Consensus Eludes Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference as Positions Harden on Ways to Free Middle East of Mass Destruction Weapons
Consensus Eludes Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference as Positions Harden on Ways to Free Middle East of Mass Destruction Weapons
After weeks of intense debate, States parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) concluded the month-long 2015 Review Conference this evening, unable to reach consensus on an outcome text that would have delineated steps to speed progress on nuclear disarmament, advance non-proliferation and work towards a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.
The Treaty belonged to all States parties, declared Taous Feroukhi of Algeria, President-designate of the Conference, underlining the imperative of all to demonstrate a willingness to compromise. The objective of the final document was not intended to ask delegations to abandon their principles. Rather, it was a package of components that represented the Conference’s collective, best efforts. Despite progress made over the last four weeks, contending visions for the future had made it impossible to produce a consensual document, she said.
Many of the more than 35 speakers regretted the lack of agreement on key issues, including closing legal gaps on a nuclear weapons ban. At the centre of the disagreement over the 184-paragraph draft text were references to convening a conference on establishing a zone in the Middle East free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. The proposed text would have entrusted the Secretary-General to convene the conference by March 2016.
The United Kingdom’s delegate called the issue a “stumbling block”, while the United States’ representative said that that initiative must stem from all countries of the region. Unfortunately, the language used was not compatible with her country’s policies, and several States were unwilling to compromise. She rejected attempts by some countries to “cynically manipulate” the Review Conference. Canada’s speaker said the proposed text, which was presented to delegations at 2 a.m., sought to “impose” an outcome on all, including Israel.
It was indeed a sad day for the NPT, said Egypt’s representative, as the 1995 resolution on a Middle East zone had underpinned the Treaty’s indefinite extension. He said the world community was witnessing the fallacy of the 1995 process. Tunisia’s delegate, speaking for the Arab Group, agreed that that resolution remained valid, and he urged its swift implementation. Regardless of some flaws in the final document, he said the Group supported it. Iran’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed deep disappointment at the fact that, despite the tremendous efforts made by most of the participants over four weeks, consensus had been blocked.
The representative of Austria, speaking for more than 20 signatories of the Austrian Pledge on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, said the draft fell dramatically short of filling the legal gaps needed to ensure disarmament. He noted a clear shift in the balance and tone of the discussions, including by the non-nuclear-armed States, which were more vocal in expressing their concerns.
As for the negotiating process, some delegates voiced disappointment at the lack of inclusivity and transparency, including from Thailand and Singapore, who said that agreed negotiated paragraphs had simply not appeared in the final text.
The Conference, concluding its business, adopted a number of procedural documents and took note of the report of its Credentials Committee.
Also delivering statements were representatives of Marshall Islands, Nigeria, Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, Australia, Costa Rica, Algeria, Syria, Brazil, Germany, Russian Federation, Cuba, China, Myanmar, Ireland, Peru, Republic of Korea, Morocco, Palau, Switzerland, Poland, Netherlands, Sweden, South Africa and France, as well as a representative of the European Union Delegation.
Taous Feroukhi (Algeria), President-designate of the Conference, introduced its agenda item on the “Adoption of arrangement for meeting the costs of the Conference”. The Conference then adopted the “Schedule of division of costs” (document NPT/CONF.2015/47). Turning to the “Final report of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons” (document NPT/CONF.2015/CC/1), the Conference then adopted the Report of the Credentials Committee contained therein.
Under its agenda item on “Consideration and adoption of the Final Document”, the Conference took up a procedural report on the “Review of the operation of the Treaty, as provided for in its article VIII (3), taking into account the decisions and the resolution adopted by the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, the Final Document of the 2000 Review Conference and the conclusions and recommendations for follow-on actions of the 2010 Review Conference” (document NPT/CONF.2015/R.3).
Despite progress made over the last four weeks, she said, a number of contending visions for the future remained. The persistent divergence of expectations made it impossible to produce a consensual document that would meet the aspirations of all parties.
The Treaty belonged to all States parties, she said, underlining the imperative for every delegation to demonstrate a willingness to compromise. The objective of the document was not intended to ask delegations to abandon their principles. Rather, the draft reflected a package of components that represented the Conference’s collective, best efforts.
