Fissile Material Production Cutoff Treaty [FMCT] Excerpts


23 January 1997


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,

on Thursday, 23 January 1997, at 10 a.m.

President: Mr. Sun (Republic of Korea)


Mrs. BOURGOIS (France) (translated from French):


In the nuclear area, if we consider the United Nations General Assembly, the venue for the highest expression of international public opinion, I must note that in 1993, in resolution 48/75 L, the Assembly recommended by consensus the negotiation in the most appropriate forum of a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for the manufacture of nuclear weapons. In March 1995, prompted by Ambassador Shannon, the delegations of the Conference on Disarmament laid down the mandate of the ad hoc committee to negotiate a treaty on the basis of that resolution. In May 1995, that commitment to draw up a universal treaty was taken up formally in the section devoted to nuclear disarmament in the declaration of principles and objectives subscribed to by the 185 members of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

As you know, France has already taken a number of steps at the national level in this area. As of 1992 my country stopped producing weapons-grade plutonium at Marcoule, and stopped producing highly enriched uranium at Pierrelatte in 1996. Furthermore, in 1996 the President of the Republic announced that those two plants would be closed. France no longer produces fissile material for use in nuclear weapons. With the closures at the Plateau d'Albion and Mururoa and the reductions I have just referred to, France has made a unique effort towards nuclear disarmament, an effort which is consistent with deterrence based on strict sufficiency. My country has therefore unilaterally made irreversible commitments which must facilitate the success of the negotiations on the "cut-off" treaty. We expect as much from countries which have not yet made such commitments, or not on such a scale.

Only a treaty negotiated in the Conference on Disarmament, as the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test­Ban Treaty was, can confer on these commitments the universality which is an essential element to enable the international community to make progress towards nuclear disarmament. Such a treaty will put an end to any possibility of a quantitative resumption of the nuclear arms race, just as the CTBT has put an end to the possibility of a qualitative resumption by making it impossible to develop new types of nuclear weapons which are even more sophisticated. It will impose new constraints on the nuclear­weapon States and any other States which may possess weapons-grade fissile material, and will thus effectively promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in all its aspects. Negotiations on the treaty to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other explosive devices will require a great deal of work because it will be necessary to address the delicate issue of the scope of the treaty, arrangements for verifying compliance with each party's obligations and also implementation. The verification provisions will, if they are properly negotiated, be able to introduce a note of trust which is fundamental in relations among States, both nuclear and non-nuclear, whether or not they have signed the NPT.

To summarize, my country remains convinced, as others are, including our friends from the Non-Aligned group, that because of their importance, nuclear issues must remain at the centre of our Conference's attention. If negotiations are able to begin on the "cut-off", France will do what it can to promote their rapid initiation and speedy conclusion. On the other hand, however, the idea of embarking on a road leading to the setting up of an ad hoc committee entrusted with all the issues of nuclear disarmament is triply problematical for us, or at least raises some questions in our minds. First of all, with regard to procedure, as we are only too aware, and as we hear every day, this is a time for saving money, and it would not be in the interest of the Conference to set up a mechanism, committee or any other arrangement which lacked a precise negotiating mandate and would be limited to disputatious discussions of generalities. The Conference on Disarmament is not a local pub or bar: it should not duplicate the discussions in the First Committee, it should not overlap with the Disarmament Commission. Although there are some who hold the opposite view, this is an automatic corrollary of its restricted membership.

Secondly, with regard to the substance, there is a very clear logic in making the "cut-off" the second set of multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation after the CTBT. If we consider other measures which might be proposed, I cannot see any which has any real meaning, in a gradual and step-by-step process, as long as the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons continues. My country can see in advance that the "cut-off" negotiations presuppose the imposition of new restrictions, new restrictions on non­nuclear­weapon States, whether or not they are parties to the NPT; new restrictions too on the States which have nuclear weapons. Today these are the only type of negotiations which can produce results in both disarmament and non-proliferation.

