Tuesday, 25 April 2000

Mr Hubert de La Fortelle (French Representative to the Conference on Desarmament)

Mr President,

I should first like to congratulate you most warmly on your election as President of this Review Conference. You can rely on the fullest support from the French delegation in the exercise of your important duties. It will spare no effort in ensuring the success of the Conference under your authority.

Mr President,

The 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons marked a decisive step in the reinforcement of the non-proliferation instruments and in the nuclear disarmament process.

By taking the decision to adopt the indefinite extension of the Treaty, the States Parties chose to preserve its considerable achievements since it entered into force in 1970. In so doing, they provided a long-term foundation for this cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime, on which nuclear disarmament rests.

By adopting two more Decisions, one on Strengthening the review process for the Treaty and the other on the Principles and objectives for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, as well as a Resolution on the Middle East, we had emphasised that the Treaty's extension went hand in hand with a dynamic and resolute approach to the Treaty's implementation.

The 2000 NPT Review Conference is a landmark event for the international community. It gives an opportunity for us to take stock on essential issues, in the framework of the reinforced review process. It is incumbent on us to do all what we can to preserve and to consolidate the NPT as an irreplaceable instrument.

Mr. President,

The success of this undertaking entails a comprehensive and balanced approach in the three key areas covered by the Treaty, namely non-proliferation, the applications of atomic energy for peaceful purposes, and disarmament. My country is convinced that the documents adopted in 1995 remain of fundamental importance as a guide to our work in the review process.

Article VI of the Treaty has conferred on my country special responsibilities as a nuclear-weapon State. Therefore, I should like to begin by going into the detail of the implementation of the NPT's section on disarmament (Part I). I shall then discuss the two other issues, that of safeguards (Part II) and of the applications of atomic energy for peaceful purposes (Part III).

I/ As regards nuclear disarmament, Decision 2 of 1995 introduced an ambitious and practical programme. What has it achieved to date and what are the prospects for the future?

1. I should first like to emphasise the unilateral measures adopted by France and the United Kingdom.

France committed itself unequivocally in favour of nuclear disarmament in accordance with the provisions of article VI and of decision 2 of 1995. Allow me to briefly recall the scope of the measures which were taken :

- With the complete phasing out of the land-based nuclear component, our assets are now limited to two components. Moreover, we have carried out a reduction in the format of the airborne and sea-based components. In parallel, the total number of delivery vehicles has been cut by more than half.

- With the ratification of the CTBT, the definitive closure of the Mururoa test site, the termination of the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons and the ongoing dismantling of the corresponding facilities, France took radical, irreversible, and unparalleled measures.

- The operational characteristics of nuclear forces were adjusted. With the dismantling of the French surface-to-surface missiles on the Plateau d'Albion, no component of the French nuclear deterrent force remains targeted. The alert status of our nuclear forces was reduced twice, as was announced on the 9th of June 1992 and the 23rd of February 1996.

- Lastly, by giving the security assurances mentioned in Resolution 984 of the UN Security Council and by ratifying the relevant protocols to the treaties establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones, which are legally binding instruments concerning more than a hundred States, France has met the legitimate security concerns of those countries.

Mr President,

Informing and explaining have become the imperatives of our time. France is convinced of the merits of enhanced transparency as a true voluntary confidence-building measure designed to support disarmament efforts. Our actions, such as the opening of the test site in the Pacific to international visits, bear witness to this determination to achieve transparency. The reference work drafted by the French government and distributed here today before being published is fully in keeping with this logic.

2. We commend the achievements of the bilateral process between the United States and the Russian Federation, recently illustrated by the authorisation for ratification by the Russian Duma. We are all aware of the central contribution the global reduction through the START process of strategic nuclear arsenals deployed by these two key players makes to the nuclear disarmament process.