She then read out a number of “technical adjustments” to the draft final document and opened the floor for statements.
The representative of Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said its members had confirmed that the resolution that had been adopted in 1995 remained valid with regard to moving towards a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. He then requested that the resolution be implemented without delay. Despite some flaws in the current proposed final document, the delegation supported it. He reiterated that commitments made must now be implemented.
The representative of the United States said that no agreement had been reached on the package of documents. Her country had a deep and long understanding of non-proliferation efforts and the Review Conference had demonstrated a broad support for the Treaty, with real progress made in advancing discussions on a global non-proliferation policy and other related issues. It was clear that lasting nuclear disarmament would only be achieved by sustained, collective efforts.
Her delegation, however, would not accept attempts made by some countries to “cynically manipulate” the Review Conference. The “blame lies squarely” with those States unwilling to compromise. Unfortunately, language related to establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East was not compatible with her country’s policies. The initiative for the creation of such a zone must stem from all countries of the region, she said, adding that several States, including Egypt, were not willing to work on compromise on language.
The representative of the United Kingdom said a lack of consensus had in no way undermined the Treaty, which had played an unparalleled role in nuclear non-proliferation. An incremental, step-by-step approach was the only way forward in nuclear disarmament, he said, adding that his country would continue to contribute to “P-5” meetings. With regard to the lack of agreement at the Conference, he called the issue of a Middle East zone a “stumbling block”, emphasizing that the current text, as presented, was not satisfactory to his delegation.
The representative of Canada said it was deeply regrettable that the Conference had been unable to reach a consensus. His country believed that a conference on a zone free of weapons of mass destruction must address concerns of all countries in the region, including Israel. The proposal, which was presented to delegations today at 2 a.m., had sought to “impose” an outcome on all, including Israel.
The representative of the Marshall Islands said the status quo on nuclear disarmament was unacceptable and could not continue if any progress was to be made. There were many hard-line positions on key issues, she said, adding that parties had nevertheless pledged not to use nuclear weapons, which must be taken without ambiguity. However, greater progress could have been made in recognizing the humanitarian consequences of the use of those weapons. Disappointment today, however, did not imply failure, especially in view of the momentum achieved in advancing the NPT agenda.
The representative of Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that, while consistently calling for a balance among the three pillars of the Treaty, the Group had stressed the need for progress on nuclear disarmament. There could have been greater recognition of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, he said, reminding nuclear-weapon States of their responsibilities.
The representative of Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that in view of the delicate situation created by the statements delivered by the representatives of the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, the group proposed a suspension of the session to allow further consultations among national delegations.
Following a one-hour suspension of the meeting, the representative of Iran expressed deep disappointment at the fact that, despite the tremendous efforts made by most of the participants over four weeks, consensus had been blocked. The group was really surprised that three delegations rejected the minimum common denominators defined during intensive discussions. The working paper that the Chair suggested was not the result of her personal efforts, but reflected the compromise position of many interlocutors. Despite its many reservations, the Movement was ready to join the consensus if no delegation opposed the text. The three delegations were conscious of their positions and the impact they would have on disarmament in general and on the political situation in the Middle East. It was highly surprising to see two depositories of the Treaty so eager to squander such a valuable opportunity simply to protect a single non-signatory.
The representative of Egypt, associating with the Arab Group and Non-Aligned Movement, voiced extreme disappointment at the way three countries blocked consensus on strengthening the Treaty and a creating a world free of nuclear weapons. He was equally concerned by the negative messages conveyed on the convening of the conference on declaring the Middle East a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. It was indeed a sad day for the NPT, for the 1995 resolution that underpinned its indefinite extension, and for international peace and stability. Delegations had come to the Review Conference to engage positively in a forward-looking spirit and were true to that spirit. However, that was not reciprocated by some delegations. It was very clear that the international community was witnessing the fallacy of the 1995 process. Egypt, the Arab Group and the Movement had cooperated fully with the Chair in building the concept of consensus in partnership with the Russian Federation. The moment of truth had come. Arab public opinion had been eagerly awaiting the results of the Conference and the blocking of consensus deprived the Middle East of a chance for a better future. One delegation deflected blame to Egypt, a country that exhibited utmost flexibility, he said, urging that delegation to look within.