Lastly, from a practical point of view, we need results. Trying to evade the "cut-off" negotiations, which constitute an essential stage, would mean remaining at the stage of declamatory phrases or placing oneself in the final perspective of nuclear disarmament in the framework of general and complete disarmament: in either case, no concrete progress can be expected in the near future.

France is well aware of the difficulty of reaching an agreement and the fact that the negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material will be long and complex. We know that 185 countries have committed themselves here to implementing the Shannon mandate, agreed two years ago, and beginning the negotiations on a "cut-off", without any conditions and without any linkage to any other measures, but we are also aware that two or three partners are not ready to do so. We do not hope to force them to do so. However, we do hope to convince them to do so.


Mr. HOFFMANN (Germany):


When the Non-Proliferation Treaty was extended indefinitely, it was further qualitatively strengthened by the decisions on "Strengthening the review process for the Treaty" and on "Principles and objectives for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament". The "Principles and objectives" make a significant contribution to some of the main areas of concern to the Conference on Disarmament, in particular nuclear disarmament and security assurances. The first step of the programme of action laid down in the "Principles and objectives" under the heading of nuclear disarmament, the negotiation of a nuclear-test-ban treaty, has been taken.

The second step should be a "cut-off" of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. The objective of such a multilateral and effectively verifiable "cut-off" treaty would be to cap the amount of fissile material available for nuclear weapons. Such a treaty would be a necessary complement to the CTBT.

Nations have long sought such a "cut-off" treaty. In 1993, the forty-eighth United Nations General Assembly finally adopted unanimously resolution 48/75 L calling for "cut-off" negotiations. Two years later - after many months of consultations and based on the valuable work of Canadian Ambassador Shannon - we achieved consensus in the CD on a mandate to negotiate the treaty called for in the resolution. The basis for "cut-off" negotiations being firmly laid, there is no justification in further delaying the establishment of the respective ad hoc committee.

The German Government attaches high priority to the immediate commencement of negotiations on such a convention as a further important contribution towards non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament.


Mr. ZAHRAN (Egypt) (translated from Arabic):


Is it true that there are a number of forums which address nuclear issues, in particular the Conference on Disarmament, which is the sole negotiating forum on disarmament questions, and the General Assembly of the United Nations. However, these issues are not being approached in a comprehensive and conclusive manner and, consequently, the security assurances for the non-nuclear-weapon States provided, jointly and separately, by the nuclear-weapon States, which were reflected in Security Council resolution 984 (1995) still fall short of our expectations since they are conditional, non-comprehensive and not legally binding and have not been negotiated multilaterally. Therefore, the decision on "Principles and objectives" adopted by the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference in May 1995 should be implemented by beginning serious negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a multilateral and legally binding instrument to provide non-nuclear-weapon States with comprehensive security assurances as soon as possible. Furthermore, in this connection I would like to refer to General Assembly resolution 51/43 which recommended that the Conference on Disarmament should actively continue intensive negotiations with a view to reaching early agreement and concluding effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.

The issue of a ban on the production of fissile materials is another case in point. We believe that a ban on the production of fissile materials, should not disregard the past production of those materials, which is commonly referred to as stockpiles, because that would be only a limited measure constituting a partial solution to non-proliferation and could not be considered as a further step towards nuclear disarmament. On this basis therefore, and in conformity with the terms of reference established by Ambassador Shannon the Special Coordinator on this matter, we could begin to negotiate a convention on the prohibition of the production of fissile materials in a committee on nuclear disarmament which the Group of 21 has requested to be established in the CD, because we are considering this question as one of the measures forming part of the nuclear disarmament programme contained in the "Principles and objectives" that were adopted by the NPT Review Conference.

I do not wish to enumerate yet again the very numerous instances in which calls for nuclear disarmament have been made by the international community, I do, however, wish to make reference to General Assembly resolution 51/45 O, which called upon the Conference on Disarmament to establish, on a priority basis, an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament to start negotiations early in 1997 on a phased programme of nuclear disarmament with a view to the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons within a time-bound framework through a nuclear weapons convention.


The meeting rose at 12.25 p.m.