as soon as possible and to implement such a protocol provisionally before it has been ratified.
For the first time in a review conference document, the NPT parties also addressed concerns over a country’s withdrawal from the treaty after being found in noncompliance with its obligations. The language, however, appeared to reflect continued divisions over the issue.
The president’s statement noted that “many states” believed that NPT parties were still responsible for violations under the treaty in the event of their withdrawal and that “numerous states” acknowledged that nuclear suppliers could write their supply contracts to include provisions requiring the return of nuclear technology following a state’s withdrawal from the NPT.
Concerns about withdrawal rose after
Curtailing Nuclear Deals With Non-NPT States
One controversial issue raised in the course of the conference was the conclusion of nuclear supply arrangements with non-NPT members
Many countries maintained that nuclear cooperation should continue to be reserved for countries that have joined the NPT. Early drafts of the NPT final statement incorporated this position by reaffirming that “existing or new supply arrangements” for civil nuclear trade require the recipient state to have “full-scope” safeguards in place. According to the Western diplomatic source,
In 2008 the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), an informal collection of the world’s major nuclear supplier countries that aims to prevent proliferation, agreed on an exemption for nuclear transfers to
The final president’s statement reaffirmed that “new supply arrangements” for nuclear transfers should require that the recipient accept “IAEA full-scope safeguards and international legally-binding commitments not to acquire nuclear weapons.”
The issue may soon be put to a test.