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PRESS CONFERENCE BY NORWAY'S FOREIGN MINISTER

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

2 August 2005

Norway’s Foreign Minister, Jan Petersen, whose country spearheaded a recent seven-nation initiative on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, said today at a Headquarters press conference that the intention had been to strengthen the cornerstone Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and to fill in where the Review Conference in May had failed to produce a result.

He said that he and many colleagues around the world had been deeply disturbed at the “missed opportunity” of the NPT Review Conference to further strengthen that multilateral instrument for common security. Their Ministerial Declaration, aimed at garnering the support of all United Nations Member States, was intended as input for the outcome of the 2005 World Summit in September.

On 26 July, the Secretary-General welcomed last week’s initiative on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament led by the Foreign Ministers of Australia, Chile, Indonesia, Norway, Romania, South Africa and the United Kingdom. He said he had been “deeply troubled” by the failure of the recent Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to achieve substantive agreement to strengthen collective security against the many nuclear threats, to which all States and peoples were vulnerable.

Mr. Petersen described the reaction of the Secretary-General, with whom he met earlier today, as “deeply encouraging”. General Assembly President, Jean Ping ( Gabon), with whom he also met today, had welcomed the initiative as well. The equally positive response from “a large number” of States had also been promising. The initiative now had the support of some 30 countries, and he thought that number would grow in the coming weeks.

Many saw the upcoming World Summit as critical opportunity to make progress where the Review Conference had not, he said. The Ministerial Declaration was a strong and powerful message that it was high time to advance nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, as well as the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to ensure that the latter usage was not diverted for weapons purposes. Confidence must be built around the NPT as a cornerstone of those efforts. It was not possible to wait five years, or have a summit that did not address those issues meaningfully.

He said that the seven nations behind the Ministerial Declaration belonged to different country groupings with different perspectives and priorities, but they had agreed on a serious and viable road map for the way ahead. Negotiations, though not easy, had been guided by a true spirit of compromise and aimed at consensus. The upcoming summit offered a historic opportunity to revitalize disarmament and non-proliferation. There was a remarkable consensus around steps to preserve and strengthen the non-proliferation regime, and those must be seized. Collective interest should be given the necessary flexibility and readiness.

Asked whether the substance of the Declaration would be used beyond its incorporation in the outcome document of the September Summit, he said that the priority of the exercise had been to strengthen the summit’s outcome text, and negotiating the Declaration had not been easy. The absence of a result from the NPT Review Conference had been disturbing to all in the group, so they wanted to put forward a text. To the extent to which the same group would come together after the summit remained to be seen.

He reiterated that the immediate task was to build support behind that compromise document. There were 191 ways of drafting such a text, but the fact that the diversity of the seven nations had meant a balance had been achieved.

Replying to a question about whether the United States would come on board, he said that all countries knew about the initiative, and he had had the opportunity to discuss it with the United States Government, as well. He had been encouraged by their initial response, although there were some concerns, as would be the case with many countries. It was important, however, to advance the agenda and there was a price to pay for that. He sought the approval of the United States Government, as well as all other governments.

But, so far, no commitment? the correspondent asked in a follow-up question.

No firm commitment, he replied, adding his hope that that would come in a few weeks. “We’ll see”, he said.

Asked why the Declaration was concerned with the “nuclear newcomers” rather than those with the enormous stockpiles of those weapons, he asked the correspondent to carefully study the text, which everyone had just received. The NPT, he explained, was based on three pillars -- non-proliferation, disarmament, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy -- and those had been reflected in the text.

To another question, he said he was worried about the summit’s outcome document not dealing firmly with the nuclear issue. That was why he and others had come forward -- to give the General Assembly President some input.

Asked about the absence in the Declaration of using the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Model Protocol as the norm for verification, given the strong push for that at the Review Conference, he said the text had reflected the agreement of the seven countries. The work had been done with a clear view to garner the support of other countries, to strike a balance and have a realistic outcome. There was no point in coming forward with ideas that would not be met with a kind of general approval. He needed “a lot of countries to come with us”, and he thought the text had managed that.

Also missing, another correspondent said, had been a mention of the tendency towards doctrines in support of nuclear weapon use and the development of usable nuclear weapons. How could that have been ignored?

He reiterated that the text was balanced and focused on various issues. Again, it needed to be met with general approval, and there was no point in submitting a controversial text, which would be “shot down”. Then, everyone would be “back to no solution at all”. Reaching consensus had been his guide.

To another question, he said that the Review Conference had spent a lot of time on the agenda and on formalities and had not had sufficient time to delve into substance. He had had the privilege to start from a different angle and had simply put forward some proposals that he thought could be universally accepted. Those now had to be “sounded out” in New York to see if they would gain traction.

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For information media • not an official record



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