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Contested Language in Main Committee II (Safeguards and Nuclear Weapon Free Zones
By Jenni Rissanen

Sixth NPT Review Conference, Briefing No 12, May 14, 2000

Main Committee II, chaired by Ambassador Adam Kobieracki of Poland, concluded its work on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, safeguards and nuclear weapons free zones (NWFZ) on Friday. Despite intensive consultations, the Committee was unable to agree on the full content of its report, including the report of Subsidiary Body 2. The Committee therefore "took note" of the report, which included both contested and uncontested language, and forwarded it to the General Conference for further work. Ambassador Abdallah Baali of Algeria, President of the Conference, entrusted Ambassador Christopher Westdal of Canada, Chairman of SB.2, to continue to hold consultations aimed at getting consensus on regional issues, including the Middle East. This briefing looks at the report of MC.II and discusses the outstanding issues with regard to safeguards, export controls and NWFZ. Twenty-eight of the 76 paragraphs of the report of MC.II contain language yet to be agreed upon.


More than half of the working papers to MC.II offered ideas on safeguards for the final documents of the Conference. The MC.II report contains a substantial amount of language on the topic, both agreed and disagreed. The report recognizes the IAEA safeguards as the "fundamental pillar" of the non-proliferation regime, and the IAEA as the authority responsible for verifying that States Parties comply with their safeguards agreements and obligations under Article III, paragraph 1 of the NPT. It notes that 28 States Parties have concluded their agreements since 1995 but expresses concern that there are still 51 countries that have not brought them into force and urges them to do so as soon as possible. South Africa's recognition that many of these countries are without nuclear facilities and its call for assistance in completing the safeguards agreements is reflected in the text. The Conference 'fully endorses' the strengthening measures of the Model Additional Protocol and the INFCIRC/540 and encourages States Parties to conclude additional protocols as soon as possible.

Among the contested text is a paragraph that reaffirms the 1995 Principles and Objectives decision (paragraph 12) to require full-scope safeguards and internationally legally binding commitments not to acquire nuclear weapons as a condition for the supply of nuclear materials and equipment. China, which expressed reservations about the decisions but did not break consensus on it in 1995, reportedly now wants to do away with the principle. It is understood that China feels that since the Treaty itself speaks of 'safeguards' and not 'full-scope safeguards' the Treaty text 'overrides' the language of the 1995 Principles and Objectives. A number of countries objected strongly to the proposed deletion of the text, leaving the issue to be resolved by the General Conference. In a related event, according to ITAR-TASS (7 May), Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree on changes in the presidential ordinance of March 27, 1992 "On Control Over Exports of Nuclear Material, Equipment and Technologies from the Russian Federation" that reportedly allows it to export nuclear materials, equipment and technologies to countries that "do not have nuclear armaments and have not put their activity under control of the [IAEA], but only in exceptional cases and on a number of conditions." It remains to be seen what effect this Russian legislative modification will have on the principle of full-scope safeguards, as wanted by the majority of NPT Parties. South Africa had suggested in its working paper that also the re-transfer of the material and equipment be subject to the same requirements, but this is not reflected in the report.

Also contested is the forward-looking proposal by a like-minded group of Western states (Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Sweden) known as the G-10. The G-10 have proposed that the next Review Conference should consider the establishment of an additional protocol as an element of full-scope safeguards and thus, under the 1995 Principles and Objectives decision, also as a requirement for the supply of nuclear material and equipment. In light of the above-mentioned reluctance by China to support the 1995 decision, this proposal is likely to face resistance.

There was also difficulty in agreeing on safeguards with regard to the nuclear weapon states (NWS). Among the contested language is text that calls for the wider application of safeguards under the voluntary agreements by the NWS, as well as the invitation to keep the scope of their additional protocols "under review". Another question under debate, which hinges on the difference between "as soon as practicable" (preferred by the NWS) and 'as soon as possible' (preferred by some NNWS), is the language relating to the call that the NWS should place their fissile material considered as excess to their "defence needs" under IAEA or other verification. France's argument that the resulting verification costs should be shared and should come out of the IAEA's regular budget because "cuts in nuclear armaments serve the common interest" have not gone down well among many NNWS. Brazil, for example, argued that the verification costs should be borne by the possessors of such material - the nuclear weapon states.

Among the contentious issues is also the question of Iraq, which insists with the backing of some other Arab states that it is in compliance with its safeguards obligations and objects to references to UN Security Council resolutions calling its relationship with the Council "a purely political matter" and not relevant in the context of the NPT. The funding of the IAEA's safeguards mandate was another unresolved matter. Western countries, in particular, want the Conference to recognize the increase in the IAEA's verification activities and the financial constraints associated with such responsibilities, where as NAM countries have drawn attention to the funding of the IAEA's technical cooperation activities. Both are calling for more adequate funding to be made available. Some States have also argued that the NWS have special responsibility to ensure that the necessary needs are met.

Export Controls

Export controls have been heavily debated and were worked on in parallel closed consultations last week. While, much has been left for the General Conference to resolve, in particular with respect to the Zangger Committee and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Committee affirmed that "nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right…to develop, research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with…this Treaty."