The representative of Japan said his country had actively worked for a positive outcome of the Conference, including on matters concerning the Middle East. He regretted to say that the Conference had not adopted an outcome document. Despite that disagreement, the NPT would remain the cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime. The past four weeks had demonstrated the need to work ever more closely together to strengthen the Treaty. Japan would hold a series of meetings in the coming months to discuss ways forward following the Conference.
The representative of Indonesia, supporting the position of the Non-Aligned Movement, said his country was deeply disappointed that, despite the efforts of many delegations, no agreement had resulted. The draft text fell short of Indonesia’s aspirations. It was only fair that nuclear-weapon States fulfilled their Treaty obligations, he said, expressing disappointment at the consistent sidelining of the matter during the month-long discussions. A “rollover” outcome was unacceptable, as his delegation had expected to see progress on legal measures that would lead to nuclear disarmament. Instead, nuclear-weapon States had attempted to push disarmament deadlines. He urged all States parties to redouble efforts to resolve the matter of a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East.
The representative of Austria, speaking for more than 20 countries, said that while constructive efforts had been made ahead of the Conference, the result had not achieved the expected goals of advancing the Treaty. A clear shifting of parameters had seen a change in the balance and tone of discussions, including that non-nuclear-weapon States were more vocal in voicing their interests and concerns. The exchanges of views demonstrated the wide divide on the meaning of nuclear disarmament, and concerns intensified following the month’s discussions. The draft text fell dramatically short of filling the legal gaps to ensure disarmament. Calling on all States parties to renew their commitment to existing obligations, he said it was urgent to continue efforts. In his national capacity, he said that more than 107 States had endorsed Austria’s pledge made at the recent Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.
The representative of the Philippines said she had come to the Review Conference with few expectations but great convictions, focused on three major issues: the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons; the urgency of nuclear disarmament; and the failure to convene a conference on the Middle East. It was therefore a matter of serious concern that there could be no consensus on the Middle East conference, which was affecting the entire Treaty. Nothing in the outcome document laid down a concrete path towards achieving the goals set forth in article VI. Her country would continue to exert efforts to build on the gains achieved in 2010, she said, stressing the need to take steps to fill the legal gaps towards the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.
The representative of Australia regretted the lack of consensus on the outcome document despite intensive efforts by many delegations to achieve a forward-looking outcome document across the Treaty’s three pillars. However, everyone must uphold the NPT as the cornerstone of the international nuclear proliferation and disarmament regime.
The representative of Costa Rica said the Review Conference should have been a real turning point, a golden opportunity to provide nuclear disarmament with a new momentum. Her country had advocated for the complete prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons, of the belief that those weapons went against the very instincts of survival of the species. However, much remained to be done in terms of creating a world without nuclear weapons. It was sad that the Review Conference had not acknowledged the important achievements that had taken place during the review cycle at conferences in Oslo, Vienna and Nayarit. Those humanitarian meetings demonstrated that democracy had come to nuclear disarmament, even if it had yet to come to the NPT. The Humanitarian Pledge was a tangible result of the Conference, she said, stressing that her country acknowledged the existence of a legal gap regarding nuclear weapons. Despite what had happened at the Conference, no force could stop the steady march of those who believed in human security, democracy and international law.
The representative of Algeria said that all efforts had been made towards finding a consensus. Even though the draft text had not been acceptable, his delegation had supported it. He regretted to say that all efforts that had been made had not paid off in the end. If something dear to many was not satisfactory to few, why should “Pandora’s box” be reopened?
The representative of Syria regretted to say that some countries had considered themselves to be “custodians” of the Treaty and had derailed discussions during past weeks. It was clear that Israel had not subjected its nuclear facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and had flouted international instruments only to be protected by certain States. Countries, including Canada, United States and the United Kingdom, had a “blind spot” when it came to Israel’s refusal to join the NPT, he said, noting that his delegation would always seek to secure the Treaty’s universality. Despite the Conference, non-proliferation efforts would continue, he said.
