The month-long conference on the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has ended by confirming the treaty's importance to the use of nuclear energy and placing pressure on Israel and North Korea.
Every five years the signatories to the NPT meet to discuss progress towards the two ultimate goals of the treaty: the prevention of any new countries gaining nuclear weapons and the elimination of those already held.
A third aim is the provision of a framework for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Its efficacy in that regard was noted by the 189 signatory nations, who wished for the first time in the consensus document for every one of their number to bring into force the NPT's Additional Protocol, which allows the International Atomic Energy Agency important extra powers to check on their nuclear activities. States able to do so were urged to contribute to a extra fund of $100 million for the IAEA to carry out this kind of safeguards work.
|UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon addresses the NPT Review
Conference in early May (Image: UN/Eskinder Debebe)
The commitment of the 'weapons states' (those recognised as holding nuclear weapons: China, France, Russia, the UK and the USA) to their side of the bargain was welcomed, especially the new agreement by Russia and the USA to further limit their forces. At the start of the conference, the USA formally gave 5113 as the number of warheads it had, and after the UK general election that country followed suit by with a declaration of holding 160 operational warheads among a stockpile of 225.
Controversy came with the final document thanks to a section on the Middle East in which the parties committed to a process to achieve the full aims of a 1995 resolution, which remain valid. This means establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, beginning with discussion at UN conference in 2012. Present at such a meeting should be the nuclear weapons states as well as every nation in the region - including Israel, despite its status outside the treaty.
The document recognised "the importance of Israel's accession to the NPT and the placement of all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards," but this was immediately rejected by the country: "The real problem with weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East does not relate to Israel but to those countries that have signed the NPT but brazenly violated it - Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Libya, Syria and Iran." It continued, "As a non-signatory to the NPT, Israel is not obligated by the decisions of this conference, which has no authority over Israel."
Statements from the USA said it "deeply regrets" the specific mention of Israel, which it said had harmed America's ability to help the cause.
In a similarly unrealistic vein, India and Pakistan were both urged to join the NPT as non-nuclear weapons states.
There was no controversy, however, over a paragraph condemning North Korea's nuclear exploits. The conference affirmed that "the situation... constitutes a threat to the peace and security of northeast Asia and the entire international community, and poses a critical challenge to the global non-proliferation regime."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News