20 May 1998

Press Release



(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 19 May (UN Information Service) -- Countries at the Conference on Disarmament called this morning for the immediate start of negotiations on a treaty to ban the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, Kassymzhomart Tokayev, told the Conference his country had already taken steps to abandon the nuclear heritage. He listed among those steps the shipment of 600 kilograms of highly enriched uranium in 1994 to the United States under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Mr. Tokayev recalled that the Government of Kazakhstan had expressed concern over the nuclear tests conducted by India last week.

The representative of France said a "cut-off" of fissile materials production would be one way for the Conference to react to the Indian tests. A "cut-off" treaty would mean a uniform commitment on the part of all parties that adhered to it and would thus be non-discriminatory, she said.

But the representative of Pakistan said statements like France's and proposals to start talks on "cut-off" now were a waste of time, given India's actions. The Conference should address non-proliferation and not engage in token actions at a time when Pakistan and the international community faced the gravest threat in decades, he said. The Conference should adopt a strategic pause and reflect on the situation the world faced following India's tests and its claims to have become a nuclear-weapon State, he added.

Also this morning, outgoing Conference President Taher Al-Hussami of Syria said he was leaving the podium with a profound sense of satisfaction in view of what he had been able to achieve in a short period. During Mr. Al-Hussami's tenure, on 26 March, the Conference adopted a compromise proposal to establish an ad hoc committee on negative security assurances (NSAs) and appoint special coordinators for other issues on the agenda. The Conference also decided that the presidency "shall pursue intensive consultations and seek the views of its members on appropriate methods and approaches for dealing with agenda item 1 entitled "Cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament". According to Mr. Al-Hussami, those consultations had started.

At the close of this morning's meeting, the newly appointed Chairman of the ad hoc committee on NSAs, Antonio de Icaza of Mexico, requested that an informal meeting of that panel be convened for an initial discussion and to decide on the organization of its work.

The next plenary meeting of the Conference is set for 10 a.m. on Thursday, 28 May.

Statement by Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan

KASSYMZHOMART TOKAYEV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, said the Conference on Disarmament was a unique multilateral forum that had proved its efficiency in terms of conduct of negotiations on the most acute disarmament issues. Kazakhstan gave its due to the outstanding success of the Conference in drafting such documents as the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Kazakhstan was devoted to the strengthening of international security, the development of cooperation among States and the enhancement of the role of international organizations in the settlement of global problems and conflicts. In signing the CTBT, Kazakhstan had stated its desire to work towards the strengthening of nuclear tests control regime. Modernization of the seismic station in Makanchi, listed in the first tier of the Global Monitoring System, would be launched this year. In September in Kurchatov, there would be an international conference on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, devoted to the tenth anniversary of the first joint experiment on nuclear tests control.

On 13 May, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan had made an official statement concerning nuclear tests in India, the Foreign Minister continued. As a State which had on its own abandoned the nuclear heritage, firmly devoting itself to the non-proliferation regime, Kazakhstan could not but state its deep concern over the fact that the development of nuclear weapons in India endangered the intention of the international community to reach progress on nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. Moreover, nuclear tests in India had a negative impact on the development of the situation in the region. Unfortunately, the world faced a real threat of escalation of nuclear arms race. The Conference should, without any delay, this year initiate negotiations on a fissile materials cut-off treaty, he went on. Kazakhstan would continue to make its own contribution to the non-proliferation of nuclear materials and technologies. The proof of that was the shipment of 600 kilograms of highly enriched uranium in 1994 to the United States under IAEA safeguards. Kazakhstan was also ready to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Provision of security assurances to the non-nuclear-weapon States remained the focus of discussions at the Conference, he said. Non-nuclear- weapon States had advanced a fair demand, believing that if they renounced the possession of nuclear weapons by meeting their obligation under article 2 of

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the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), they had a full right to receive firm, legally binding, so-called "negative" security assurances. One way to solve that issue was to adopt a protocol on security assurances which would be part and parcel of the NPT.

Statements in Debate

MOHAMED-SALAH DEMBRI (Algeria) said the results of the just concluded second session of the 2000 Review Conference of the States Parties to the NPT and the recent developments in South Asia led one to question the real breadth of achievements reached in the area of non-proliferation and the willingness of everyone at the Conference to deal with nuclear disarmament as a matter of collective and individual responsibility of States. As Algeria had always underlined, it was still to be established, in practice, that non-proliferation was an essential basis for disarmament. The interaction between the two was obvious: non-proliferation permitted disarmament, and disarmament preserved and consolidated non-proliferation. In that respect, nuclear disarmament remained the unavoidable objective, part and parcel of general and complete disarmament. In order to achieve that objective, it was urgent to take concrete measures collectively within the Conference according to a timetable, even if only indicative. The first of those measures had already been identified -- a ban on fissile materials. However, a ban was insufficient by itself, as it must be part of a multilateral dynamic integrating other measures agreed after common reflection. Furthermore, in order for a ban to strengthen non-proliferation and contribute to nuclear disarmament, there should be specific work on existing stocks. Those were the two most urgent tasks to undertake in the Conference in order to avoid a repetition of the recent events in South Asia and to complement other work in the field of disarmament.

