Opening of 2015 NPT Review Conference - part 1

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SIX OFFICIAL 27-Apr-2015 02:44:05
Opening Meeting of the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

Recalling Nuclear-Non-Proliferation Treaty’s ‘Grand Bargain’, Secretary-General Urges Leaders at Review Conference to ‘Abandon Short-Sighted Posturing’
NPT Review Conference, 1st Meeting (AM)
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‘No One Can Keep a Straight Face and Argue that 16,000 Warheads Are an Appropriate Threshold for Global Safety,’ Says State Party

Describing a nuclear-weapon-free world as a “critical global public good”, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the international community to work towards ensuring that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) retained its central role in collective security, as the month-long ninth Review Conference of that accord began at Headquarters today.

At its heart, the NPT was a “grand bargain” underpinned by the symbiotic relationship between nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation; one could not be advanced without the other, Mr. Ban said, in a statement delivered by his Deputy, Jan Eliasson. He exhorted the Conference to chart a clear path forward for what the Treaty regime would be in 2020 — the fiftieth anniversary of its entry into force.

Mr. Ban called on States parties to produce an outcome that strengthened the Treaty, promoted its universality, ensured compliance by all parties with all provisions, and reinforced its principal goals — to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and bring about their elimination. The Conference must demonstrate how and when the action plan adopted at the 2010 review would be implemented. And he urged leaders “to abandon short-sighted political posturing and instead embrace a bold and global vision that meets the demands of humanity”.

During the debate, speakers — including deputy prime ministers and foreign ministers of both nuclear—armed and non-nuclear-armed States — offered differing perspectives on the Treaty’s progress, but coalesced around its ultimate aims.

Nasser Judeh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriate Affairs of Jordan, said the Review Conference was being held amid escalating tension and a burgeoning arms race in the Middle East. Further, radical and extremist groups were trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction, he said, stressing the need to strengthen the NPT to frustrate their attempts. In that context, it was incumbent upon the international community to fulfil its commitment to render the Middle East free from nuclear weapons, an undertaking that had underpinned the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995.

Javad Zarif, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, urged negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention that included a phased programme and a specified timeframe for those weapons’ complete elimination. The role of nuclear weapons in the security policies of nuclear-armed States had not diminished. Some were modernizing their arsenals and planning research on new nuclear warheads; others had announced their intention to develop new delivery vehicles for them. In short, the nuclear-weapon States had not made progress in eliminating their nuclear arsenals.

Some wished to “force the speed of disarmament” without taking into account wider security considerations, said the United Kingdom’s Minister of State of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Joyce Anne Anelay. She reaffirmed her country’s commitment to step-by-step disarmament, exemplified in the significant reductions in the number of warheads on each of its deployed ballistic missile submarines, from 48 to 40, and the number of operational missiles on each of those submarines to no more than eight. Her country had developed a deterrence doctrine and robust safety and security measures.

Laying bare the United States’ holdings, John Kerry, Secretary of State, said the country now had 4,717 nuclear weapons, which was 85 per cent below the cold war peak. “But yes,” he added, “that is still way too many.” President Barack Obama had decided that the United States would seek to accelerate the retirement of nuclear warheads by 20 per cent. The country was ready to engage and negotiate in further reductions of deployed strategic nuclear weapons to up to one third below the level set by the bilateral treaty with the Russian Federation.

Mikhail Ulyanov, Head of the Arms Control Department of the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation, emphasized that maintaining and strengthening the NPT regime met the fundamental interests of all parties, adding that his country had been fulfilling all its obligations, including under article VI. It had reduced stockpiles to a minimum level and planned to continue to work in that area to maintain a balance between developing a peaceful course of action and strengthening the non-proliferation regime.

On the United States’ proposal, he said the Russian Federation was firmly committed to nuclear disarmament, adding that discussions on those issues needed to be serious without any double standards, and could only be effective when abiding by the principles of not doing damage to the security of other nations.

“No one can keep a straight face and argue that 16,000 nuclear weapons are an appropriate threshold for global safety,” said Tony DeBrum, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Marshall Islands. He recounted his own childhood experience at Likiep Atoll where, from 1946 to 1958, 67 nuclear weapons were tested. Their explosive scale equalled 1.6 “Hiroshima shots” daily. Still, “nuclear nations” were modernizing and rebuilding. There was no right to “indefinite possession” to continue to retain nuclear weapons on security grounds.

As the only country to have ever suffered atomic bombings, Japan attached great importance to strengthening the NPT regime on all its three pillars, said that country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Fumio Kishida. He urged both nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon States to take joint action and, in particular, for the nuclear-armed States to faithfully fulfil their special responsibility pursuant to the Treaty’s article VI.

Yerzhan Ashikbayev, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, noting that Belarus, Kazakhstan, South Africa and Ukraine had voluntarily renounced their nuclear arsenals, said that was a clear demonstration that, with political will and determination, nuclear-weapon States could fulfil their NPT obligations.

Also today, the Review Conference adopted its draft rules of procedure and approved requests for observer status for Israel, as well as for the following organizations and associations: the African Union; Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials; Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization; European Union; International Committee of the Red Cross; International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; League of Arab States; North Atlantic Treaty Organization; Organization of the Islamic Conference; and the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Conference also approved the requests to attend meetings of the plenary or the Main Committee from 107 non-governmental organizations.

It elected the following as Chairs of its main committees: Enrique Roman-Morey (Peru) to Main Committee I; Cristian Istrate (Romania) to Main Committee II; David Stuart (Australia) to Main Committee III; and Vladimir Drobnjak (Croatia) to the Drafting Committee.

Elected as Vice-Chairpersons were Andrej Logar (Slovenia) and Henk Cor Van Der Kwast (Netherlands) to Main Committee I; Toshiro Ozawa (Japan) to Main Committee II; Julio Bravo (Chile) to Main Committee III; Andre Sobral Cordeiro (Portugal) to the Drafting Committee; and Matthew Rowland (United Kingdom) to the Credentials Committee. It also elected 34 Vice-Presidents — from the Eastern European States Group, the Western States Group, and from the Group of Non-Aligned and Other States.

The Conference sought the nomination of a candidate for the Credentials Committee, while electing Kyrgyzstan, Norway and Poland as members. It confirmed Thomas Markram as Secretary-General of the 2015 Review Conference.

Also making statements today were the Deputy Prime Minister of Slovakia, Foreign Ministers of Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands (on behalf of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, and in his national capacity), Algeria, Ireland, and Egypt, and the Deputy Foreign Ministers of Mexico, Spain, China, Italy, Kyrgyzstan (on behalf of States parties to the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty), and the Republic of Korea. Representatives of New Zealand (on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition) and Chile also spoke.

Opening the Conference was Enrique Roman-Morey (Peru), its Acting President, who proposed the nomination of Taous Feroukhi (Algeria) as the Chair of the Review Conference, whom participants approved by acclamation, following which she delivered opening remarks. Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also addressed the conference.

The 2015 Review Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 28 April, to continue its debate.
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