PRESS CONFERENCE ON TREATY OF NON-PROLIFERATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
12 May 2005
Briefing correspondents today on the consensus adoption last night of an agenda for the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the President of the Conference said he failed to see how that “tiny first step” could be seen as having such momentous importance.
Sergio de Queiroz Duarte (Brazil) said he could not say that adopting an agenda had solved the problems of the NPT. Until the substantive issues were addressed –- among them, nuclear disarmament, ridding the Middle East of nuclear and other mass destruction weapons, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy -– there would not be any relieving of tensions.
He also reminded delegations that, following adoption of the agenda (document NPT/CONF.2005/30) and his explanatory declaration (document NPT/CONF.2005/31), there were many other things to do before it would be possible to sit down and talk about the important things. The agenda items still had to be allocated to the Main Committees and a decision had to be made about how they would discharge their function, either through subsidiary bodies or another acceptable device.
Mr. Duarte told States parties yesterday evening after agreement on the agenda, “It is understood that the review will be conducted in the light of the decisions and the resolutions of previous Conferences, and allow for discussion of any issue raised by States parties”. (For the outcomes of past reviews, please see the following website: http://disarmament2.un.org/wmd/npt/indes.html).
Proceeding directly to correspondents’ questions, Mr. Duarte, replying to whether he expected any further “jamming” of the Conference’s work, replied, “that remained to be seen”.
Pressed in a series of questions to identify the specific issues that had held up adoption of the agenda for two weeks since the Conference began, and earlier during the preparatory process, and the bargaining that finally led to a “breakthrough compromise”, he said that the formulation had been handled in a way that would meet everyone’s concerns.
Was it the references to the two previous Review Conferences and the Middle East zone that broke the deadlock? a correspondent asked.
Mr. Duarte said that that had been one of the ways that delegations seemed to be satisfied that their concerns had been met. Several delegations were concerned that what had happened in past conferences would be forgotten, or dismissed. Others were concerned about the possibility of raising issues related to the Treaty. The formulation tried to address those two concerns.
For many parties, the issue was “not to diminish or walk down from, or backtrack from” what had been achieved over the years in the NPT, he added. For many, those were the paramount concerns. For others, the paramount concerns were things that had happened in the recent past in the field of arms control, proliferation, disarmament, and the whole gambit of issues under the Treaty’s purview. Those concerns had reflected themselves in several phases of the work.
Asked if he could refrain from using “code words” when talking about the issues and whether he could offer specific detail about what he was “up against” in the Main Committee, he said that it was about how to balance things in a way in which it would be possible to tackle the issues, without giving the impression that one set of issues was being favoured over another.
Agreement was reached by mentioning, on the one hand, the decisions and the resolution that were adopted in previous conferences and, on the other hand, the right of any delegation to raise the issues that they wanted to raise.
Replying to a comment that almost all of the “western” countries had expressed concern over the North Korean programme during the general debate, but no one had referred to Israel, he said that many States had spoken about Israel, and that concern would have to be examined when parties sat down and really tried to draft a Conference result.
To a question about the North Korean nuclear crisis, he said parties wanted to talk about the question of withdrawal, the article of the Treaty that dealt with withdrawal.
When did he expect the real issues to start being discussed and, at the end of the day, did he really believe that the Review Conference could make significant achievements when Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea were outside its purview? another correspondent asked.
He said he had been working for several months on a way for the parties to sit down and discuss such issues. The agenda, again, was a tiny first step in that direction. Unless the parties agreed, very little could be done in terms of discussing the issues.
But, how significant could the achievements be with four key players outside the Treaty? another asked. Significant in that 189 other countries had chosen a different path, he replied.
Asked if he detected a willing environment now, notwithstanding the differing concerns of the parties, to “do a deal” that recognized that the danger was so great that everybody had to make compromises?
He said that those preoccupations had been very transparent in the speeches made in plenary. They had been very significant and full of substance. But, as long as the parties could not sit down, he would not know whether that atmosphere existed or not, he said.
