Press Conference on Outcomes of Conference on Facilitating Entry into Force of Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

25 September 2009

Press Conference on Outcomes of Conference on Facilitating Entry into Force of Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

25 September 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Outcomes of Conference on Facilitating Entry into Force

of Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty


A diplomatic strategy by countries supporting the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was urgently needed to persuade and pressure the nine remaining States required to ratify the treaty so it could enter into force, Jessica Matthews, President of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, said at Headquarters today.

As the Conference to promote the CTBT’s entry into force concluded today, she said the news of Iran’s second enrichment site underlined the importance of such an effort.  Iran’s ratification of the CTBT, to which it was a signatory, would be an optimal way for the country to make the case that its nuclear fuel-cycle activities were intended for peaceful purposes, she added.  Moreover, helping to give the treaty effect would be a critical step in sufficiently easing regional conflict so the groundwork could be laid for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons.

Accompanied by Tibor Tóth, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Ms. Matthews had just delivered that message to the just-concluded Conference in a joint statement issued on behalf of non-governmental organizations and coordinated by the Arms Control Association.

Mr. Tóth emphasized the “complementarities” between statements made this week in the General Assembly’s general debate, the resolution resulting from yesterday’s summit-level Security Council meeting and the Final Document of the two-day Conference on giving effect to the CTBT, known formally as the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.  The Final Document, adopted by consensus, fleshed out actions that could be undertaken by the 181 signatories to the CTBT, including several of the critical Annex II countries, whose ratifications would trigger its entry into force.

Summarizing highlights of the two-day Conference, Mr. Tóth cited the “defining” presence of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of the United States and the delivery of a statement on behalf of China’s Foreign Minister indicating his country planned to work with the international community to bring the treaty into force.  In addition, the representatives of Indonesia, Israel and Egypt -- three of the six Annex II signatory countries that had not yet ratified the CTBT -- had not only joined the consensus, but, more importantly, they had also made statements, he noted.  [Ratification is also required by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India and Pakistan, none of which has signed the treaty.]

Asked whether there were encouraging signs in the United States Senate pointing to possible ratification, Ms. Matthews conceded it would be a “tough fight” to get the 67 required votes, but noted that the Obama Administration had made a wise decision in adopting a step-by-step approach to educating the Senate, particularly the roughly 40 Senators who had not been in office during the upper chamber’s failure to ratify the CTBT in 1999.  The approach focused on informing them of the “enormous” technological advances made since the previous vote.  It would eventually rely on two studies -- the National Intelligence Estimate and an assessment from the National Academy of Sciences.

Meanwhile, the Administration had made clear the existence of the ability to ensure the reliability and safety of the United States nuclear arsenal without testing, she continued.  It had also launched a far-reaching international effort to work with like-minded States towards securing ratification by the eight other necessary nations.  Any sense that those other countries were close to ratification could, in turn, improve the chances of Senate ratification.

Mr. Tóth added that 95 per cent of United States monitoring stations -- nearly 40 facilities -- had been put in place in the last eight to nine years due the determination of the United States Government to enhance monitoring.  Moreover, $200 million of the $1 billion spent on bringing the international monitoring system online had been invested by the United States.

Asked whether there had been any shifts in the Israeli or Egyptian positions, Mr. Tóth noted that Israel, Egypt and Iran had all been part of the consensus on the final declaration.  While one should not read too much into that, since the document was not legally binding, it was a step on the right path.

In response to a question about how much of the international monitoring system had been deployed, and when it would be complete, he said progress had snowballed lately, with changes coming on a near-weekly basis.  Around 270 of 340 monitoring installations had been deployed.  However, it was hard to say when the entire system would be operational since the remaining installations could be especially difficult.  Some were intended to be based on the territory of non-signatory countries or in locations that were insecure or subject to extreme climates, such as Antarctica.  Moreover, without the ability to perform on-site inspections, as allowed under the CTBT, the monitoring system would not be a “fully fledged toolbox”.

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