Nuclear Abolition News Analysis
By Ramesh Jaura*
BERLIN - Heart-rending images of Fukushima disaster and a tidal wave of popular uprisings in the Arab world threatened to blur the compelling need for a nuke liberated Middle East as part of a world free of nuclear weapons. A transcontinental 10-nation initiative seeks to jolt the international community out of a mind numbing stupor. [P] GERMAN | JAPANESE TEXT VERSION PDF
While pointing to "the danger to humanity posed by the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons and the necessity to address increased proliferation risks, to decrease nuclear arsenals, to strengthen nuclear security and to improve nuclear safety," foreign ministers of 10 non-nuclear states have pledged "to promote the creation of a zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East."
In doing so, short of stressing the critical role of the global civil society, they have indirectly endorsed key aspects of the Peace Proposal 2011 launched in January by Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Buddhist organisation based in Tokyo, with some 12 million members around the world.
Complete elimination of all atomic weapons -- and not just nuclear disarmament -- with the civil society playing a significant role, is the only absolute guarantee against the threat of nuclear weapons, the Peace Proposal stated.
Though the ten foreign ministers, who conferred on April 30 in Berlin, disregard the critical role of the global civil society, they have vowed to "actively promote disarmament and non-proliferation education, based on our conviction that education is a powerful tool for mobilizing further disarmament and non-proliferation efforts globally by enhancing awareness and understanding among our citizens."
The Ten say: "We welcome and support the renewed call for the total elimination of nuclear weapons as the only guarantee against their use or threat of use, and consequently see the need to further reduce the numbers of nuclear weapons as well as their role in security strategies, concepts, doctrines and policies."
Referring to security strategies that buttress nuclear doctrines, Ikeda argued in his Peace Proposal: "It is necessary to thoroughly challenge the theory of deterrence upon which nuclear weapons possession is predicated: the assumption that the maintenance of security is realized through a balance of terror."
In their 'Berlin Statement', the foreign ministers of Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates reaffirm their "joint intention to work towards achieving nuclear disarmament and a strengthening of the international non-proliferation regime," by working on "specific actions aimed at reinforcing states' export control systems which play an important non-proliferation role."
The foreign ministers of ten countries stretching across continents and regional blocks refer to the joint statement adopted at their first meeting in New York on September 22, 2010, on sidelines of the UN General Assembly. The meeting was co-hosted by the foreign ministers of Australia and Japan.
Ikeda pointed out in his Peace Proposal that "enduring regional stability in the Middle East is unthinkable without denuclearization," and called for creating "conditions propitious to negotiations for a Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons".
Such conditions must be created without any loss of time, he said, adding: "It is . . . far from certain that the international conference on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East agreed to by last year's NPT Review Conference will in fact be held as scheduled in 2012, much less that it will produce a successful outcome."
The uncertainly about the 2012 conference on the Middle East underlines the need for further efforts to create the conditions for dialogue, said Ikeda.
Apparently sharing SGI president's concern, the Ten assure: "We intend to promote the establishment of internationally recognized nuclear-weapon-free-zones, on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at among states of the region concerned, and in accordance with the 1999 Guidelines of the UN Disarmament Commission, convinced that such zones strengthen global as well as regional peace and security, reinforce the nuclear non-proliferation regime and contribute to the achievement of nuclear disarmament."
"In this respect," they underline "the crucial need to promote the creation of a zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, in line with pending requirements for the organization in 2012 of the special conference agreed at the 2010 NPT Review Conference."
The landmark NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was convened in May 2010 at the UN headquarters in New York.
The NPT, which came into force in 1970, is one of the United Nations' main set of rules regarding nuclear disarmament and the prevention of proliferation. 190 states are party to the treaty, but four nations that are known or believed to possess nuclear weapons -- India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel -- have not endorsed it.
The Ten feel "encouraged by recent developments, in particular the entry-into-force of the U.S.- Russian New START Treaty and the stated intention of both parties to continue the process of reductions, stressing the need to include all categories of nuclear weapons."
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was, however, more specific in his opening remarks at the Berlin conference: "We expect the nuclear weapon states to honour the commitments they entered into at the NPT conference last May."
And: "We would welcome a faster pace in nuclear disarmament and a reduced role of nuclear weapons in military doctrines. The world must not lose the momentum that has carried disarmament since President Barack Obama's speech in Prague (in April 2009)."
Westerwelle applauded Russia and the U.S. for returning to the negotiating table. "This is good news for all of us," he said. "Bilaterally, the process seems well on track. Multilaterally, we seem closer to derailing."
Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd appeared to share this view when he pointed out that one year after the latest review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, "We have seen very little practical work done."
But the Ten are optimistic, as Westerwelle put it, that "in the weeks and months to come, our initiative can be instrumental to restart multilateral negotiations. Together we can better overcome entrenched positions, especially at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva."
