Press Conference by Permanent Mission of France on Preparatory Meeting for 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review

15 May 2009

Press Conference by Permanent Mission of France on Preparatory Meeting for 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review

15 May 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York




Eric Danon, Representative of France to the United Nations Conference on Disarmament, said today that the two-week preparatory meeting for the 2010 Nuclear Non-proliferation Review Conference heralded a change in attitude towards the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and brought new momentum to talks.

Speaking at a Headquarters press conference, he recalled that participants in the last Review Conference five years ago had failed to adopt the agenda during the preparatory meetings, leaving the task for the Conference itself and little time for substantive debate.

Referring to the 2009 preparatory meeting, which concluded today, he said developments in the past few months seemed to indicate a new momentum, adding that groups of countries had worked well together in paving the way for the 2010 Review Conference.

Responding to a question as to whether participants appeared more willing to discuss disarmament, he said the 2010 Conference might see the start of new negotiations on a treaty to establish a cut-off date for the enrichment of weapons-grade material, which had not featured previously.  Also, talk of possible ratification by the United States of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty might press others to follow suit.

Asked to comment on France’s opinion of the Preparatory Committee’s final text, he said the Government viewed an initial draft as unbalanced.  “In the first document there were two or three elements that we couldn’t agree with.  […]  We’re of the view that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has to be a treaty that is balanced.  Its strength comes from the balance between various elements,” he added, citing the “three pillars” of non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful use of nuclear energy.

He said States had been able to bring their positions closer together in a succeeding draft, explaining that his country had requested the inclusion of a declaration on the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and plans for achieving that goal, as well as that of disarmament.  In line with the European Union, France had also agreed to develop one “action point” covering all the pillars.

To a suggestion that draft recommendations circulated by the Chair had contained action points relating to disarmament, he said it had been important to the French Government that participants made clear that they were not bound by those recommendations, because they had been drafted by the Chair and were not considered a negotiated text.  That Chair’s text did not use exact language agreed over lengthy negotiations.  For instance, it used the term “fissile material treaty” instead of “fissile material cut-off treaty”.  The latter would set a date after which no more enrichment would be possible, although States still needed to discuss the limit beyond which enrichment would not be allowed.  France wished to reopen that debate.

“Many things have changed in many domains since 2000,” he said, adding: “It was a matter of not limiting ourselves to what was agreed at 2000 but rather, having a review of events since then.”  The United States had traditionally resisted the notion of a verification mechanism for stockpiles accumulated before the hypothetical cut-off date, but its acceptance of a verification mechanism could help soften the stance of countries like Pakistan, which had said they would not participate in negotiations on a cut-off treaty unless they contained a verification element.

Pakistan was likely to have an interest in the stockpiles belonging to neighbouring India, he said, adding that a few countries, including the United States, were missing before the Test-Ban Treaty could enter into force.  If it were to ratify the instrument, it could inspire others, like China, to do so as well.

He said his country was intent on instituting a system of unilateral disarmament and transparency, pointing out that France had not produced enriched plutonium or uranium since the early to mid-1990s.  It had announced a ceiling on warheads and authorized visits to enrichment sites that had been dismantled.  On the “multilateral dimension”, France was interested in ending nuclear testing and establishing controls on enrichment.

Asked to comment on the right to civilian nuclear use, he said it was a “total right”, but introduced difficulties relating to security and safety.  Once a country had the capacity to produce nuclear energy, it would require raw materials to sustain its production.  However, it was uncertain where supplies would come from and whether such countries would be allowed to establish nuclear enrichment programmes.

As for three proposals to manage nuclear arms in the Middle East, he said it was important that States implement a policy focused narrowly on establishing a security framework, rather than the broader goal of bringing peace to the region.

Asked whether his country was prepared to engage other Powers on that question, he said the issue was unlikely to arise at the Review Conference, but France was committed to continuing discussions on the Test-Ban Treaty and other multilateral pacts.

He went on to say that talks in 2010 could shift the parameters for the Review Conference.  France’s interest lay in the issue of non-proliferation and progress on the question of Iran’s use of nuclear materials.  France called on the Government of Iran to respect its international obligations.  If, in addition, the United States and the Russian Federation were to sign a post-START treaty, or the United States were to ratify the Test-Ban Treaty, “all those things would create an interesting atmosphere”.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.