The representative of Brazil, associating with Austria’s statement, regretted that no agreement had been found on the final document. Having reviewed the draft text, Brazil had concluded that, despite its shortcomings, the overall balance was positive. Regretting that differences over the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East could not be resolved, he said his country would continue to engage in efforts to ensure the shared goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.
The representative of Germany regretted to see the differing views on the Middle East zone issue. Progress that had been achieved so far with regard to disarmament was now in danger. A world free of nuclear weapons was a common goal, as shown in the discussions over past weeks. While not all views were shared on the paths to take towards that common goal, efforts should be made to ensure advances on the Treaty’s implementation, for which stronger efforts were needed.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the past four weeks had afforded comprehensive deliberations on the Treaty, which underlined its status as a cornerstone of international peace and security. He was prepared to join in the consensus adoption of the outcome document, despite the Russian Federation’s reservations. The establishment of a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction was a critical part of past commitments. In that regard, his country had made specific proposals on ways of convening the long-delayed conference. It was disappointing that the adoption of a final document turned out to be impossible because of the opposition of three States. The draft was in keeping with the interests of all States and was designed with productive dialogue. That opportunity had been squandered, he said, nevertheless stressing that the 1995 resolution was fully in force.
The representative of Cuba said the Review Conference had an opportunity to mark a real milestone. Military doctrines based on the possession of nuclear weapons were unsustainable and unacceptable. The only way of overcoming the discriminatory nature of the NPT was the total elimination of those weapons. Cuba had participated actively and constructively at the Review Conference, he said, stressing the need for sober introspection by all parties. Even if the final document had been adopted, its section on nuclear disarmament would have fallen short of expectations because of the lack of political will of a few States. Cuba shared the frustration over non-compliance, which instilled a sense that the Treaty belonged only to nuclear-weapon States. It was completely unacceptable that most of the parties were actively fulfilling their commitments while a few were not. While history could not be changed, the future could, he said, adding that reason was on the side of seeking to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.
The representative of China said that although the draft final document was not perfect, it was balanced enough for his country to have supported it. On the Middle East conference, the Chair’s proposal had taken into account the interests of all sides. Nevertheless, the failure to adopt the document should not diminish the Treaty’s status as the cornerstone of international peace and security. That should provide the momentum to advance all three pillars of the Treaty during the next review, for which China would make the utmost effort.
The representative of Myanmar, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that countries of the region had made numerous efforts to advance non-proliferation. With regard to the issue of the humanitarian consequences and the Middle East zone, he said the outcome document had been a disappointment, as negotiated text had not appeared in the draft outcome document. The process could have been more transparent in order to have ensured a balanced result. He regretted that States parties were simply unable to agree on advancing nuclear disarmament and hoped that the next Review Conference would address those concerns. For its part, ASEAN would continue to make efforts towards forward-looking initiatives on nuclear disarmament.
The representative of Thailand, associating with statements delivered by ASEAN and Austria, said that the lack of agreement had demonstrated that not enough was being done to advance nuclear disarmament. Even without the blocked consensus, she said her delegation was disappointed in the failure to adopt legal measures to curb nuclear weapons. Raising a number of concerns, she said more inclusiveness was needed during discussions. Her delegation would seek clarification from the Secretariat over the disturbing practice of dropping negotiated paragraphs from the final document.
The representative of Singapore also regretted the lack of agreement. The humanitarian dimension of the impact of nuclear weapons had been an important part of discussions over the past month. Establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones was essential to eliminating those arms, she said, underlining the need to convene a conference to create such a zone in the Middle East. She regretted to say that negotiated and agreed paragraphs had not appeared in the final text.
The representative of Ireland said Austria’s humanitarian pledge and discussions during the Conference had aimed to fill the legal gap in the Treaty’s article VI. He regretted that the Conference had failed in addressing humanitarian questions, including those centred on the impact of nuclear weapons on women and girls. The Conference also had not advanced the 1995 resolution on the Middle East, and it was time for reflection and re-engagement.
