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7 May 2010 - NPT - Main Committee I: Disarmament - Statement by Mr. Eric Danon, Permanent Representative of France to the Conference on Disarmament

Unofficial translation

Mr President,

I would like to start by associating myself to the statement given by the European Union.

On behalf of France, I would like to discuss some issues that fall under the scope of Main Committee I, which will examine the implementation of the Treaty provisions relating to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, disarmament and international peace and security.

Mr President,

Forty years after coming into force, the NPT is still an irreplaceable instrument for ensuring our collective security. Despite the criticism that may be levelled at the Treaty, despite our debates about its implementation, which is sometimes deemed inadequate or too slow, we must keep this critical aspect of collective security in mind and strive to strengthen it within each component of the Treaty, whether it be non-proliferation, disarmament or peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

France is committed to implementing all of its obligations under the Treaty, and the commitments made at the previous Review Conferences, especially the decisions and resolution adopted by the 1995 Review and Extension Conference and the 2000 Final document. Therefore, France has chosen to lead by example and has undertaken ambitious initiatives in all of these areas. With only one imperative, for each area : achieving practical and lasting progress towards a safer world.

With regard to disarmament, we have all made the commitment under Article VI of the Treaty to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

Some have expressed doubts about the willingness of Nuclear Weapon States to live up to this commitment.

France abides by this commitment and shall continue to do so, unequivocally. Because it is the obligation that we undertook when we joined the NPT, because it is in the interest of our own security and because it enhances our collective security.

Together with the other Heads of State and Government of the Security Council, meeting at the initiative of the United States last September, the President of the French Republic solemnly reaffirmed France’s commitment to seeking a safer world for all and to working with all countries to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons, in accordance with the goals of the NPT.

But let us now move from words to deeds, from commitment to deeds. Because, we shall be judged by our deeds. Only real disarmament, disarmament in deeds, represents a real advance for global stability.

The best proof of our unequivocal commitment to disarmament is our concrete record. I shall not list all of the actions that my country has taken, especially since the end of the cold war. These actions concern all areas, including quantitative reductions, irreversible gestures, transparency and confidence-building measures, and doctrine. You know our record; it speaks for itself. Some of you have visited our former facilities for the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons at Pierrelatte and Marcoule - their dismantlement cost 6 billion euros. I invite you to look at the working papers that we have submitted to the Review Conference, on line on our website. They deal with all of the measures that my country has taken, including measures with regard to the 13 Practical Steps adopted by the 2000 Review Conference. I also invite you to attend the side-event that we are organising on Wednesday, May 12th, on the dismantlement of our sites.

In keeping with its obligations under Article VI of the NPT, France is also working in all areas that contribute to general and complete disarmament. It is working tirelessly for the implementation, universalization and strengthening of multilateral instruments in these areas. France is also determined to fight the illegal spread of small arms and light weapons. Civilian populations in conflict zones and the surrounding areas have suffered from the murderous impact of these weapons on a daily basis. France is also supporting efforts to fight against missile proliferation, and will take on the Presidency of the HCOC from summer 2010.

Therefore, France fully assumes its responsibilities under Article VI of the NPT. It is willing to continue moving forward with determination.

But France cannot travel down the road to achieving the ultimate goal of the Treaty on its own. As reaffirmed in Security Council Resolution 1887, we must work together to create the conditions that will make nuclear weapons less necessary and, ultimately, pointless.

Pointing out that everyone will have to make efforts in all areas is not an excuse for inaction. Quite the contrary. It is necessary not to disappoint the expectations being expressed today, but to turn them into practical steps towards a safer world instead.

Therefore, today, I should like to stress my country’s ambition for the future; what we can achieve, not in some far off future, but in the next few years, to work together to create the conditions that will ultimately enable us to eliminate nuclear weapons, in keeping with Article VI of the NPT; and to ensure that such a world will guarantee peace and stability without setting off a race to acquire biological, chemical or conventional weapons.

In March 2008, President Sarkozy made some ambitious practical proposals that were then taken up by the EU in December 2008. These proposals cover the following priorities:

— The first logical premise for progress on disarmament is to stop arming. Apart from the cessation of nuclear tests, this means ending the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and declaring an immediate moratorium on the production of such materials.

It also means dismantling the sites used for producing fissile material for nuclear weapons and nuclear testing sites, and doing so with maximum transparency, as France did. It also means dismantling rapidly retired nuclear warheads, starting with the oldest ones. These are critical steps for building confidence and ensuring lasting disarmament.

— Secondly, we must reduce nuclear arsenals, all of them. The priority is to continue reducing the two main arsenals, those of Russia and the United States. With this in mind, we welcome the signing of the New START agreement by President Medvedev and President Obama, and their commitment to continue the arms reduction process. This was a very important step.

France continues to evaluate its own arsenal periodically according to the strict sufficiency principle, which is a basis of our doctrine. The Review Conference should call on all Nuclear States to adopt a strict sufficiency posture, allowing to reduce the size of nuclear arsenals as far as possible, given the strategic context.

— The role of nuclear weapons in the defence doctrines of the Nuclear States that have not already done so should also be restricted to extreme circumstances of self-defence, in response to an attack on their vital interests.