3. Lastly, as regards the multilateral process, a decisive step was fulfilled with the negotiation and the conclusion of the CTBT in time, barely a year after the 1995 conference. However its entry into force still remains highly uncertain. We call on all States that haven't yet done so, in particular those among the 44 States whose ratification is necessary for the entry into force of the Treaty, to sign and ratify the CTBT at an early date. Furthermore, negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty, as the next inescapable step in the process, have not yet begun at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. France regrets that this negotiation hasn't started yet.

France regrets this all the more that it has, for its part, spared no effort in order to have the steps defined by decision 2 of 1995 implemented as early as possible. It signed the CTBT on the 24th of September 1996 and was the first nuclear -weapon State, together with the United Kingdom, to ratify it on April 6th 1998. France moreover committed itself very strongly, notably in the spring of 1998, in favour of the immediate commencement of the cut-off negotiation.

Mr. President

B/ Today, we call on the international community to acknowledge the importance of what has been achieved, with a view to an enhanced understanding of prospects for the future. What should be our preoccupations during the next five years?

The world is still going through a period of change and instability and seeking new equilibrium. Faced with this situation, it appears more than ever indispensable to preserve and to implement decision 2 of 1995. Nothing would be more dangerous than attempting to redraft every five years the fundamental principles and objectives contained in this key document. By definition, the principles laid down to overcome short-term contingencies are of general scope. As to objectives, they cannot be subjected solely to timetable imperatives.

1. Thus, our priority remains unchanged, i.e. to secure the early entry into force of the CTBT, and the prohibition of the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons thanks to the immediate launch of the concrete FMCT negotiation.

This approach is more than ever relevant for three reasons.

Firstly, because these are steps whose importance in helping fully to implement Article VI of the NPT was recognised in a consensual manner in decision 2 of 1995 by the States party to the NPT. And this owing to the own merits of those two treaties: the CTBT and the FMCT are constituent elements of the nuclear disarmament process, one contributing to curb the development and the qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons, the other helping to cap their quantitative development.

Secondly, as this is the only approach that makes it possible to secure the adherence by all States, whether party or not to the NPT, to universal, non-discriminatory, verifiable and hence credible standards. This is the only way for us to ensure that this authentic and indispensable multilateral process regains its full relevance.

This approach, finally, enables States that have chosen not to participate in the NPT to prove their will to own up to their responsibilities, thereby demonstrating their commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. A development in this direction would help to ensure the sustainable strengthening of the NPT. It doubtless would contribute to significantly ease regional tensions, especially in South Asia and the Middle East.

Mr President,

2. My country, which has always refused to engage in competition with the other nuclear powers, is determined to pursue resolutely in the future the policy of strict sufficiency that has always guided its action. Regarding the issue of arsenal reduction, it remains indispensable to pursue their global reduction, those of the United States still remaining incommensurate than those of the other nuclear-weapon States. Their negotiations bear particular importance at a time when the risk, compounded by the proliferation of ballistic weapons, of the arms race being revived and the strategic balance breaking down is not negligible.

France attaches the utmost importance to maintaining strategic stability, of which the ABM treaty is a essential element. It is anxious to avoid any challenges to the Treaty liable to bring about a breakdown of strategic equilibrium and to restart the arms race.

3. Some have expressed disappointment at the slowness of this complex process and put forward a number of new proposals. This Review Conference will give us the opportunity to debate these issues. Trusting the virtues of dialogue, France has already clearly indicated its readiness to discuss issues relating to nuclear disarmament as a whole at the Conference on Disarmament subject to a mandate adopted by consensus.

Regarding general and complete disarmament, the achievements of the past five years deserve to be highlighted. Let me mention for instance, major breakthroughs such as the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines, as well as the adaptation of the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. Fresh efforts will allow us to go further, in particular in order to conclude a verification protocol to strengthen the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. France has participated fully in such efforts and will continue to do so.

To conclude on nuclear disarmament, I wish to point out, Mr President, that the approach I have just described is based on an objective study of the past and of realistic prospects for the future. In our view, it appears to be the one most likely to ensure the success of the work of this Conference, which we are all aiming for.

