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CD debates negative security assurances

Gabriella Irsten | Reaching Critical Will of WILPF

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) met on Tuesday, 12 June, to discuss the topic of negative security assurances (NSAs). Statements were delivered by the CD President, European Union (EU), Iran, Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Turkey, United States, Philippines, Belarus, France, China, India, Ireland, Indonesia, Australia, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Japan, and Algeria.

CD President Ambassador Kari Kahiluoto of Finland opened the plenary by reading out a factual presentation made by the United Nations Institute for Disarmaments Research (UNIDIR), this time on negative security assurances (NSA).

General thoughts on NSAs
All nuclear weapons possessors took the floor, except for Israel, to deliver views and remarks on NSAs to non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS). France, the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom reiterated that the best way to deal with the issue of NSAs is through existing nuclear weapons free zones (NWFZs), as well as the promotion of more such zones. Russia, France, and China also talked about the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 984 from 1995 as a good example of existing security assurances. The EU called on the five nuclear weapon states (NWS) “to reaffirm, in the appropriate fora, existing security assurances noted by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 984 (1995) and to sign and ratify the relevant protocol on Nuclear Weapons Free Zones.”

China, India, and Pakistan believed that the call by NNWS for a legally-binding instrument on NSAs is justifiable, and said that they would be willing to negotiate such a global treaty. Both China and India reiterated their no-first use policies and explained that further NSAs would make a contribution to enhancing global security.

While the majority of NWS do not seem to be interested in a legally-binding treaty for NSAs, all NNWS that took the floor explicitly argued that the instruments that exist today are not enough to guarantee their security. Mr. Murat Nurtileuov of Kazakhstan stated that UNSCR 984 does not create an adequate international legal obligation and the representative of Ireland, Mr. Robert Jackson, said that this resolution is unclear as it contains caveats that are open to interpretation. He also argued that in several cases, the signature or ratification of NWFZ protocols has been accompanied by unilateral declarations or reservations aimed at retaining the possibility of using nuclear weapons in certain circumstances.

Mr. Jackson also reminded the CD about a proposal by Irish Ambassador Corr last year, that an NSA treaty could almost be written in one sentence, to the affect that, “Each of the parties to this Treaty undertakes never under any circumstances to use, or threaten the use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.” Mr. Mohammed Hassan Daryaei from the Iranian delegation supported the Irish proposal and added that the current assurances “remain partial, declarative and limited with no legal burthen on the part of nuclear weapon states…. Let alone the recent developments that some nuclear weapon states fully breach these commitments and in explicit and implicit manners threaten the non-nuclear weapon states.”

Ambassador Mikhail Khvostov of Belarus stressed that NSAs cannot be assured by political promises or statements, arguing, “we need a legally binding treaty”. Mr. Hamza Khelif from the Algerian delegations linked the issue of NSAs to the UN Charter and the collective security system, especially to the principle of nonviolence in international relations. Indonesia, Australia, and Pakistan also elaborated on the caveats in the current NSA instruments.

NSAs through NWFZs
Many CD members spoke on the topic of NWFZs and their contribution to providing NSAs to NNWS, including Australia, Japan, and Turkey, and some of the NWS. Ambassador Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel of France stated that his delegation believes that the provision of NSAs in a regional context through NWFZs is important. The Russian delegation explained that Russia has granted NSAs for about 120 states through NWFZ protocols as well as to Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Ambassador Alexey Borodavkin of Russia also stated that this number will increase as NWFZs are spreading. Ambassador Laura Kennedy of the US noted that the US has provided NSAs for all NPT states in full compliance with their obligations under the Treaty. She also stated that the US is “doing our part to extend Negative Security Assurances (NSAs) using this valuable instrument of NWFZs.” France, Russia, and the US also drew attention to their upcoming signing of the Bangkok NWFZ treaty, which will extend assurances to ten more countries.

Working in the CD
China, Pakistan, India, and Iran supported negotiations of NSAs in the CD. Ambassador Akram of Pakistan also highlighted that more than half of the CD member states support negotiations on an NSA treaty in the CD and so far no state has officially said no to discussions on this topic in the CD. Ireland said that although it does not have a particular preference on where NSAs should be negotiated, it saw some value of doing it in the CD.

Australia highlighted that it is ready to work on NSAs in the CD based on the actions 6, 7, and 15 from the Outcome Document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Ambassador Jo Adamson of the UK explained that while the fissile materials cut-off treaty is the priority for her delegation in the CD, NSAs are a legitimate discussion subject for informal meetings.

Next meeting
The next plenary meeting will be held on Thursday, 14 June, at 10:00. This plenary will deal with revitalization of the CD.