— Finally, all Nuclear States should do more to increase transparency and build confidence. The first logical step should be for each of them to disclose the total number of weapons that they hold, as France did in 2008 and as the United States just did. We would also like the Nuclear Weapon States to continue the discussions on confidence-building and transparency measures that started in London in September 2009.

But, as Article VI of the NPT stresses, and as the 13 Practical Steps of 2000 point out, disarmament is not solely the responsibility of Nuclear Weapon States, and it is not limited to its nuclear dimension.

— We need to strengthen the multilateral framework, by having all of the States that have yet to do so ratify the CTBT, especially the Annex 2 States, whether Nuclear States or not, whose ratification is necessary so that the Treaty can enter into force. I should remind you that this is the first of the 13 Practical Steps identified by the 2000 Review Conference. With this in mind, France welcomes Indonesia’s announcement that it intends to start the CTBT ratification process. I should also remind you that France, together with Morocco, is co-president of the "Article XIV" Conference on facilitating the entry into force of the CTBT since September 2009.

The Review Conference also needs to make an unequivocal call for immediate negotiations by the Conference on Disarmament for a fissile material cut-off treaty, based on the programme of work that we all agreed to last year and for the establishment of immediate production moratoria pending its conclusion.

— We also need to consider all of the political and strategic conditions that make nuclear disarmament possible and determine the pace of progress. Consequently, the Review Conference should stress that all countries need to contribute to disarmament by creating the required security environment.

This primarily means stopping proliferation. I am thinking about North Korea and Iran in particular. Even as some Nuclear Weapon States are continuing to move steadfastly along the path to disarmament, some States are trying to acquire nuclear weapons in violation of their international obligations and with disregard for our collective security. Let us be clear; if we cannot solve the Iranian issue, we risk setting off nuclear anarchy in the region and in the world, which would spell the end of our shared objective of a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems and would deal a severe and lasting blow to disarmament, in particular nuclear disarmament, prospects. The Iranian crisis also highlights the need for stronger verification powers for the IAEA and a reaffirmation of the role of the United Nations Security Council. This is what is at stake in the Iranian issue and this is why the international community needs to make a very firm response.

This also means moving ahead in all areas (biological, chemical and conventional weapons, anti-missile defence, ballistic missiles and non-proliferation in space), mitigating regional tensions, and acting to promote collective security, so that nuclear disarmament does not set off an arms race in other areas. France has made several proposals for this purpose, such as a ban on an entire category of weapons, i.e. short- and intermediate-range ground-to-ground missiles.

If we are serious about wanting real disarmament, as France is, these are the concrete measures that all States will have to implement and they should form the basis for a plan of action to be adopted by this Review Conference.

Mr President,

Some of our work should also be devoted to the issue of security assurances for Non-Nuclear Weapon States Parties to the NPT against the use, or the threat of use, of nuclear weapons. France has undertaken some firm commitments in this respect in response to what it sees as a legitimate aspiration:

—  France’s deterrence doctrine is the first of the security assurances provided by my country; its sole purpose is to protect the Nation’s vital interests. It rules out the use of nuclear weapons as battlefield weapons as part of a military strategy. Our doctrine is an absolute guarantee of no use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, except in an extreme circumstance of legitimate self-defence. One translation of this doctrine is the de-targeting of France’s nuclear weapons.

—  In addition, by means of a unilateral statement on 6 April 1995 that the United Nations Security Council noted in its Resolution 984 dated 11 April 1995, France granted positive and negative security assurances to all Non-Nuclear Weapon States Parties to the NPT, in compliance with their non-proliferation obligations. The Security Council recalled these security assurances in its Resolution 1887, stressing that they strengthen the non-proliferation regime.

—  Finally, I should remind you that more than one hundred States now have such security assurances granted by France under a regional framework through the implementation of nuclear-weapon free zones. France is the Nuclear Weapon State that is party to the largest number of protocols to the treaties on nuclear-weapon free zones. France is party to the relevant protocols to the Tlatelolco, Rarotonga and Pelindaba Treaties. We welcome the entry into force of the latter in July 2009, and we welcome the United States’ announcement of its intention to work on ratifying the protocols to the Rarotonga and Pelindaba Treaties.

We are also hoping that constructive discussions with all of the parties concerned resume to solve the outstanding problems with the protocols to the Bangkok Treaty and the Semipalatinsk Treaty, in accordance with the guidelines adopted by the Commission on Disarmament in 1999. My country stands ready.

Mr President,

One of the lessons that history has taught us is that political leaders make decisions regarding peace, security and disarmament because these decisions serve their countries’ national security interests and because the strategic, regional and domestic situations enable them to make these decisions.

If we do not want be stuck in sterile debates, we must, during our discussions, pursue a path that is grounded in action, in the strategic reality and in the responsibilities of all nations. Because we will be judged by our citizens on our deeds to concretely improve our collective security. Let us ensure that our Conference sets out concrete and workable steps that can be achieved in the short term with regard to disarmament, as well as to non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. This means steps that build on earlier efforts and give due consideration to situations that are objectively different from each other and to the strategic context. Only this kind of overall strategy, which is pragmatic and realistic, will enable us, beyond good intentions, to make real progress towards disarmament, to achieve progress towards our shared goal of creating a safer world and to ultimately make it feasible to eliminate nuclear weapons.

Thank you Mr President./.

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