Well folks, the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference has successfully produced a consensus final document! This is the third time in the 40-year history of the Treaty that a consensus document has been achieved, so it is a not-unsubstantial achievement, especially given the tense negotiations that sometimes accompanied the month-long negotiations.
The past 24 hours in particular witnessed tense negotiations surrounding one complicated and highly politicized issue in particular: Israel. Their nuclear weapons program is the big open secret of the international community, and this NPT RevCon witnessed a contentious debate surrounding their being called out on it.
Negotiations between Egypt (representing the Non-Aligned Movement states) and the United States in the final hours of the conference resulted in the United States capitulating in the interest of achieving a consensus document and allowing the following language to remain in the final document:
The Conference recalls the reaffirmation by the 2000 Review Conference of the importance of Israel’s accession to the Treaty and the placement of all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards.
Immediately after agreeing to the final document, states were given the opportunity to speak. Amidst a river of thanks to the Review Conference President, Indonesian Libran Nuevas Cabactulan, there were some pointed remarks. Among them were words by the United States delegate, State department official Ellen Tauscher, that the United States “deeply regrets” that Israel was called out by name in the final text to join the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state and participate in a 2012 conference on the establishment of a Mideast Nuclear Weapon Free Zone.
Meanwhile, other states — from Egypt (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement) to Lebanon and Algeria — reiterated their position that a reaffirmation of the intention to implement the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East was a vital point to be included in the final document.
Other areas of disagreement that were ultimately sidelined in order to reach consensus were: the encouragement of stronger safeguards, particularly through the adoption of the Additional Protocol; a timeline for complete disarmament (NAM states in particular had been calling for a firm date of 2025 as the goal for complete disarmament by the nuclear weapon states); negative security assurances, i.e. a guarantee on the part of nuclear weapon states that they will not use their nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states; and a moratorium on the production of fissile material, amongst other issues.
Overall, the consensus final document can be viewed as a success. Despite immense tension between some of the states party to this treaty, a substantive consensus document was still achieved through a month of gritty diplomacy. We would wish that the efforts of political rivals working alongside each other in the interest of disarmament and non-proliferation would encourage further diplomacy and frank discussions between countries. The NPT Review Conference is only every five years, yet the cooperation and frank discussions witnessed at the RevCon should occur with much more frequency.