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Special articles and reports on timely nonproliferation issues by CNS staff.
Updated: Sep 28, 2009

Declarations, Resolutions, and Revelations: Wrap-up of an Action Packed Week at the United Nations

Summing up the September 2009 CTBTO Conference and UNSC disarmament summit; includes interview with CTBTO's Tibor Tóth.
Kaegan McGrath

Posted: September 28, 2009

The CTBTO Article XIV Conference, held 24-25 September 2009, concluded with a sense of accomplishment for Treaty proponents and CTBTO staff members. However, there was also an air of unease as it was revealed that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been constructing a second uranium enrichment plant in the center of a mountain near the holy city of Qom. This revelation served as a reminder of the importance of embracing a holistic and balanced multilateral approach to dealing with the proliferation threats currently facing the international community, as any additional measures taken to address concerns over Iran's nuclear program would need the support of the international community, particularly the five permanent members of the Security Council. With the passage of the U.S.-sponsored resolution on nonproliferation and disarmament at the Security Council, the adoption of the Final Declaration at the CTBTO conference, and the revelation and condemnation of Iran's enrichment facility by the United States, France, and the United Kingdom at the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh, U.S. President Barack Obama appears to be carrying out his pledge to resurrect U.S. leadership in addressing global threats through multilateral institutions.

Conclusion of the CTBT Conference

For coverage of the first day of the Article XIV Conference see earlier report - "First Day of Article XIV Conference Shows Optimism."

On the final day of the Article XIV Conference, delegates continued to emphasize the positive atmosphere that had been created by U.S. reengagement on the test ban issue and the increased hopes for making serious progress in securing ratifications by more Annex 2 States, eventually culminating in the Treaty's entry into force.[1] Nonetheless, delegates were keenly aware of the complexities and political difficulties of achieving such an outcome. During the conference, Belarus applauded the intention of the United States and Russia to negotiate cuts in their strategic offensive armaments within the context of a START follow-on Treaty, but also noted its regret that the nonproliferation regime was being severely stressed by the recent DPRK nuclear test. The Republic of Korea, which had expressed a sense of optimism about the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula during the 2007 Article XIV Conference, stated its deep concern over the second DPRK nuclear test and Pyongyang's refusal to participate in the Six-Party Talks.

The delegation from Ireland noted that this was a time of welcomed change in the world of nonproliferation and disarmament and that it is well past time for the CTBT to enter into force. Ireland also stated that progress on securing the ratifications of Annex 2 states would enhance the prospects for achieving success at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Vietnam called on states to cease the modernization of nuclear stockpiles and associated delivery systems, and emphasized the importance of the nuclear weapon states (NWS) in taking the lead on nonproliferation and disarmament measures. El Salvador stressed the urgency of bringing into force a legally binding instrument outlawing nuclear explosive tests and expressed its disbelief that we are living in a world where the threat of nuclear weapons still exists. For its part, Montenegro outlined how even small states must play a role in the nonproliferation regime by ensuring nuclear materials and associated technologies do not fall into the wrong hands.

Highlighting some of problems that still remain, early on the second day of the conference Algeria explained that there were mixed signals arising from the meeting. Although there was reason for cautious optimism, Algeria noted its concern that the test ban, one of the 13 practical steps towards nuclear disarmament set forth at the 2000 NPT Review Conference, had not entered into force after 13 years. Algeria further alluded to Israel's obstruction in making headway on negotiating a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East. Although reiterating its government's unequivocal support for the CTBT, the delegation from Israel discussed deficiencies that still needed to be bridged before its concerns with the Treaty were met. These included: "gaps" in the International Monitoring System (IMS), specifically in the Middle East, where the Israeli government considered the level of coverage inadequate; the finalization of the development of technologies and procedures for on-site inspections; and the continuing issue of Israel's equal status within the policy making organ of the Treaty.[2] Near the conclusion of the second day of the conference, Egypt expressed its appreciation of the NWS determination to work towards disarmament, and stated its support for the Treaty as a complimentary reinforcement to the NPT system. However, Egypt also expressed its frustration that 14 years after the NPT was indefinitely extended based on a package of decisions and a resolution on the Middle East, no progress has been made on implementing the Middle East resolution. In this regard, Egypt stated that implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East within the context of the 2010 NPT Review Conference would open doors to a new horizon for the CTBT.