MILAN SVOBODA (Czech Republic) said his country's Foreign Minister had learned with concern and disappointment of the nuclear tests conducted by India. The actions by India went against the prevailing norm in the international community in favour of non-proliferation and the banning of nuclear testing. The Czech Republic associated itself with the statement of the European Union on the subject.

MARKKU REIMAA (Finland) said Finland placed special importance on starting negotiations on the fissile material cut-off treaty, as proposed in February by Austria. Finland considered cut-off as the indispensable next step forward in the process of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. It hoped the Conference would be able to establish an ad hoc committee for the fissile material cut-off treaty on the basis of the agreed mandate. Finland also welcomed the decision to establish an ad hoc committee on effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. The establishment of the first ad hoc committee in the Conference since the conclusion of the CTBT was significant as such.

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JOELLE BOURGOIS (France) said her country intended to contribute in a constructive manner to the reflection on nuclear disarmament. From the moment on 13 June 1995 when the French President had announced simultaneously the resumption of nuclear testing and its decision to sign the CTBT, France was proud of the progress it had achieved in that area. France had taken steps to dismantle its land component; following the dismantling of the surface-to- surface missiles in the Albion plateau, none of the nuclear assets of the French dissuasion force was now targeted. Furthermore, the levels of alert of the air and sea forces had been reduced in accordance with the new strategic context. Regarding the production of fissile materials, the cessation of production in 1992 and 1996, respectively, of plutonium for explosive military use and of highly enriched uranium was well known. France had gone as far as to dismantle the installations that produced those materials, meaning that even if the international situation warranted it, production could not resume in those sites. This was in addition to the taking down of nuclear test sites in conformity with the commitments undertaken by France upon signature of the CTBT.

France's efforts in the area of disarmament must be pursued in the multilateral arena, she said. The start of negotiations on a treaty to ban the production of fissile materials, or "cut-off", was imperative. Such a treaty would mean a uniform commitment on the part of all States parties and would thus be non-discriminatory: the prohibition on the production of fissile materials, part of the commitments undertaken by non-nuclear-weapon States in becoming parties to the NPT, would be extended to other States. It would also imply the establishment of a universal and efficient verification regime, in conformity with the "Shannon" mandate. Negotiations on such a treaty could and should start without delay.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said his Government wished to draw attention to the series of statements emanating from the highest levels of India's leadership following that country's series of five nuclear tests last week.

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They had stated that they had a "big bomb", and that its command and control were in place. Therefore, it was clear that India had already recognized its nuclear weapons capability. The Indian leadership had further stated that India was a nuclear-weapons State. Pakistan would welcome a response from the Conference and, in particular, from the major sponsors of the NPT as to that declaration. India had stated that it would continue subcritical testing of nuclear weapons regardless of the CTBT. Pakistan would welcome a response to that assertion, as well. The Indian leadership had stated that it was prepared to use nuclear weapons in case of an attack or an aggression: it was clear that the threat was held out in the case of either conventional or non-conventional use of force. India had created a situation of great political, military and, indeed, nuclear crisis in the region.

Pakistan had been asked to exercise restraint, he continued. It would be apparent to all from Pakistan's responses and actions that it had acted with circumspection and restraint. But Pakistan had to respond to the threat now posed to its security and, indeed, to its survival. Pakistan must take into account not only its capability but also the response of the international community. The Government and the people of Pakistan were deeply disappointed by the reaction of the international community to the recent grave and serious developments. Today's meeting of the Conference had seen examples of that pusillanimity. Some even spoke of a test in South Asia; the tests had taken place in India, not "South Asia".

As the Prime Minister of Pakistan had stated, the country would not act in haste, Mr. Akram said. Pakistan would choose its own time to respond to the new situation and the new threat. But the Prime Minister had added that the very essence of the non-proliferation regime had been shattered by India•s actions. The CTBT was now a questionable restraint as far as India was concerned, while a fissile materials cut-off treaty would not be responsive to the threat Pakistan faced and would not change for the better the erosion of the non-proliferation regime that had taken place. Statements, such as the one from France, and proposals to set up an ad hoc committee on fissile materials cut-off treaty, were a waste of time. The Conference should address non-proliferation and not engage in token actions at a time when Pakistan and the international community faced the gravest threat in decades. The Conference should adopt a strategic pause and reflect on the situation the world faced following India's tests and its claims to have become a nuclear- weapon State.

Ms. BOURGOIS (France) said it was her duty to respond to the concern and disappointment expressed by the representative of Pakistan. France did not hesitate to name the actors of protagonists in any process of destabilization in the world. The statement following the recent G-8 meeting in Birmingham had unambiguously condemned the Indian tests. Of course, France believed the Conference was probably not in a position, because of its very nature, to attack an issue. Still, a possible decision on a subject under discussion was

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still relevant, in the short and the medium terms. That was why it seemed to France that initiation of negotiations on "cut-off" would bring with them two positive results: to provide a response to the situation which could not be given at the Conference by any other means, and to preserve more than ever the point of contact which existed in Geneva in the interest of all.

Mr. AKRAM (Pakistan) said he was an admirer of Cartesian logic, but he must confess that he could not discern that logic in the statement of Ambassador Bourgois. According to her statement, as the Conference could not do anything, let it do something irrelevant, since it would make participants feel better. That was not the response of a serious body like the Conference or of a serious power like France.

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