The joint effort reflects "the importance of an issue that has a direct bearing on the future of humankind," said Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa commenting the initiative launched in Berlin.
The Berlin Statement says, the consensus reached in May 2010 by the NPT Review Conference on the forward-looking Action plan proves that cooperative, multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation efforts can work if there is the necessary political will.
"Our objective is to maintain the momentum of that successful outcome and to expedite its implementation," the Ten state. With that purpose they have adopted four concrete proposals for action on key elements of the Action plan.
1. Halting the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons by agreeing on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT): Such a treaty would curb the risk of future nuclear arms races and reduce the danger of non-state actors getting such material into their hands. It would complement ongoing efforts to secure vulnerable nuclear material across the globe.
FMCT is "an indispensable step on the way towards a nuclear weapon free world," the Ten say, adding: "We are deeply disappointed that one year after the NPT Review Conference, which called in its Action plan for the immediate negotiation of an FMCT in the Conference on Disarmament (CD), this has not been implemented."
Without naming any countries blocking an accord, the Berlin Statement acknowledges that the security requirements of all states must be addressed in the course of negotiations, but underlines that "there is no reason and no excuse for further delay."
The signatories of the Statement led by Australia, Japan and Germany have initiated intensive efforts to overcome the current deadlock -- caused mainly by Pakistan -- in Geneva Conference on Disarmament.
"However, if the CD, in its 2011 substantive session, remains unable to find agreement on launching FMCT negotiations, we will ask the UN General Assembly, which is already seized of the matter under agenda item 162 entitled 'Follow-up to the high-level meeting held on 24 September 2010: Revitalizing the work of the Conference on Disarmament and taking forward multilateral disarmament negotiations', to address the issue and consider ways to proceed with the aim of beginning negotiations," the Ten announce.
2. Entry-into-force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) opened for signature 15 years ago: The foreign ministers call on all States which have not yet done so to sign and ratify the CTBT.
"We are encouraged by the commitment expressed by the United States and by Indonesia to ensure ratification of the Treaty. We believe that an effective end to nuclear testing will enhance and not weaken our national as well as global security and would significantly bolster the global non-proliferation and disarmament regime," notes the Berlin Statement.
"We are committed to universalizing the Treaty and to promoting its early entry-into-force. Utilizing various diplomatic opportunities we will urge states that have not done so to sign and ratify the Treaty and promptly complete the steps necessary to bring it into force. We are committed to support the Preparatory Commission of the CTBT-Organization in setting up an effective monitoring and verification system and commend the work already accomplished," the foreign ministers pledge.
TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
3. Transparency and accountability in the nuclear disarmament process: At the May 2010 NPT Review Conference, the nuclear weapon states committed themselves to speed up progress on tangible steps leading to nuclear disarmament, and to report back to NPT member states. As a confidence-building measure, the Conference encouraged the nuclear weapon states to agree as soon as possible on a standard reporting form.
Foreign ministers of 10 nations say: "We are developing a draft of a standard reporting form which could be used by the nuclear weapon states in meeting that commitment. We will invite the nuclear weapon states to examine our proposal at their Paris meeting in June (2011)."
The proposal sets out the Ten's expectations regarding information that they would like to see all states possessing nuclear weapons provide. "We believe that reporting on the basis of a standardized format, as encouraged in the Action plan adopted by the Review Conference, would build international confidence and help to create a climate conducive to further disarmament. We consider it essential to increase transparency and accountability in the nuclear disarmament process."
4. Verifying states' compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations: The Berlin Statement underlines that an effective non-proliferation regime is a joint security interest of all nations. Accordingly, the Ten recognise the important role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in verifying states' compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.
They highlight the fact that with the entry into force of the IAEA Additional Protocols for the United Arab Emirates in December 2010 and for Mexico in March 2011, all countries belonging to the Ten's cross-regional initiative implement Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols, which they regard as the necessary verification standard.
The foreign ministers call on all states, in line with the Action Plan of the May 2010 NPT Review Conference, to conclude and bring into force Additional Protocols in order to give the IAEA the additional authority it needs credibly to deter and detect violations of non-proliferation obligations.
The Ten add: "We will continue to advocate bilaterally and multilaterally for the universal application of the Additional Protocol in our respective regions. We offer to share experiences and best practices in the conclusion and implementation of the Additional Protocol with all interested parties, and are ready to provide legal, and other, assistance."
The Ten will take stock of progress on Berlin proposals at their meeting on sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September 2011. Turkey will host the next ministerial meeting of the initiative in 2012.
*Jamshed Baruah contributed to this article. (Media Network GC Council/30.04.2011)
2011 Media Network GC Council (Global Cooperation Council)
Image: Ten foreign ministers with entourage | Crefit: German Foreign Office
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