Mr President,

II/ The issue of verification is obviously a focal one in regard to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The safeguards system implemented for the past twenty-five years by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is therefore of paramount importance to the full and effective implementation of the Treaty.

This system has been confronted in the past to difficult trials. There are still major issues at stake.

In this respect, France can only express once again its concern about the repeated obstructions on the part of the Democratic Popular Republic of Korea to the Agency's efforts aimed at securing the implementation of the North Korean safeguards agreement. As the Director General of the IAEA reminded us at the 43rd General Conference : "the Agency remains unable to verify that all nuclear material subject to guarantees in the DPRK have been declared to the Agency". France calls on the DPRK to fully heed the commitments it has subscribed to.

Iraq is also a cause for concern. Thanks to the verification programme it has carried out in Iraq since 1991, an important and effective undertaking of which France commends the results, the Agency was able to disclose a technically coherently picture of the Iraqi clandestine military nuclear programme. Even if uncertainties remain to be clarified, these do not prevent the implementation of the continuous monitoring programme. It is highly regrettable that since the 16th of December 1998, all co-operation has been interrupted between this country, IAEA and the Special Commission, the Agency not being in a position to fulfil its mandate.

Since the adoption on the 17th December 1999 by the Security Council of resolution 1284, the process leading to the resumption of controls in Iraq is now under way. France lends its full support to Mr. Hans Blix, and to the new Commission, to carry out all the provisions of resolution 1284.

Notwithstanding these difficulties, the international community has succeeded in adapting and strengthening this safeguards system over the years with a view to preserving its credibility and reliability. The adoption by the Council of Governors of the IAEA on May 15th 1997 of a model additional protocol to the safeguards agreement was a major step in this direction.

It is now essential to achieve rapidly the universality of this strengthened system and to help the IAEA take up this challenge, in particular by providing it with the resources it needs to implement this Programme. France, for its part, decided to set an example by signing a strengthened safeguards agreement on 22 September 1998 with the IAEA and the European Atomic Energy Community. France will do its utmost to ratify it as early as possible.

Allow me, Mr President, to conclude on this point by saluting the remarkable work carried out by the Agency at the service of non-proliferation, our common objective. My country reiterates its full support to the Agency and follows with great interest the work that was launched under its aegis in order to set up an integrated safeguards system. The aim of this work, we think, should be to work out a system combining necessary cost control with further enhanced effectiveness.

Mr President,

III/ France, which believes that nuclear power contributes to human progress, attaches very special importance to the widest possible access to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. To this end, my country co-operates with an increasing number of countries and institutions and participates actively in the development of relevant international instruments in this area.

Peaceful uses, international co-operation and exchanges in this area should develop in a climate of confidence that can exist only if activities relating to nuclear power satisfy three requirements that cannot be ignored, namely security, safety and transparency.

Meeting the security requirements for nuclear materials and facilities is one of the fundamental stakes in the fight against proliferation and illicit trafficking of nuclear and radioactive materials. The international community should be given an assurance that co-operation and exchanges cannot give rise to diversion of materials. Hence the need for effective, objective and transparent export controls. Hence the need for States' active support for and adherence to the IAEA safeguards system.

Safety is undoubtedly one of the key points raised by the use of nuclear power. It should be a permanent concern of ours and should progress in all areas. We call on all States not yet having done so to sign and ratify the Nuclear Safety Convention and the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.

Lastly, the transparency requirement. My country believes that nuclear development should be accompanied by the utmost transparency so as to help make governments and populations aware of what is at stake. Nuclear power can only exploit its assets provided it succeeds in convincing public opinions that it is an environmentally favourable and safe source of energy. In this area, as in the above ones, international co-operation is essential.

Mr President,

In conclusion, my delegation is convinced that the success of this Conference will be an important signal to revive momentum, recreate the virtuous circle of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and to give a strong impetus to international co-operation. Such a success is within reach, provided we are able to work, in the coming days, in a constructive and realistic spirit of compromise. You can rest assured that my country is very willing to work towards this.

Thank you.