The representative of Peru, speaking as the chair of the preparatory committee and Main Committee I, thanked the Non-Aligned Movement for its active participation in the deliberations. He also thanked his Government for the trust it had placed in him to have serve in the role of bridge-builder. It was a shame that efforts made by so many delegations to achieve consensus had failed. Despite the opposition of three States, the text was the common product of divergent positions. However, the Review Conference and its importance were not dependent on the adoption or lack thereof of an outcome document, and efforts should be made to ensure tangible progress towards achieving the Treaty’s goals. Given the approach taken on different topics, the conference had set the stage for future action.
The representative of the Republic of Korea regretted the inability to find common ground and lay a path to strengthen the Treaty. Eventually, those differences could be bridged through greater enterprise and more time. The Conference had provided an opportunity to share perspectives and learn lessons that could be valuable in future endeavours.
The representative of Tunisia said the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons was key to achieving international peace and security. Accordingly, efforts had been continuing to create a zone free of such weapons in the Middle East. In that sense, the Review Conference had been unable to fulfil the hopes and aspirations of the people of that region.
The representative of Morocco said the proposed draft text and lack of agreement was disappointing, particularly on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. In that regard, he pointed out that the 1995 and 2010 resolutions maintained the importance of implementing such a zone.
The representative of Palau, expressing deep disappointment at the slow pace of nuclear disarmament and lack of consensus on a pathway forward, said new possibilities existed to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. The recent focus on the humanitarian impact of the weapons and the associated push to ban them provided the international community with tremendous hope. For the overwhelming majority of nations, the necessary course of action was clear: the world must work together now to outlaw the only weapons of mass destruction not yet banned. For many in the Pacific, that was also a deeply personal mission, as the region had experienced first-hand the utter devastation wrought by those monstrous instruments of war. Without its consultation or consent, the region, for more than half a century, suffered from more than 300 nuclear test explosions, which poisoned atolls, lagoons, and vast Pacific Ocean. The extremely high rate of various forms of cancer among the Pacific Island people led them to believe that they were part of the “global hibakusha”, or those who had suffered directly from the catastrophic consequences of the nuclear age. Let the end of the Review Conference mark the beginning of the end of the nuclear age.
The representative of Switzerland said the lack of agreement was disappointing and a “missed opportunity”. Obligations to the Treaty and Review Conferences remained valid and should be implemented. The humanitarian dimension was critical in discussions and should be at the centre of future meetings.
The representative of Poland thanked all Conference organizers and Secretariat staff that had made the Conference possible.
The representative of the Netherlands said that, at the outset, progress had seemed achievable. Important elements had been identified. Yet his delegation would have liked to see progress on a Middle East peace zone and it regretted the failure to achieve consensus.
The representative of Sweden also regretted the lack of consensus. The NPT remained the cornerstone of international security and peace. It was essential the nuclear weapons were never again used and that all States complied with their obligations, including under international humanitarian law. Efforts must endeavour to achieve substantive results in implementing the Treaty.
The representative of South Africa said her country, which had voluntarily given up its nuclear weapons programme, had come to the Review Conference with high hopes. What non-nuclear-weapon States were seeking was not unachievable. There was a lack of moral courage, she said, adding that the world was asking why progress could not be achieved on addressing such a vital issue. There was a sense that the NPT had degenerated into minority rule — as in apartheid-era South Africa — where the will of the few reigned supreme over the majority. It was strange that a party outside the Treaty expected the rest to play by the rules to which it refused to abide.
The representative of France said the existence of diverse interests made the Conference one of the most challenging in multilateral diplomacy. The inability to reach a consensus should not be a source of disappointment, he said, stressing that the road map laid out was a long-term one. France would continue to work towards strengthening the Treaty, which remained the cornerstone of the world’s collective security.
The Conference then turned to a procedural report on the organization and work of the Conference, contained in document NPT/CONF.2015/R.2, adopting the following sections: Introduction, Organization of the Conference, Participation in the Conference, Financial Arrangements, Work of the Conference and Documentation.
The Conference then adopted the section titled “Conclusions of the Conference”, which states, “Despite intensive efforts, the Conference was unable to adopt the Draft Final Document as contained in document NPT/CONF.2015/R.3.” With that, it adopted its final document as a whole.
The representative of the European Union Delegation thanked all participants and organizers for making the Conference possible. Given the current security environment, he underscored the importance of implementation of current and past resolutions.