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former IAEA Director-General

Fissile Material Report Points Toward Treaty
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An expert group tasked by the United Nations with laying the groundwork for the negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) completed its work June 8 with consensus recommendations that could be taken forward by a new subgroup of the Conference on Disarmament (CD).

“With this report, which has been aptly described as ‘two inches from a negotiating text’, the range of possible treaty provisions is further distilled in a manner that makes clear there is little more to be done on an FMCT other than to negotiate it,” Canadian Ambassador Heidi Hulan, who chaired the high-level preparatory group, told Arms Control Today in a June 18 email.

The FMCT preparatory group, mandated by a 2016 UN General Assembly resolution, was made up of representatives from 25 states who met for two weeks in 2017 and 2018. It followed on from the meetings of a group of governmental experts, convened in 2014 and 2015, on the same subject. The UN General Assembly in 1993 approved the negotiation of an FMCT in the CD, but the consensus-based CD has failed to start negotiations due to a few states’ objections.

The preparatory group’s discussions sought to clarify issues concerning a potential treaty’s scope, definitions, verification measures, and legal and institutional arrangements before negotiations begin. Its recommendations will go to the UN secretary-general, the General Assembly, and the CD, where they could inform the work of a new subsidiary body, created in February in part to discuss the negotiation of an FMCT. With the preparatory work completed, the CD “needs to be held to account for its negotiation, and finally end the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons,” wrote Hulan.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Posted: July 1, 2018