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– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Nuclear Powers Urge Progress on FMCT
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Tom Z. Collina

The five countries that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) recognizes as nuclear-weapon states last month “expressed their shared disappointment” that the Conference on Disarmament (CD) has not agreed to negotiate an international ban on the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons and “reiterated their support for the immediate start of negotiations” in the CD.

In the April 19 statement, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States “expressed the hope” that a group of governmental experts that has been charged with finding ways to advance negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) “will help spur negotiations” in the CD.

Pakistan has blocked the start of talks for more than a decade, and some countries have called for the FMCT talks to take place outside the CD.

The five nuclear-weapon states, sometimes known as the P5 because they also are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, issued the statement after an April 18-19 meeting in Geneva to review their progress toward fulfilling the commitments made at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. They previously had met in London in 2009, in Paris in 2011, and Washington last year. They said they plan to hold a fifth conference next year.

The April meeting came just ahead of the April 22-May 3 preparatory committee meeting in Geneva for the 2015 NPT Review Conference. NPT review conferences are held every five years, with three preparatory meetings in between.

According to their April 19 press statement, the five countries discussed the importance of convening a conference on creating a Middle Eastern zone free of weapons of mass destruction, calling for the conference to take place “in the nearest future.” An agreement to hold such a conference was a key part of the final document from the NPT review conference three years ago.

That document specified that the meeting was supposed to take place last year, which did not happen. In announcing the postponement, the conveners—Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the UN secretary-general—did not set a new date. (See ACT, December 2012.)

The Arab League had discussed boycotting the preparatory committee meeting if a date had not been set for the conference on the Middle Eastern WMD-free zone, but the group ultimately did not do so. Egypt, however, announced April 29 that it would withdraw from the Geneva meeting to protest the lack of progress on the conference.

In the April 19 statement, the five nuclear-weapon states also “reaffirmed their readiness to sign the Protocol to the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone as soon as possible.” When ratified, the treaty’s protocol would prohibit the five states from using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against treaty parties and from transporting nuclear weapons through the zone. According to the statement, the parties also discussed the importance of holding consultations with the parties to the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia.