Egyptian Ambassador to the United Nations Maged Abdelaziz
Nuclear Disarmament and the 2010 Review Conference
Ambassador Maged A. Abdelaziz
When I received the invitation to attend this conference, I knew that this conference should not be missed, not only because of the high profile attendance that I see around the table but also because of the timing, coming just one week after the conclusion of the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. I wanted to use the opportunity to discuss and explain the review conference’s outcomes: If the review conference was a success, then I needed to explain why the conference was successful. If it was a failure, like the failure that occurred in 2005, then I needed to explain why it was a failure. But I am very happy and glad to share the view just expressed by Ambassador Gottwald that it was a very successful conference. However, a successful conference in the eyes of the NPT does not mean that everybody receives everything they want. Instead, a successful conference means that everybody is equally unhappy. So based on this kind of assumption, we had two major issues to deal with: Global issues and regional issues. I would like to touch on those two issues.
In terms of global issues, the NPT had to overcome difficulties stemming from the failure of the 2005 Review Conference as well as the increased lack of trust between the nuclear weapon states and their allies on the one hand and the non-nuclear weapon states on the other hand. In the past year or year and a half, some 62 countries applied to the IAEA to use power generators that are based on nuclear energy, raising concerns that this might constitute a proliferation threat. This situation has also touched on the issue of how strong individual countries’ rights are to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The topic came up in certain proposals related to possible restrictions on the ability to withdraw from the NPT and on ways to prevent any country that has withdrawn from the Treaty from continuing to benefit from nuclear material or technology transferred prior to its withdrawal. As a result, the member states who have not yet ratified the Additional Protocol have been under increased pressure to do so, especially given that we do not have universality for the original protocol of the NPT. The 2010 Review Conference also deliberated the idea of establishing an international nuclear fuel bank, which would limit the rights of each participating country to enrich uranium themselves and also ensure that they use the uranium only for peaceful uses.
In terms of proliferation threats, we fully realize where the thin red line is and we understand the concerns. However, these concerns are not necessarily substantiated by facts. When we speak about facts, we have to speak about facts according to the verification system of the IAEA, not facts according to political information or facts according to speculation. Ambassador Gottwald mentioned earlier that President Kennedy predicted that something like 30 countries were going to become nuclear weapon possessors. It included a range of countries from Spain, Sweden, and Japan to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. However, the fact of the matter is that none of these countries became nuclear weapon states. Only North Korea, who withdrew from the NPT and still remains outside of the Treaty, acquired nuclear capabilities. In terms of the suspicions surrounding Iran, this is an issue that we have to deal with based on the verification system of the IAEA, not based on private knowledge or on intelligence reports that are not shared internationally and are not subject to any system of verification.
On the other hand, the Non-Aligned Movement and also the New Agenda Coalition, a diverse group comprised of Egypt, Sweden, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil and Mexico, are also heavily focused on promoting nuclear disarmament. In particular, they strongly advocate concluding an obligation or treaty banning the possession of nuclear weapons and providing negative security assurances according to legally binding, comprehensive, and global pledges in a treaty-bound time framework for nuclear disarmament. They have proposed specific timelines for this to the 2010 Review Conference starting from 2015 to 2022. The Non-Aligned Movement has also been pushing for changes in military doctrines and particularly for nuclear posture reviews to be undertaken by a number of countries and by NATO. Of course, there are many participants here from NATO, and I am sure this is a subject of much discussion, particularly with the recent meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Tallinn in April. It provoked debate about the philosophy of NATO nuclear sharing issues as well as on issues of transparency, verifiability, reversibility, all of which are topics of concern to the Non-Aligned Movement.
The issue of universality was also an important aspect of the nuclear disarmament discussions. The goal of achieving universality has suffered a severe blow in the minds of the non-aligned countries that are parties to the NPT due to the India-America deal and the subsequent deals that have built upon it. The waiver given to India by the Nuclear Suppliers Group grants privileges to a non-NPT party that supersede the privileges enjoyed by any of the NPT states themselves. This raises a big question mark: Are we really trying to entice the three countries outside of the NPT to join the Treaty so that the Treaty becomes universal, everybody can accept more restrictions on withdrawal and we can better manage the verification system and ensure the establishment of facts etc.? Or do we want to solidify our agreements with the three countries that remain outside of the Treaty (India, Pakistan, and Israel)? These concerns are all the more worrisome given the rumored possibility of concluding another deal between Pakistan and China, There are indeed talks in progress in this direction.
This brings me to the topic of the Middle East. In the minds of the people living in the Middle East—in Cairo or in Amman or somewhere else—if they see that there is an India-America deal and later a Pakistan-China deal, then they will think that they might wake up one morning and find out that there is an Israel-X country deal. There was therefore a strong push at the Review Conference to deal with the issue of the Middle East and the implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East calling for the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the region. Egypt has frequently played a significant role in the peace process, starting with President Sadat and followed by President Mubarak. It has also worked hard to help achieve universality of the Arab countries in the Middle East. In 1995 we put pressure on Oman and Djibouti to become parties to the NPT. Subsequently, all of the Arab countries that are members of the League of Arab States became parties to the Treaty.
The Review Conferences and Preparatory Committees are the only opportunities for the parties in the region to sit together and discuss issues related to the establishment of the Middle East nuclear-free zone. The basic assumption in dealing with these issues was based on the approach first adopted at the 2000 NPT Review Conference—that is, that Israel should be mentioned and called upon to join the NPT in the document arising from the Review Conference. We had a long discussion about this issue for about eight months leading up to this year’s conference, with many parties involved. There were many different points of view, with one group saying that, “If you want this to be a successful conference, then do not mention Israel because it is going to offend Israelis and they will not come to the negotiating table.” We responded, “Okay, fine. If you do not want us to mention Israel in the document, what are the guarantees you can provide that Israel is going to come to the table?” Our partners in these negotiations could not provide any kind of guarantees and even said, “We cannot guarantee anything. The only thing that we can do is work with you to help convene the conference.” There was therefore no justification why should we drop the mention of Israel from the document, and we managed at the very last moment to reach this very important agreement.