United Nations Security Council Summit

The successful Security Council summit on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament and its adoption of the U.S.-sponsored resolution underlines the importance that the Obama administration has assigned to working through multilateral institutions to progress his administration's arms control agenda. The unanimous adoption of Security Council Resolution 1887 (2009) represents the Council's most comprehensive action on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament since the mid-1990's.[3] Importantly, the resolution included a strong endorsement for CTBT. President Obama, who chaired the summit, remarked during the conference that the resolution enshrined the Council's "shared commitment to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons" and established a framework for actions that would lead to that objective.[4] Although the resolution did not single out any particular states by name, it reaffirmed the Council's past resolutions on the DPRK and Iran, as well as any other relevant resolutions on nonproliferation and disarmament.

Significantly, the text emphasized the role of the Security Council in determining whether non-compliance with nonproliferation obligations constitute a threat to international peace and security, and referred to the Council's responsibilities in addressing these threats. The resolution also called for states to continue identifying modalities with which NPT States Parties could respond collectively to any notifications of withdrawal from the Treaty, and encouraged states to condition the supply of nuclear exports on the right to require the return of such material should the recipient state "terminate, withdraw from, or be found by the IAEA Board of Governors to be in non-compliance with its IAEA safeguards agreement." Other issues addressed in the resolution included multilateral fuel cycle initiatives, negative security assurances, minimization of the use of highly enriched uranium for civilian purposes, implementation of UNSCR 1540, universality of the NPT and the additional protocol, and strengthening nuclear weapon free zones (NWFZ). The resolution did not specifically reference a Middle East NWFZ (MENWFZ), but it did recall the outcomes of the 1995 and 2000 NPT Review Conferences, in which the MENWFZ was an important component.


The message delivered by the Obama administration to the Article XIV Conference and the United Nations this week was absolutely clear; the United States is reengaged in the nonproliferation and disarmament process, and it is now up to every member of the international community to work together to reduce the nuclear threat. President Obama's strong statements regarding the CTBT and other important arms control initiatives underscored the multilateral approach favored by the administration in dealing with such threats to the nonproliferation regime as Iran and the DPRK. Strengthening the NPT regime will require diligent diplomatic maneuvering and bold action on several security related fronts. Whether the international community will succeed in these attempts will be manifested in the outcome of the 2010 NPT Review Conference. As President Obama cautioned in his statement to the Security Council: "The next twelve months will be absolutely critical in determining whether this resolution and our overall efforts to stop the spread and use of nuclear weapons are successful."[5]


[1] Annex 2 states are those, listed specifically in the CTBT, who possessed nuclear reactors in 1996 when the Treaty was open for signature and participated in CTBT negotiations. In order for the Treaty to enter into force all 44 Annex 2 states must sign and ratify the Treaty; 35 Annex 2 states have already ratified.
[2] The CTBT divides states into six geographical regions and Israel belongs to the Middle East and South Asia (MESA) group. Iran has consistently objected to Israel's inclusion in the MESA group, which has prevented the group from performing its proper functions during CTBTO PrepCom meetings, such as electing members to chair CTBTO PrepCom meetings.
[3] "Historic Summit of Security Council Pledges Support for Progress on Stalled Efforts to end Nuclear Weapons Proliferation," Security Council Document SC/9746, Department of Public Information, News and Media Division, New York, 24 September 2009,
[4] U.S. President Barack Obama, Speech at the United Nations Security Council Summit on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Disarmament, 25 September 2009, available from the Council on Foreign Relations at
[5] Ibid.

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