24 September 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Foreign Ministers in support of the more than decade-old Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) called on all States that had not ratified it to do so without delay, particularly the nine countries whose ratification was required for the Treaty’s operation, at a Headquarters press conference today.

Australia’s Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, said that a statement released earlier today at a ministerial meeting in support of the Treaty was aimed, in particular, at the nine remaining States whose ratification is required for the Treaty’s entry into force, namely, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States.

The General Assembly adopted the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty on 10 September 1995.  The Treaty opened for signature on 24 September 1996.

Today’s meeting had been organized by the Permanent Missions of Australia, Austria, Canada, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan and the Netherlands.  Mr. Smith was joined at the press conference by Ursula Plassnik, Foreign Minister of Austria; Bruno Stagno Ugarte, Foreign Minister of Costa Rica; William Perry, former United States Defense Secretary; Tibor Toth, Executive Secretary of the CTBT Organization (CTBTO); and actor Michael Douglas, United Nations Messenger of Peace.

“We want the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty to enter into force,” said Ms. Plassnik, who reported on the meeting, the fourth such gathering of the year aimed at accelerating the pace of ratifications.  “It’s high time.  We are, all of us, in support of this.  Some dangers do not go away just because we do not talk about it very much,” she warned, regretting that, as a Foreign Minister and citizen of the world, disarmament was not as high on the international agenda as it used to be.

“This is one of the reasons why we are gathering and why we are giving support on the foreign ministers level to the CTBT,” she said, calling nuclear testing a threat.  A new partnership between political players and civil society was emerging, however, in addressing that threat, twenty years after the end of the cold war.

Mr. Smith noted in a press release on the statement agreed this morning that strong international support existed for the test-ban Treaty, as demonstrated by its 179 signatures and 144 ratifications.  He pointed to the addition of Iraq as a signatory, as of 19 August.

Mr. Douglas agreed that it was imperative that the CTBT entered into force. “There is no possible need to test nuclear weapons in this day and age anymore.”

Responding to questions on a number of issues, Ms. Plassnik affirmed Austria’s candidacy for a seat on the Security Council, promising that her country would bring a track record of peacemaking, security and human rights to the 15‑member body.  She called on smaller States to step up their contributions to the Council by also seeking to become members.

As for the reception that Australia had received for its 2008 proposal to establish a nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament commission in the lead-up to the review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, in 2010, Mr. Smith said “it has been a supportive one”.  He pointed out that the CTBT had non-nuclear uses, such as serving as an early warning system for tsunamis.

Mr. Perry, replying to a question about how confident he was that a new United States Administration would ratify the Treaty, said:  “It’s no secret that I am supporting Senator Barack Obama,” and if he is elected, he hoped and expected that he would provide substantial support to ratifying the CTBT.

He added that, in 1996 when he was the United States Secretary of Defence, he had conducted a comprehensive study on whether the CTBT could be “safely signed”, and he was convinced it could.  He pointed out that former United States President Bill Clinton had been persuaded to sign the Treaty, but it was never ratified, and President George W. Bush had never resubmitted the application for ratification.  There was a “good probability” that that would change with a new President.

Mr. Bruno, agreeing with the thrust of the discussion, said the CTBT was “absolutely necessary, regardless of where you stand on the political divide”.

Mr. Smith said that the meeting’s participantsremained concerned about North Korea’s nuclear programme, and they supported all United Nations Security Council resolutions to hold that country to account.

Mr. Perry noted that Iran intended to continue producing nuclear fuel, which, he said, could be used to produce nuclear weapons in a matter of months.

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For information media • not an official record