The Russian delegation’s remarks on nuclear non-proliferation and IAEA Safeguards at the 2nd session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Geneva, April 27, 20

Friday, 04 May 2018 10:27
Category: Foreign Policy News
Written by Vladimir I Poluektov
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Preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons is one of the key challenges within the NPT framework which must be resolved if we want a safer and more stable world.

For fifty years, the NPT has successfully coped with this task. The basic principles underlying the NPT are reliable support in solving the most complicated non-proliferation problems.

This is confirmed by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which resolved the situation around the Iranian nuclear programme. The JCPOA is a balanced mechanism that takes into account the interests of all parties. Disrupting the fragile balance of interests reflected in the JCPOA will lead to serious consequences for international security and the non-proliferation regime. We note that during the session, many delegations have unequivocally spoken in support of the JCPOA.

Tearing up the agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme, without any reason whatsoever and contrary to the will of the international community, will inevitably impact the diplomatic efforts to resolve the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula and will not make it possible to convince the DPRK that possible future agreements with Pyongyang will be honoured.

We express support for the visible progress and burgeoning dialogue on this track. We welcome the DPRK’s announcement on discontinuing its nuclear and missile tests and the use of a nuclear testing site in that country. We regard this decision as an important step forward towards the further relaxation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and the consolidation of positive trends towards normalising the situation in Northeast Asia.

We note with satisfaction that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is developing in a positive way within the framework of the Russia- and China-proposed roadmap for a settlement between the two Korean states, which at its initial stages involves a reciprocal freeze on military activities in the region and the establishment of direct contacts between the DPRK and the United States plus the Republic of Korea, with a subsequent stage of multilateral talks on the comprehensive solution of all problems of the Korean Peninsula, including the nuclear problem.

The IAEA Director General’s reports about the implementation of safeguards in Syria confirm that declared nuclear material has not been diverted, which testifies to Damascus performing its direct obligations under the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement.

In this context, the IAEA Secretariat has failed to prove convincingly that the facility, which was destroyed in Deir ez-Zor in 2007, was in fact an unfinished nuclear reactor. We are convinced that after the eradication of the terrorist threat and normalisation of the situation in that country, the IAEA, in cooperation with the government of Syria, will manage to duly reappraise its former conclusions. The Syrian side has repeatedly stated its readiness to cooperate with the IAEA on any issues under the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. We have no reason to distrust these statements made by the legitimate Syrian authorities.

The IAEA’s system of safeguards remains the basis for verifying states’ performance of their obligations under the NPT. The member-states’ confidence in the IAEA verification mechanism is the key factor in the stability of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. The states must be confident that the safeguards system is objective, depoliticised, technically valid, clear to them, and based on parties’ rights and duties under the safeguards agreements they signed. Undermining this confidence may deal a heavy blow not only to the IAEA but also to the nuclear non-proliferation regime as a whole.   

Any reforms, changes and improvements in the system of safeguards should not call into question the objective and depoliticised nature of the IAEA oversight mechanism. We are for strict political oversight when introducing the concept of implementing safeguards at the state level into IAEA practice. The IAEA member states should have a clear understanding of all the details of the ongoing reform of the safeguard system and, first of all, the collection, analysis and use of information. Conclusions about the fulfillment of their non-proliferation obligations by states can be made solely on the basis of information, the reliability of which the IAEA Secretariat is ready to defend in an open discussion in the Agency's decision-making bodies. Information, the reliability of which cannot be proved, as well as estimates such as "very likely" or "highly likely" should not be taken as evidence.

We believe that greater transparency in the work of the Secretariat is extremely important to increase the safeguard system’s credibility.

We look forward to the earliest possible release of the report of the IAEA Director General on introducing country approaches to implementing safeguards in the states with an expanded conclusion. We see this document as an important stage in crystallising the ongoing reform of the IAEA safeguard system. We expect it to adequately cover the handling of information and drafting of conclusions on safeguards. Otherwise, there will be every reason to raise the question of compiling another report.

However, based on available IAEA compilations, we can already conclude that the so-called state-level safeguards in the form in which they are currently promoted are applicable only to non-nuclear countries that have concluded Additional Protocols to their Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements. Otherwise, there is no legal basis for applying them.

We believe it is important to ensure consistent strengthening of the IAEA safeguards system through universalising the Additional Protocol, which, together with the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, is intended to become a universally recognised standard for verifying compliance by non-nuclear states with their non-proliferation commitments. Notably, the conclusion of the Additional Protocol with the Agency remains a strictly voluntary matter for each state party to the NPT.

We are extremely worried by the situation surrounding the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Washington is refusing to ratify it and creating conditions for the possible resumption of nuclear tests, dealing a major blow to the Treaty and the activities of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission.

Having ratified the CTBT 18 years ago, Russia has consistently demonstrated adherence to this Treaty. We have repeatedly confirmed our readiness to achieve its early entry into force at the level of the Russian President. We intend to continue to make every effort to ensure that the CTBT joins the category of existing international treaties. In line with this work, in October 2017, the first conference of the CTBT Youth Group was held in Moscow, which helped put young people from different countries in contact in an effort to promote this Treaty. We plan to organise another event to support the CTBT in Vienna in May on the sidelines of the Science Diplomacy Symposium.

Today, the CTBT needs the international community’s support more than ever. We can’t allow this important international treaty to fail. We are calling on all its supporters to join efforts and launch a broad international campaign in support of the CTBT. Importantly, the subject of the Treaty should become a key issue on the agenda of international forums on non-proliferation and disarmament. It is this trajectory for the future work related to the CTBT that the upcoming September Ministerial Meeting of the Friends of the CTBT is supposed to set.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Zangger Committee proved in practice the possibility, on a non-discriminatory basis and without prejudice to international cooperation in peaceful use of nuclear energy, to exchange nuclear materials and equipment for processing and producing nuclear materials for civilian purposes in accordance with the NPT provisions.

As part of its exclusively technical mandate, the NSG continues to productively formulate international rules for controlling transfers of nuclear and dual-use goods and technologies. We see our mission at the NSG as helping to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime without creating unjustified difficulties. We note the importance of preserving the Zangger Committee as an export control mechanism established directly within the framework of the NPT. We emphasise that Russia is building its national export control system based on the guidelines and checklists of the CC and the NSG.

Russia takes an active part in discussions of a possible treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices (FMCT), including as part the preparatory Expert Group on FMCT.

At the same time, we would like to note that such discussions are long overdue. The FMCT could have become an exceptionally meaningful arrangement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Over time, its "added value" has significantly declined due to the fact that four nuclear powers have declared voluntary moratoriums on the production of fissile materials, and non-nuclear countries have joined the NPT, which in fact already contains a corresponding ban for them.

Discussing the FMCT in a variety of formats, including on the sidelines of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, in the expert groups, revealed a wide range of views on its possible variables. Obviously, drafting a treaty will require a large amount of preliminary work, and there is no reason to artificially force it.

We are ready for such talks while understanding that they will be held exclusively at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva as part of a balanced agenda and strictly on the basis of a mandate outlined in CD/1299 (Shannon's mandate). Refusal to follow this approach will lead to the collapse of all work on a possible treaty.