10 May 2000


10 May 2000

Press Briefing



The goal of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was enshrined in article 6 of the Treaty, which obliged States parties to pursue negotiations, in good faith, on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, Felicity Hill, Director of the United Nations Office of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, told correspondents this morning at a Headquarters press conference.

The delegations of Malaysia and Costa Rica had given substance to that goal on Monday, when they submitted a working paper in Subsidiary Body I of the 2000 Review Conference of the Parties to the NPT, she added.

Ms. Hill was joined by Hasmy Agam, Permanent Representative of Malaysia to the United Nations; Merav Datan, Program Director, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and principal drafter of the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention; and Alyn Ware, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy and Advisor to the New Zealand delegation to the 2000 Review Conference.

Mr. Agam said he hoped the elements of the working paper, entitled “Follow- up to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons”, would be incorporated into any final declaration of the Conference, should there be one. If there would be no final declaration, he would consider tabling the paper as a resolution.

The paper, he went on to say, recalled the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and underlined its unanimous conclusion that there existed an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.

It reminded the States parties, he continued, of their solemn obligation to the Treaty, affirmed the requirement of States parties to fulfil their obligations under the Treaty, and called for the commencement of multilateral negotiations leading to the conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention or framework convention. Further, it requested States parties to give consideration to the legal, technical and political elements required for such a convention. Finally, it called on States parties to agree to take appropriate interim steps to further the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons.

He said that it was going to be a tough, uphill battle due to the intransigent positions of the nuclear-weapon States vis-à-vis the International Court of Justice advisory opinion specifically, and nuclear disarmament, in general. With less than two weeks left in the Conference, the two delegations would do their best to ensure that, even if not all the elements, at least the essential ones, would be incorporated into the final declaration.

Malaysia was among those that felt that the decision taken five years ago to extend the NPT indefinitely was a mistake, he added. “By doing so, we lost all leverage. We are now at the mercy of the nuclear-weapon States, as to how to proceed on the issue.”

NPT Press Conference - 2 - 10 May 2000

Ms. Datan stated that since 1996, there had been United Nations resolutions, following up on the International Court of Justice advisory opinion, which had underscored the unanimous conclusion and called for negotiations leading to a nuclear weapons convention. The working paper pointed to some of the elements to be addressed during negotiations. Specifically, it called for States parties to give consideration to the legal, technical and political elements for a nuclear weapons convention. That meant that those elements could be addressed before actual negotiations took place.

Those elements, she continued, might include non-discriminatory general obligations that would be applicable to State and non-State actors, and prohibiting the acquisition, development, testing, production, stockpiling, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons. It might also include interim control, protection and accounting of nuclear weapons and fissile material; phases and steps for the systematic and progressive destruction of all nuclear warheads and their delivery vehicles; and an international organization to coordinate verification, implementation and enforcement.

The interim control, protection and accounting of nuclear weapons and fissile material holdings, she said, meant that even before such a convention was negotiated or came into effect, it might be useful to look at how to deal with the nuclear weapons themselves and the fissile material. One of the suggestions in the convention would be some kind of a dual control system -- an international body and the States that possessed the warheads or material, using something like a “two-key” model. It would ensure that there would not be exclusive national access, while at the same time States would not have to relinquish access to an international body.

In 1997, Costa Rica had introduced a model nuclear weapons convention, which was distributed at the United Nations as a discussion paper, she said. The revised version of that convention, based on feedback from governments and non- governmental organizations, was contained in the book Security and Survival. It included not only the model convention and some background information, but also addressed some of the critical questions for the future of nuclear disarmament.

Among the questions, she continued, were the context of the international security regime, the role of nuclear energy, the problem of enforcement of a nuclear weapons convention and the question of break out. All of those did not yet have answers, but they did need to be addressed in order to make negotiations feasible and to make such a convention meaningful. The follow-up to the book was contained in the periodic publication, Nuclear Weapons Convention Monitor, which included opinions and analyses from experts in the field and issues that related to large-scale, verifiable nuclear disarmament and a nuclear weapons convention.

The nuclear-weapon States, stated Mr. Ware, were not fulfilling their obligations under article 6 of the Treaty, which was clarified in the International Court of Justice advisory opinion. Among the points contained in the working paper was the interesting way of looking at the achievement of universality of NPT obligations, with regard to those States that were not yet members of the Treaty. Operative paragraph 1 of the working paper states that States parties should commence negotiations leading to a nuclear weapons convention and invite those States that had not acceded to the Treaty to join in such negotiations. It was an interesting approach to bring the non-NPT States parties into negotiations.

Another interesting thing about the working paper, he continued, was that Malaysia and Costa Rica spoke of a nuclear weapons convention or framework convention. That was to show that the paper was not in any way inconsistent with the proposals put forward by the New Agenda Coalition, which said that the maintenance of a nuclear-weapon-free world required the underpinnings of a universal and multilaterally negotiated, legally-binding instrument or framework encompassing a mutually reinforcing set of instruments. There was also an additional paragraph in the working paper, which reinforced the Coalition interim steps.

He added that there seemed to be a lack of political will on the part of the nuclear weapon States to respond both to the New Agenda Coalition proposals and to those put forward by Malaysia and Costa Rica. It was interesting that Malaysia was reserving the right to hold a vote on the matter, given that it seemed unlikely that a consensus would be reached around the document. Thus, his organization would be closely following developments during the final week of the Conference.

Ms. Datan, responding to a question concerning time-frames, said that the approach in the model convention differed from the Non-Aligned Movement’s time- bound framework approach, in that the model convention was not tied to dates. Rather, it suggested phased approaches of nuclear disarmament that would come into effect from entry into force. It was decided not to use the time-bound framework in that approach.

Mr. Ware added that both the General Assembly resolutions, which were introduced annually by Malaysia since the International Court of Justice advisory opinion, and the working paper emphasized the importance of commencing negotiations. The time-frame of those negotiations was not specified because it seemed that it might not be possible to do so. What was important was the phased approach with the end goal -- the nuclear weapons convention - fully in mind.

As to the status and feasibility of the convention, Ms. Datan said that there had been informal round tables with governmental representatives from the nuclear-weapon States and non-governmental organizations to look at the possible elements. It was also an issue raised with the New Agenda Coalition States. Feasibility was a little hard to gauge right now and would depend to some extent on the outcome of the Review Conference. It had been distributed widely and was receiving a lot of attention in governmental and parliamentary circles.

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For information media. Not an official record.