Negative Security Assurances and Nonproliferation: Day 5 of the NPT PrepCom

April 28, 2013

Day Five of the second session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which took place on Friday, April 26, 2013, featured the conclusion of Cluster 1 issue-specific debates on negative security assurances and the commencement of discussion on Cluster 2, nonproliferation issues. Due to changes in the schedule, an afternoon session was not held on Friday.

Negative Security Assurances

Although there were no speakers wishing to take the floor on the topic of security assurances at the conclusion of Thursday’s session, by Friday morning three additional delegations had added themselves to the speaker’s list. The Islamic Republic of Iran spoke first, delivering a passionate statement in which the delegate argued that non-discriminatory, unconditional, legally binding NSAs only partially counterbalance the choice made by non-nuclear weapon states to renounce nuclear weapons by joining the NPT. Iran called on the states parties to conclude an agreement on NSAs and submit a draft to the 2015 review conference, and stated that the 2015 Review Conference should agree that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against any NNWS party to the NPT should be prohibited. Iran’s comments were followed by statements from Bangladesh and Ukraine, both of whom argued that the existing measures were not sufficient to dispel the security concerns of NNWS and that nuclear weapon states have an obligation to make a legally binding commitment not to use nuclear weapons against NNWS under any circumstances.

It came as a surprise to some observers that the debate on disarmament issues concluded so quickly and in fact finished ahead of schedule. Given the number of delegations who emphasized the primacy of disarmament in their opening statements, one might expect that those delegations would want to take the floor on the subject or offer as many proposals and working papers as possible. One possible explanation is that the discussion on the WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East is scheduled for early next week, and some countries may be pulling their punches and refraining from strong language on disarmament in favor of pushing hard for a resolution of the Conference question and related issues.

Cluster 2 Discussions

After Iran, Bangladesh, and Ukraine gave their remarks on negative security assurances, the discussion on Cluster 1 issues was closed, and the plenary moved on to the next item on the agenda, nonproliferation issues. The Non-Aligned Movement, the European Union, and the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative delivered joint statements, followed by national statements from thirteen countries.

As in the past, there was some disagreement among delegations over the issue of Additional Protocols. The Non-Aligned Movement stated its usual position, that all states should have safeguards agreements in place but that any additional voluntary undertakings (generally understood to mean Additional Protocols) should not be turned into legal obligations. However, several of the delegations that took the floor on Friday, including the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Japan, as well as the European Union, argued that the verification standard for the IAEA should consist of comprehensive safeguards agreements plus an Additional Protocol, and that having an Additional Protocol in place should be a precondition for a country to receive supplies of nuclear material or technology.

Nearly all of the statements on Cluster 2 issues so far have included some reference to compliance issues. Many states cited concerns about Iran, Syria, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and called on them to return to or demonstrate compliance. France noted that the E3+3 group met with Iranian authorities in Almaty in February and at the beginning of April, but that Iran was not prepared to accept the new proposals brought forth at those meetings. The French delegate commented, “The considerable gap between the stances of the group of Six and Iran meant another meeting could not be organized.” The United States observed that the lack of progress from these meetings “does not excuse Iran from its international obligations.” Several delegates also criticized Syria for non-compliance with its safeguards agreements, noting that the ongoing conflict there should not mean that Syria does not have to live up to its obligations. Neither Syria nor Iran has yet delivered a statement on Cluster 2 issues.

Side Events

There were few side events on Friday, perhaps because of the change in schedule canceling the plenary session scheduled for after lunch. There was one lunchtime event, which focused on issues that would need to be addressed for a future FMCT, such as withdrawal provisions, entry into force, and the duration of the treaty. The speakers described several options for each of these elements, based on draft treaties that had been presented by various organizations in the past. The event was hosted by UNIDIR and the delegation of Canada, which sponsored the UN resolution calling for the setup of the Group of Governmental Experts to consider FMCT issues. Several NGOs also hosted side events concurrent with the morning plenary.

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