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NPT Treaty extended indefinitely without a vote

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Special: Dedicated to the Non Proliferation Treaty and its Extension conference.

(June 16, 1995) The following is the NPT Update # 20, May 12 by Rebecca Johnson, from the Acronym consortium. The NPT Updates were a service of the ACRONYM Consortium and Disarmament Times during the 1995 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review and Extension Conference.

(433/34.4277) Rebecca Johnson - With a joke about High Noon, the President of the NPT Conference, Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka, brought his gavel speedily down on the decision by 175 out of 178 States Parties, to adopt without a vote indefinite extension of the Treaty, as part of a package of three Presidential proposals:

  • Strengthening the Review Process for the Treaty (L.4)
  • Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (L.5) and
  • Extension of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (L.6).

The 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which entered into force on March 5, 1970, was thus made permanent just after midday on May 11, 1995. Though no mention was made of conditions, the relationship between the three elements was underlined by reference to the decision on strengthening the review and the principles in the preamble of the decision that 'as a majority exists among States party to the Treaty for its indefinite extension in accordance with its article X.2, the Treaty shall continue in force indefinitely.' The President emphasized the link even further by taking a decision on the package before taking separate decisions on each resolution in turn. No-one spoke against. Ambassador Dhanapala's ingenious device to avoid a divisive vote allowed advocates to claim that the Treaty had been indefinitely extended by consensus, while opponents could argue that the decision had merely accepted the legitimacy of the majority decision in accordance with Article X.2.

A fourth resolution, with the unilluminating title of 'The 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons'(L.8), sponsored by the depositary states, Russia, UK and USA, was also agreed without a vote. This was a much watered down version of the resolution proposed on May 9 by 14 Arab League states calling on Israel to accede to the NPT and place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards (L.7). The plenary, scheduled to begin at 10.00 am, was delayed over 2 hours by last minute problems with Iran and Syria over the text brokered the night before between the 14 original Arab sponsors and representatives from the other Groups.

The resolution was then agreed, with an amendment to the paragraph that endorsed the aims of the Middle East peace process, deleting reference to 'obstacles' and recognizing 'efforts, in this regard, as well as other efforts' to contribute towards a 'Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons [and] other weapons of mass destruction'. By agreement of the sponsors, no action was taken on Mexico's resolution (L.1.Rev 1) or the proposal for 25 year rolling fixed periods co-sponsored in the end by Indonesia and 12 other States (L.3).

Comments on the extension decision

The winning combination consisted of carefully negotiated principles, objectives and mechanisms for strengthening the Treaty's implementation, first proposed by South African Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo on the third day of the Conference, and a majority for indefinite extension, demonstrated by 111 co-sponsors to a resolution circulated during the first weeks of the Conference by Canada. Canada's Ambassador Westdal described the package as 'permanence with accountability without division'.

Following the adoption of the four resolutions, taken in quick succession, 24 representatives made short speeches commenting on the decision: Syria, Jordan, Malaysia, China, Nigeria, Iran, Algeria, France on behalf of the European Union and 6 associated States, South Africa, Egypt, Japan, Canada, Lebanon, Tanzania, Belize, Indonesia, Iraq, Mexico, Bangladesh, Libya, Laos, Costa Rica, Kenya and the Philippines.

The main purpose of comments immediately after the taking of such a decision is for dissenting states to place on record their interpretations and concerns, so inevitably the majority of speeches were critical. The Philippines, which had become the 104th co-sponsor of the Canadian resolution, described the principles and strengthened review agreements as 'sugar-coated mechanisms to make [indefinite extension] more palatable...'

Several Arab states castigated Israel's nuclear weapons program again, with some withholding support from the watered down resolution. Libya condemned both the extension decision and the depositary-sponsored resolution on the Middle East. Several delegations, including Nigeria, Malaysia, Jordan, Iraq and Indonesia, reiterated their opposition to indefinite extension, rejecting the idea that there had been consensus on the decision.

There was criticism for the strong-arm pressure exerted to deliver up the numbers. Iraq spoke of the 'mechanical majority'; Iran and Egypt criticized the method of decision-making, though they placed a more positive interpretation on the package as a whole, which Iran called 'conditional indefinite extension.' For Algeria and Japan, the Conference decision must mean reaffirmation of the NPT's objectives, providing a legal permanence and stability for renewed action, especially on nuclear disarmament. China emphasized that 'the unanimous decision on the indefinite extension of the Treaty...should in no way be interpreted as perpetuating the nuclear-weapon States' prerogative to possess nuclear weapons.' Mexico and Japan both took the opportunity to call for a halt to all nuclear testing until a CTBT is in place, with Mexico proposing that the Conference on Disarmament should

put the abolition of nuclear weapons on its agenda as the next logical step. In a speech clearly intended to build bridges, Ambassador Errera of France paid tribute to the active participation of all the delegations and underlined that the international norm of non-proliferation had been reinforced by

today's decision. Above all, however, he attributed the constructive outcome to the skill and moral authority of the Conference President, Ambassador Dhanapala, an assessment expressed by many others throughout the Conference.

As a prominent agent of the Conference decision on indefinite extension, Canada had this to say: "Permanent values – not temporary, uncertain provisions - have today joined the forces of nuclear disarmament. Now the real, enduring pressure begins."

Today the representatives of 175 countries took responsibility for making the NPT permanent. Let us hope they exert the political will in the future to achieve the true objective of non-proliferation: zero nuclear weapons and no nuclear-weapon states, at the earliest possible time.

Source: You can find the NPT updates on the Internet on:
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