Saturday,24 February, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1248, (28 May - 3 June 2015)
Saturday,24 February, 2018
Issue 1248, (28 May - 3 June 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Irresolution

The 2015 NPT Review Conference failed to reach a consensus on any substantive outcome, reports Doaa El-Bey

Hisham Badr
Hisham Badr
Al-Ahram Weekly

Due to what were described as major differences on building a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference ended last Friday in New York without approving a final document. It had been expected that the final draft of the conference’s concluding statement would task the UN with convening an international conference by March 2016 on creating a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, with or without the participation of Israel, the sole possessor of a nuclear arsenal in the Middle East, which did not sign the NPT.

Hisham Badr, Head of the Egyptian delegation to the conference, said he did not feel there were major differences among attendees. “The overwhelming majority of the NPT member states endorsed the views and proposals presented by Egypt and the Arab Group, as they shared our frustration towards the continued failure to implement the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East,” he said.

Badr ascribes the failure of the conference to the US, Canada and the UK, which united to block the final document of the conference, relating to nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The president of the conference, Badr elaborated, presented a draft document that was agreed on collectively by the countries participating and the geographical and political groups. “Despite great expectations from the whole world, the three delegations broke the consensus on strengthening the NPT and striving for a world free of nuclear weapons,” Badr added.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon shared Badr’s disappointment at the end of the conference. He said in a statement released by his spokesperson that he regrets that the states were unable to narrow their differences on the future of nuclear disarmament or to arrive at a new collective vision on how to achieve a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.

NPT review conferences have been held every five years since the treaty went into effect in 1970. Twenty years have passed since the 1995 NPT Conference adopted a resolution calling for the establishment of a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East. The establishment of such a zone has become enshrined in the NPT as “an essential element of the 1995 Conference and the basis on which the Treaty was indefinitely extended without a vote in 1995”, according to the 2010 NPT Action Plan.

Despite the crucial importance of the 1995 Resolution to the integrity and the sustainability of the treaty, it remains unfulfilled despite the agreement in 2010 on practical steps to implement it.

When Tel Aviv objected to the present NPT, US Arms Control under Secretary Rose Gottemoeller argued that the proposed idea did not stand a chance of success without the consent of all sides involved. Britain also said the terms for convening the conference were “a stumbling block for us,” while Canada said it could not agree to the document because of the provisions.

Badr described the NPT as a “grand bargain” that the nuclear weapon states would get rid of their weapons in return for a commitment by non-nuclear weapon states not to seek nuclear armament. “While non-nuclear states have respected this on the whole, nuclear states have not abided till now to their legal obligations and have not complied with the letter or the spirit of the treaty,” he said. This failure was therefore the core of the discussion in New York.

In the present conference, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Arab Group have presented working papers providing a simplified approach laying out practical and detailed steps for initiating the implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East. The elements in the Working Papers were in accordance with the principles for the establishment of nuclear weapons-free zones as adopted by the UN General Assembly and by the UN Disarmament Commission.

In fact, Badr said, Egypt, the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement have cooperated to a remarkable extent, showing willingness to accept most of the language and ideas that were proposed, including the consensus, a preparatory process, the participation and invitation of all states of the region and the appointment of a special representative of the UN Secretary General. Yet this was not enough.

“This latest attempt was indeed compromised by the lack of sufficient political will by some of the signatories of the 1995 Resolution,” Badr added. As for the future, “Egypt will continue its stalwart commitment to creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.”

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