However, perceptions on how ensure non-proliferation without hampering this 'inalienable right' still differ. The differences in approach were demonstrated in the MC.II working papers on export controls, tabled by the G-10 and by Iran, and the inability to agree on export-control-related language in the MC.II report. One area of disagreement is whether the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has made a strong enough effort to increase transparency, as called for in the 1995 Principles and Objectives: e.g. will the Conference be able to take "note" of the two international seminars organized by the NSG to advance this goal? Western states feel that the Group has taken considerable steps towards transparency but many NAM states argue that not enough has been done and that the Group remains non-transparent and selective in its membership. The G-10's working paper seeks to have the Conference recognize the role of existing national export control mechanisms in the prevention of proliferation and underlined that they are intended to provide confidence for cooperation in peaceful uses. They want the Conference to recognize that the coordination of national policies can contribute towards non-proliferation and note the Zangger Committee in this context. Furthermore, States Parties are invited to adopt the understandings of the Committee.

The EU joined the G-10 in encouraging further efforts and dialogue to increase export control transparency. In contrast, Iran asked States Parties to "note with concern" that unilaterally enforced export controls have "hampered" the developing countries' access to nuclear materials, equipment and technology for peaceful purposes. Iran, joined by many from the floor, wants multilateral negotiations on effective transfer guidelines and, pending the negotiations, the NSG to take practical steps to practise greater transparency in its proceedings and decision-making process and to allow all interested Parties to take part in them. Austria replied to the criticisms, saying that the Zangger Committee's mandate derived from Article III of the NPT, and arguing that the Committee's understandings have been public since 1974. Furthermore, it reminded the critics that each country has a national responsibility with respect to its exports. Egypt said that as long as the arrangements were limited in participation and transparency and the NNWS outside the arrangements could not take part in the decision-making process, they could not feel confident that their concerns were taken into account.

Nuclear Weapon Free Zones

Many States referred to the importance of NWFZ in their general debate and MC.II statements. Belarus, China, EU, Mongolia, and the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, put in working papers on this to MC.II. By the end of the deliberations of MC.II, much of the language in the report on NWFZ was agreed, but there were a couple of regional sticking points. The final language of the Conference will reaffirm that the establishment of nuclear weapons free zones enhances regional and global security, welcome and support the steps taken in concluding nuclear weapons free zones since 1995, and support the establishment of new areas.

In this context, support is expressed for the "intention and commitment" of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to establish a NWFZ in Central Asia. Many statements made at the general debate and MC.II backed its establishment, including China, which said it had actively supported efforts toward the zone. The EU attached importance to the Central Asian NWFZ in particular saying that it "especially" welcomed the progress made towards its establishment. Japan pointed out that the treaty would be the first NWFZ in the northern hemisphere and encouraged the process to be completed soon. The five countries tabled together a working paper asking the Conference to recognise and welcome the steps they have taken towards a draft treaty and expressing their firm commitment to conclude the process.

Mongolia's nuclear-weapon free status and the Joint Declaration of the Korean Peninsula are also welcomed in the report. Most of Mongolia's proposed language was incorporated in the report with the exception of the reference to security assurances. With regard to existing NWFZ, the Conference will stress the importance of the Treaties' signature and ratification, including their protocols by the NWS, and recognize that countries party to NWFZ treaties can acquire security assurances through the treaties. Thailand urged the NWS to ratify the protocols to the Bangkok Treaty. The Committee agreed that the Conference "takes note…that consultations with the States Parties to the Treaty of Bangkok have been accelerated, paving a way for adherence by the five nuclear weapon States to the Protocol to that Treaty".

The contentious paragraphs of the report centre on the establishment of NWFZ in the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe. Belarus tabled a working paper on its "national position" regarding its initiative to establish a nuclear weapon free space in Central and Eastern Europe. Belarus stated that it did not intend to reopen the debate on the issue but "rather to demonstrate its vision of advancing a nuclear-weapon-free-world." While recognizing that the establishment of NWFZs should be guided by the UN Disarmament Commission's 1999 report "Establishment of nuclear-weapon-free-zones on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at among the States concerned", Belarus defends its right to propose the space's establishment and hopes that consultations could be arranged among states in the region to discuss the objective. Regardless of Belarus' intention not to invite debate on the issue at the Conference, Poland, referring to Belarus' statement at the general debate, said it was surprised that Belarus had brought up the topic and emphasized that 'if indeed the proposal concerned all the region's states', then their views should also be reflected in it. Poland reminded Belarus of the number of countries that had voted against the resolution on the topic at the General Assembly, including the EU. Given the far-apart views on the issue, the text currently in the MC.II report, welcoming the establishment of a nuclear weapon free space in Central and Eastern Europe, it is unlikely that the reference to it will stay unchanged in the final document, if it is to remain there at all.

During the NPT Rebecca Johnson and Jenni Rissanen can be contacted at mobile phone 917 302 2822 and fax 212 935 7690.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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