Day 8: Divisions over safeguards

Posted by Carol Naughton,  Senior Associate, with input from Rebecca Johnson

A short plenary was called for the NPT Review Conference Chair, Ambassador Libran Cabactulan (Philippines) to announce that issues relating to institutional deficit and reform and related proposals for strengthening the review process  would be addressed in Subsidiary Body 3, chaired by Ambassador Jose Luis Cancela (Uruguay), which will also deal with issues relating to withdrawal from the NPT and Article X.  As Acronym has all along argued, combining them in SB3 ought to provide for a more coherent debate on this basket of institutional issues that if they had been divided between Committee II and SB3.

Main Committee II – Safeguards, regional issues and NWFZ

The first session of Committee II followed much the same pattern as the General Debate as nation after nation delivered prepared statements with no interaction between delegations. While no-one challenged the IAEA safeguards system as such, divisions over the Additional Protocol became quickly apparent. Many statements discussed the importance of nuclear weapon free zones (NWFZ), with strong expressions of support for the implementation of the 1995 Resolution on creating a NWFZ in the Middle East.

Safeguards and Additional Protocol

Article III of the NPT states:

1. Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes to accept safeguards, as set forth in an agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency in accordance with the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Agency’s safeguards system, for the exclusive purpose of verification of the fulfillment of its obligations assumed under this Treaty with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

Ambassador Nobuyasu Abe of Japan noted that 165 states have now concluded comprehensive safeguard agreements (CSA) and all nations who spoke agreed that safeguard agreements are essential to ensure that there is no diversification of civil nuclear programmes to non-peaceful use. Ambassador Antonio Guerreiro of Brazil summed up the sentiments of the committee in saying that the “universalization of comprehensive safeguards is an urgent necessity”.

Dr Joan Mosley of New Zealand said that much had changed since the NPT system had been established, that the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements (CSA) were no longer enough on their own to verify compliance, and that “the Additional Protocol is the key tool in this regard and forms the contemporary verification standard”. This in itself is not so controversial, and indeed 99 states, according to Japan, have now ratified the Additional Protocol. However the argument, as stated by Ambassador Peter Woolcott of Australia, that the Additional Protocol, “should be established as a condition of supply for all nuclear material and equipment” sets others’ teeth on edge.

The Additional Protocol was developed to strengthen safeguards and provide powers to inspect undeclared facilities following revelations about Iraq’s extensive nuclear weapons programme in 1990-1.  Brazil asserted that “the balance of obligations upon which the NPT is founded also includes the manner through which its commitments are to be verified. The Additional Protocol is not part of that bargain.”  The basis for much of the opposition against the Additional Protocol is the view that until the nuclear weapon states fulfill their disarmament obligations under the NPT, it is not realistic to expect the non nuclear weapon states to take on yet more verification measures.

A further concern is coded in statements that the IAEA is the “sole, competent authority responsible for verifying and assuring compliance” with safeguards obligations under the NPT, the subtext being that information obtained through other intelligence or inspections should not be admissible.  This is a particularly sensitive issue for some NPT parties, including Iran and other states that believe they have been accused of noncompliance on the basis of US or other intelligence sources, the issue has become one of the ritual NAM demands.  In this regard, Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz of Egypt, proposed on behalf of the NAM states that the outcome document of the review conference, “should acknowledge that it is fundamental to make a distinction between legal obligations and voluntary confidence-building measures, in order to ensure that such voluntary undertakings are not turned into legal safeguards obligations.”

While it was not completely clear from Egypt’s statement, there is a suggestion that the Additional Protocol is itself considered to be voluntary, on the basis that states can choose whether to sign and ratify the Additional Protocol to their CSA.  While some states do appear to hold this position, others dispute this characterisation, pointing out that Article III does not specify the precise nature of safeguards agreement that non-nuclear weapon states must negotiate with the IAEA and adopt, and that this was to enable safeguards agreements negotiated in the 1960s to be updated and modernised so as to provide confidence in the IAEA safeguards regime over the NPT’s lifetime, taking into account technological and other developments.

The “Vienna Group of 10” or G-10, comprising Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden, known as have submitted seven working papers to the Review Conference, each of which addresses issues that are particularly worked on in the Vienna diplomatic circuit, such as nuclear safety, the CTBT, export controls, nuclear energy, physical protection and illicit traffickingcompliance and verification and multinational fuel cycle approaches, offering draft language for possible provision in the outcome document(s) of the Conference.

NWFZ and the Middle East

The importance of nuclear weapon free zones (NWFZ) is recognised by all nations and many welcomed efforts aimed at establishing NWFZ in all regions of the world. The subsidiary body to this committee will look especially at the 1995 resolution on the Middle East but many nations took time in their Committee II statements to express their commitment to achieving implementation of this resolution, which Egypt on behalf of the Non-Aligned States called “an essential element of the outcome of the 1995 Review and Extension Conference and of the basis [on] which the NPT was indefinitely extended, without a vote in 1995”.

Egypt argued that the final outcome document should not only underscore the importance of Israel’s accession to the NPT; as long as it remains a non-NPT party, there should be “a commitment by each State Party to the Treaty to strictly prohibit the transfer of any nuclear-related equipment, information, material and facilities, resources or devices, and the extension of know-how of any kind of assistance to and cooperation with Israel in the nuclear fields.”

Calling for “cooperation and consultation” and intensified efforts “aimed at establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East”, Egypt’s statement to Committee II appeared to jump over its key demand for an international conference to “launch negotiations, with the participation of all States of the Middle East”on a NWFZ in the Middle East, calling instead for “the establishment of a Standing Committee composed of members of the Bureau of the 2010 Review Conference to follow up intersessionally the implementation of the recommendations concerning the Middle East and to report to the 2015 review Conference and its Preparatory Committees”.

While Egypt has set the target date of 2011 for this Conference, Mr Jesus Domingo of the Philippines called for such an international conference to be held “at the earliest possible time”.

For the United States, Dr Glyn Davies lent weight to the goal of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction and the implementation of the 1995 resolution, calling for “concrete, realistic measures… that take due account of full compliance by regional states with the Treaty, IAEA safeguards obligations and all relevant UNSC resolutions”.

Among the many statements that raised concern about Iran’s nuclear programme, the European Union said that “the proliferation risks presented in particular by Iran continue to be a matter of grave concern”. While acknowledging that Iran has the right to develop and use nuclear power for peaceful purposes, the EU called on Iran to “engage seriously with the international community in a spirit of mutual respect, in order to find a negotiated solution”, warning that if it does not do so it will isolate itself further.

While most countries sought a negotiated solution to the problems posed by Iran’s nuclear programme, with emphasis on full compliance with the relevant IAEA and UNSC resolutions, France called for “the strongest response from the international community”.

Following its detailed statement to Committee II, Iran added a brief history of its development of nuclear research reactors and inspections by the IAEA, arguing not only that the IAEA is the “sole competent authority”, but also that “there should be no undue pressure or interference in the Agency’s activities” and that there should be a “mechanism for protection of confidentiality” of the IAEA’s verification process and a “legal mechanism for the settlement of disputes…”

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