Replying to another series of questions, he said that the real issues were known. They were known and they had to be discussed. And, if they were not, then the Conference would be a failure.
According to the way in which the Treaty was organized, he said the three Main Committees were to discuss the issues and provide a report to the Conference for discussion and then adoption or rejection.
As for the possibility of bringing the countries outside the Treaty into the regime, he said there was only one way of bringing them into the NPT and that was either by amending the Treaty, or if those countries got rid of their nuclear weapons or declared themselves non-nuclear-weapon States. Whether those countries were ready to do that, he did not know. Whether parties were ready to amend the NPT, he did not know, but no government had yet proposed that. There had been pleas for those three countries to join the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon States. Whether that was possible or not was a question he was unable to answer.
The Conference end was approaching, so the more time the parties took to agree on the allocation of agenda items to the three committees, the less time they would have to discuss the Treaty’s substance, he replied to another question.
Saying that the agenda was adopted in a way that addressed everybody’s concern, another correspondent asked if that had meant that the agenda was adopted on the understanding that Israel was a complicated situation like India, Pakistan and Iran, or on the understanding that it was a special case.
He referred the correspondent to the declaration he had made last night. What people read into what he had said was their business.
As for the status of the “DPRK”, that it might be ramping up some explosive nuclear test, and the statements by Iran about restarting some enrichment activity, he said those hypotheses were very difficult to deal with, but if those things happened, that would certainly complicate the NPT process.
How much has those situations already intruded on the agenda? the correspondent asked in a follow-up.
That was not for him to say –- to interpret the sentiment of 180 countries, he said. That was simply not possible. So far, however, he had not noticed that that had “raised the temperature”, as the correspondent had suggested.
It was also not for him to say whether the nuclear-weapon States were ready to discuss a time line for disarming or eliminating their nuclear weapons, he replied to another question. He could not gauge their genuine desires. The majority of non-nuclear-weapon States, however, had criticized the rhythm and pace of measures taken by the nuclear-weapon States. The non-nuclear-weapon States wanted other measures, another rhythm, and they had been asking very pointedly for that. Hopefully, some progress could be made in that direction in the Conference.
Had he seen “any appetite” to grant security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons?
He said he had not seen any appetite on that matter. Only China, among the five nuclear Powers, had offered such an unconditional guarantee. It had said it would not attack non-nuclear-weapon States with nuclear weapons. Other countries had made some qualified assurances in the realm of the nuclear-weapon-free zones.
How important were those assurances? the correspondent asked.
It was very important for non-nuclear-weapon States to be assured they would not be attacked with nuclear weapons, he said. That was very important for them.
There were not two sides in the Conference, there were several sides, he said to another question. Tendencies could be discerned, but he did not think it was possible to say there were two sides present everywhere in the Conference. One could say it was about nuclear disarmament versus proliferation, for example, but that was not completely true, because most of those asking for strong measures of nuclear disarmament were also concerned with proliferation. For the majority, the totality of members of the NPT, the proliferation of nuclear weapons was a problem.
Regarding why the parties were not going directly into substantial negotiations, but “just wasting time”, he said the correspondent would have to ask them.
He replied to another question that, although he had not been at the review in 2000, he had been told that, until the very last day there was no agreement. There was wrangling and a sense of despondency from Friday afternoon to the wee hours of Saturday before those “wonderful 13 steps”, the unequivocal commitment, that final document, suddenly sprang up.
If he was not optimistic, if he did not think that the parties to the Treaty were serious in their endeavours, if he did not respect their concerns, he would not be presiding over the Conference, he said. He respected all of the concerns that had been put on the table, and all he could have was hope.
Asked whether the status of the “DPRK” was still vague, given that its name plate was still at the Conference, he said that, when States looked at such issues, they took whatever position they wanted. North Korea had declared that it had left the Treaty. The wide majority of NPT parties would agree it was not a party. Some apparently believed, however, that, if the question of the membership of North Korea was left vague, there was a chance it would come back into the fold.
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