PRESS CONFERENCE ON NUCLEAR TEST-BAN TREATY

13 November 2001

PRESS CONFERENCE ON NUCLEAR TEST-BAN TREATY

13/11/2001
Press Briefing

PRESS CONFERENCE ON NUCLEAR TEST-BAN TREATY

The Conference on Facilitating the Entry in Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) had been a success, correspondents were told at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

Following the conclusion of the three-day conference this morning, the Conference's Acting President, Olga Pellicer (Mexico), said the Conference's success was, in part, due to its high-level representation.  Some 108 countries had participated in the Conference, with more than 50 foreign ministers delivering statements in support of the Treaty.  The high-level expressions of strong support for the Treaty had been, in fact, the most significant aspect of the Conference.

The adoption of a Final Declaration today had been the objective of the Conference, she continued.  The Final Declaration, adopted by consensus, not only called for the acceleration of ratification of the Treaty, but reiterated that the Treaty was an essential part of the non-proliferation regime.  The fact that the Treaty was part of a regime that worked towards non-proliferation had also been stated during the Conference by several representatives.  "If we believe in non-proliferation, then we have to believe in the CTBT", she said.

Another important aspect of the Final Declaration was that it called upon States that had not yet ratified the Treaty to maintain a moratorium on testing, she said.  While the States that had already ratified the Treaty thought that a moratorium was not enough, it was, nevertheless, important.  "It would be very, very dangerous to start nuclear testing again", she said.  The call to maintain the moratorium was an important part of the Final Declaration.

The Final Declaration also referred to the work of the Preparatory Commission for the CTBT Organization and its Provisional Technical Secretariat to install the test-ban Treaty's verification regime, she added.  The verification regime was undoubtedly one of the Treaty's most important features.  For the first time in history, an international verification regime was being created to ensure that States complied with the compromise not to carry out nuclear testing.  The international verification system was nearly 30 per cent complete.  It was significant that the Final Declaration recognized the work being done to construct the verification regime.

How could the Treaty be brought into force when the United States was backing away from its previous position? a correspondent asked.  She replied that the fact that United States had pledged in favour of a moratorium on nuclear testing meant that it believed that not testing was important and part of the non-proliferation regime and objective.  The United States position    vis-à-vis the Treaty had been changing over time. 

Continuing, she said the Administration and Congress had no "homogeneous" opinion on the test-ban Treaty.  The United States position might change, if there was a change in the "correlation of forces" within the Senate.  It was important to take into account the fact that there was much "fluidity" in the

United States position on the Treaty.  The objective of not carrying out nuclear testing, however, continued to be a commitment on the part of the United States.

Had there been any discussion in the Conference of Osama bin Laden's claim that he possessed a nuclear weapon? a correspondent asked.  The danger of a group of terrorists possessing nuclear weapons had indeed been discussed, she said.  While the concern was not completely new, there had been a qualitative change in the degree of concern at the possibility of terrorist groups obtaining nuclear materials.  It was a serious danger, which had in some way contributed to increased confidence in the CTBT as a way to prevent proliferation in all directions, not only among States, but also among non-State actors.

Asked to explain the significance of the high-level ministerial representation at the Conference, she said the Conference had met its objective of bringing to the forefront the danger of nuclear testing.  The fact that so many ministers had attended the Conference meant that they had at least thought about the problem, formulated positions and understood the Final Declaration.  The purpose of the Conference had been to increase attention of the issue at a high level, which was why the Conference had been held in conjunction with the General Assembly's general debate. 

Holding the Conference had also increased the number of ratifications to the Treaty, she continued.  In the three months leading up to the Conference,   13 States had ratified the Treaty, bringing the number of ratifiers to 87.  "That in itself was an important accomplishment", she said.

Were the current events in Afghanistan helping the CTBT process? a correspondent asked.  She said that, while it was difficult to establish a clear relationship between the two issues, there had been general trend in favour of multilateralism.

Did the fact that a non-State actor had, for the first time, claimed to have a nuclear weapon affect the positions of States who possessed weapons of terror? a correspondent asked.  The world was now seeing clearly the danger of the existence of nuclear weapons and materials, she responded.  While falling into the hands of terrorist groups was not the only danger of nuclear weapons, it proved to what extent the mere existence of nuclear weapons represented a danger.  In that regard, anything that contributed to the advancement of nuclear disarmament could be considered a positive step.

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For information media. Not an official record.